Gratitude and Service

Giving thanks, it is the ‘thing to do’ this time of year. November pops up on the calendar just as we put Halloween away- and it is time for gratitude. Some publicly acknowledge daily the things they are grateful for, other begin a gratitude journal, all have thankfulness and gratitude on the brain. Almost everyone is more cognizant of the blessings in their lives…

I think about gratitude a lot, like A LOT. I may not always feel that my life and pile of hard stuff is something to be thankful for; usually with some time and maybe humor I remind myself of all that I am grateful for. Sometimes I hyper focus on missing Madeline, how amazing she was and I get wrapped up in the missing… but then I remind myself that at least I didn’t get a crappy kid, I got a really good one. I would take 5 years with Madeline over 75 years with a crappy one (crappy = mean and evil). Don’t get me wrong, I still focus on her missing, but I try to redirect my brain to the light. Sometimes I think we don’t need to feel grateful for a big pile of hard at that moment- but in time perspective can show us the light or meaning of that pile, and for that I am often grateful for perspective and time. I did not feel grateful for my divorce when I was finding out friends and my ex-husband had betrayed me- but in time I see the light in it all. I got rid of some nonfriends, and let me tell you God cleaned house… and I love the life I am building away from my marriage. I am grateful for the time and perspective to look back on that pile of crap and see the light that has poked through. Today I am grateful for so much…

Last week in Church School we talked about Gratitude and more. We talked about how God wants us to be grateful and to make it a habit… knowing that we get to chose gratitude. Sometimes it is a hard choice to make- to see light in darkness. Sometimes we have to be very creative to be grateful but the more often we choose thankfulness the more we would become grateful people. Do you like to be around ungrateful people? Are you drawn to grateful and kind people? We all are… so what if we work to become just that. What if we follow The Big Guys directions and become kinder, gentler, more gracious and by doing so better people, the kind we want to be around??? Believe me sometimes it will be hard to pick grateful, you might need a sense of humor- but no one laughing is angry… like when you stub your toe on the fridge- you could get all angry at yourself, or the fridge… or you could remind yourself to be glad you have a fridge full of food… eventually it becomes your normal to choose gratitude.

A life of gratitude opens you up for a life of service- acknowledging what you have to offer helps you offer it up. They go together… gratitude and service. Gratitude is acknowledging what you have- service is offering what you have to others. When we are thinking about and acknowledging what we are thankful for- blessings, losses, skills, needs met… we can give more to those who need it. I feel like as adults we overthink EVERYTHING- including the gifts we have to give. I spoke to children about gratitude and service… the simplicity of it all and they heard me. The next day one of the students brought a box of toys she had picked out to gift to others. She heard me. She told me she talked to her mom about gratitude and serving- she and her mom are coming up with older, injured or lonely people who she could use her skills to help- she is in 2nd grade. Profound. If only we as grownups could HEAR this and get it… they would acknowledge what they have- food, skills, work, services, love, time… all of it.

I know in my life I try to be grateful for all I have, even if it’s a pile of crap for a while… I try to use my skills to help others. I think I have a good habit of being grateful, of seeing the light in my life- and I think I make a habit out of serving others. I don’t do it to feel better about myself, to be honest, sometimes giving to others is the LAST thing I want to do. I am tired, I am late or I am busy are common but often I am called to do it. If I listen to The Big Guy and shift my thoughts to gratitude- acknowledging how grateful I am to be driving to Scotia for my daughter’s dance class that happens to ONLY be on Thursday nights- after I teach Church School and drop Lucy off to OM… there are 2 ways to see it… one is overwhelming and stressed, annoyed… the other is grateful that I get to use my voice to share God’s love and plan, grateful that my Jeep is working and at least 1/2 full of gas, grateful my daughter Lucy’s coach let’s me drop and run… and grateful that Amelia is dancing at the most welcoming and wholesome dance studio ever… make it a habit. On those days, many times, I can hear when God tells me to take care of someone- drop off food, pick up groceries, visit even for a moment. I can’t hear Him so well when I am annoyed and overwhelmed…

Somedays I fail, we all do. On those days I hurry to bed and crawl under the covers and get myself to sleep… so I can start over the next day. If it is still hard- pull out the humor, sometimes the humor helps us see the light.

Gratitude and service, they are teammates to better living. Imagine if everyday you acknowledged what you have, who you are- then you went out in the world and gave it away? Give it a try, go ahead get addicted to gratitude. I imagine no live has ever fallen apart by an addiction to gratitude, a habit of waking up and building thankfulness into our day…

Enjoy the November Gratitude… but I challenge you to get addicted to gratitude, to get in the habit of redirecting your brain to thankfulness- then go out into the world and use it.

Happiest Thanksgiving to all… everyday.

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The Simple Silence of Snow

Snow is so quiet. I stood outside today and the gray sky enveloped me, and for a moment the whole world fell silent. It is odd to feel silent in the bustle, but snow has a way to slowing and quieting even the loudest bustle. While I stayed in that quiet, outside of Bradt Elementary, the trees just stood, the sky was one tone of gray, and the air was so still. It has been a long time since I felt that degree of silent. That’s the thing about snow… it is so quiet.

I think one of the most silent places I have ever been was Lake Ontario in February, the gray sky as far as you can see, waves now covered in flat ice… just one tone of gray, no sounds to steal the show. Most hate the lake in the winter, I love it. It is a clear gift to slow the bustle, to quieting the loud. A few cold minutes on shores of Lake Ontario immersed in the gray and quiet is enough to take the sting off the crazy, busy of life. Today I felt a bit of that…

Life is NOT quiet. It is loud and full of chatter and noise, full of direction and movement. I am so guilty of not taking time to bask in quiet, to stay still in some silence. I just move, live, chatter, breathe, run, plan… with little more time to take. I allow the chatter to fill my brain, and as much as I would love more silence raising two daughters in a small Cape Cod is not the best place to find silence. The chatter is overpowering. I have struggled lately to even find a space to breathe in this parenting a Middle Schooler time in my life. Today I found a bit of silence in the coming snow. I felt a moment of breath… then I got in my Jeep and ran to the Post Office and taught Church School and came home to make dinner- gone is that silence. I didn’t even bottle it when I felt it, if only I could capture that in a mason jar and set it on a shelf for another time, I need it more, when the chatter is too much. If only…

This time of the year is tough. This silence evokes feelings that don’t surface in the chatter. There are holidays to be celebrated without one of my best people, the cold short days can be so lonely, my brain remembering all the 7 years ago ‘we were doing this…’… I didn’t even know it would be the last. Now that I know, it makes this time of year a deep time, there is no sunshine to wander in, no beaches to play in, no long days to spend busy… there are no bonfires and smores. It’s different on these days, there is quiet and slow down, cancelled plans and snow days. It’s a blessing and a curse…

The simple silence of snow has come to the north. It will wrap us up in it’s quiet and dull the chatter for a few months. The silence and gray will give us the quiet to dive into the pain, the loss and all the missing. I don’t think I was prepared for today’s gray silence, but like always- we don’t get to pick. We don’t get to pick…

The simple silence of snow has come to the north, I embrace it for the blessing and the curse that it brings. I honor the emotions that it brings to the surface, all the missing. I imagine someday snow and this season will feel magical again…

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Today is Election Day…

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So today we will wake up, if we are lucky enough, to get just one more day to live, breathe and change. The sun will rise and the busses will come pick up our people, we will drive to work or meet friends for coffee- maybe go to the gym and sweat through a bootcamp class. It will be a day, just like the ones before it… but there is something different about today. It is the first Tuesday of November, and Emily Eiss’s birthday, for any who know her be sure to drop her a HBD. It is Election Day…

Let’s do this right. Let’s go do our jobs and vote to change the world in the way that we see fit. Let’s go to the polls and get the sticker and know that our choice, our vote was cast, to alter the government and communities we all live in. Let’s do it nicely… this might be the most challenging part for some.

My sister reminded me of somethings my Grandma used to say, things that are so relevant today and yesterday and 100 years ago. My Grandma was full of knowledge and faith and silly songs. Her advice is simple- but so many seem to have forgotten them in these times. I think it is a reminder to go back to simple.

Grandma Connor’s Advice

  1. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
  2. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Simple right?

Why on Earth are politicians out there with such awful and demeaning campaigns? Why are people so mean? Every year it gets worse. The soapbox that Facebook gifts for people to spew hate and anger. Feeling as though they are due that, since someone else was mean. The threads from these posts are stressful, each person feeling that they somehow won some battle. Like we are all on different teams…

This world needs to stop and think, just like I tell the kids I work with, think about your words, think about your actions. If you want to change the world belittling and berating others will change nothing other than make then hate you more. Show others how to live the way you know is right… show them by your actions…

Personally, I can tell you that no person who has every yelled at me, told me I NEED to feel how they feel, told me that if we don’t see things the same way we can’t be friends or removed me from their social media because we are different EVER changed my beliefs. Not one of those people made a point to me, except that they are capable of being a yelling mean person with views I may or may not share. Imagine, instead, if they had gone out and lived and shared in a way that was respectful and purposeful… I might look at them and think what are they doing differently, what are they using to build that life? Then I might actually stick around to hear, and it might ACTUALLY change my direction. All of that by not reacting with a second wrong, and by not saying things that aren’t nice.

I often go back to a piece of scripture from this summer at Mass. Jesus was standing with his Hot Mess Apostles, yes they were not a perfect crew of perfect people, but a set of Hot Mess Humans who loved Jesus… anyway… He was standing and telling them to go out and do their jobs. He said ‘Go out there, no luggage, no food and knock on people’s doors. If they welcome you in, stay and let them know Me. If they do not, keep on walking and dust off yourself. Go knock on the next door.’ What did this mean? Jesus is saying- go share Me, like I would share Me. If they don’t want to hear it, move on. You are not being like Me if you stay and yell and push Me on them… move along. They will be further from knowing Jesus if you stay and yell… but if you leave there will be another ‘knock’ another time with a little disciple to work on that person’s heart. Life is like that…

We all have things that are important to us, morals and values, ideas and hopes… We all want to share them. Sometimes sharing is just living in the way that those values and morals show.

Remember that is OKAY to disagree. I recently sat with an amazing momma who will die soon, she doesn’t look like it, so that probably makes it harder. She if advocating for Death with Dignity Acts, I am not for them. We talked about the whys and the points of belief we each have, I am also not faced with making choices for my children and my illness, so I very much respected her for her choices. She even heard my point. I think about that conversation often, about her. I think about how I can’t imagine being in her shoes, and how I don’t know if I could do it. I know we don’t get to pick and we definitely should not compare our stories and trials. I just think of her often. At the end of our conversation, really more of a connection, I promised her that I would never forget her and I would bring her along for all of my adventures… and she promised me she would hug my daughter when she got there. We disagreed over a very hot topic, but our conversation/connection ended in love…

What if we all stopped and thought, like really stopped and put our finger on our brain, and said “Brain what do we really want the outcome to be?” That little bit of self talk could go a long way to a better world… imagine if instead of reacting to EVERY nudge and poke with a wrong, we stopped and thought. What if we really kept our mouths shut when we didn’t have anything nice to say… imagine all the people who would look at us and wonder what are they doing right???? What do they know that I don’t…

I’ll end here… listen to my Grandma’s Advice. I do. I see her and my Grandfather in so much of my life today. I choose often to keep walking to the next door, brush the dirt off of me and keep doing my job. I will keep doing what I do, hoping that others look at my life and think what is she doing differently…

Welcome November.

november.jpgThankful today. I am thankful that today is November, and October is behind me. I don’t know what it was about last month, but it was a rough one. Historically I am an October lover, I love the leaves and cooler temperatures, the soul warming foods… all of it. This year I just kept my eye on the prize and got through that month. I hated doing it that way, but it seemed like the only way.

Octobers of past are filled with planning and excitement, light in the dark and sewing costumes until midnight. I always make the girls costumes, we do pumpkin carving BIG, and my memories are brought back to the times I was pregnant with Amelia and just had Madeline. We did most of those things, they just didn’t feel the same this year. The costumes needed much less help from me, Amelia basically had a couple items I ordered from Amazon. She really didn’t let me help her. Lucy’s whole costume was based on a jacket I bought her from Zulily, that looked like a General in the Army (way back when). Her costume was simple for me. I realized that the times of making my girls costumes are numbered, a fact I knew but would have drawn out for 20 more years. I may have made my last fancy and creative costume for my girls. I am kind of used to time stopping, Madeline’s last fancy costume was a cowgirl with her own badge and stars on her western hat. She was so freaking proud… but it was her last. I had no idea that was her last… I wasn’t prepared for last year to be Amelia and Lucy’s last.

I was in a different place this October, a place I don’t recognize, a place I don’t love. When I tell people I didn’t even decorate for fall, they shrug and say “It’s okay I never decorate for fall” … but for me undecorating a season and decorating for the next is like medicine for me. I undecorated the summer and sunny stuff… I cleaned the house… but I never put up the fall and Halloween stuff. I don’t know why, I just kept putting it off. It felt like I was living in a different house… not a leafy and cinnamon scented house with the cutest ghost wreath. I decided to just decorate for Christmas and start prepping for Jesus’s birthday.

I think sometimes the reality of life just hits hard. October was so dark. It felt like a lonely month, a month of missing. A month of watching kids in 7th grade grow and become, a month of holding up my parenting card when Amelia FOUGHT hard for a cell phone… a month of work and life’s busy work. I hate sitting at my dining room table and eating dinner with just 2 people. I never imagined my life having such a tiny number of people sitting at my table…

I think October was just a month I was tired of doing all those things- decorating, making and sharing dinner, even mass. I know the right things for us, but I didn’t choose them often. It was a heavy month.

Today is November. The day was long, the sun was out. I decided that today was the day to decorate for Christmas. Today cinnamon candles, snowmen and Nativity Scenes were put out. It is time. It is time to start celebrating Jesus’s Birthday, for the light that it brings. We need some light over here in Schenectady. I am missing too many things; the light keeps me sane. Today, as I look around my house and listen to Pandora Trans-Siberian Orchestra… I feel lighter. I feel more like me.

I know October’s are lovely, but today I am crazy grateful for November’s. I am grateful for a fresh start. I am grateful for Jesus’s Birthday… and the lift He gifted me. I am grateful for my girls and my home, my life. I am directing my brain’s pathways to good places. I am grateful for a month linked to gratitude. I am praying that November wields more connection and more gratitude. I am hopeful for this time, I am tucking the hard times away. I acknowledge them, I think about them but it is time to put them away for what they are/were…. A hard time. Today is November 4th… a good day to start fresh and bask in the light (well the light that has now disappeared). Today is a good day to try again, to see the light and enjoy the love. Today is November…