Coming full circle, Part I

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, this weekend’s posts on gratitudeequation will tell a gratitude-filled story of how Ireland has given me my place in this world. I hope you’ll tune in for all three posts, and most of all I hope they inspire you to think about the places in your life that have given you more than you could have expected. Enjoy!

The room was hot and windowless and my British Literature professor’s voiced resembled the droning buzz of a bee. My eyes blinked, once, twice, over and over until I snapped myself to attention again.

I needed a distraction, and her lecture was not providing it. I wandered through my textbook, ignoring the section on Byron we were covering, flipping to the back. I turned the page and found this:

Image

 

I had never been a great lover of poetry until that moment. It woke me up, not just in the overheated classroom, but in life. I needed to read more of this poet, Seamus Heaney’s work. I needed to go to the Flaggy Shore in September or October. I wanted to feel something so strongly that it could blow my heart open.

That day, I was grateful for the poem because it awakened something in me that hadn’t been there before. It awakened some realization that I was a small, but vital piece, “neither here nor there, a hurry through which known and strange things pass,” to a much larger puzzle. That’s why I was grateful for the poem then, at the age of 20.

Today, seven years later, I have so many bigger, more earth-shattering reasons to be grateful for that poem. It gave me the only experience I will ever be able to say is truly my own. It gave me confidence that I had struggled to find prior. It gave me proof that all the little things really do come full circle in the form of something much, much bigger.

How, you ask? That’s a story for tomorrow, when we’ll cross an ocean, hitchhike our way along the coast, and meet a friend of a friend. I’m grateful for the chance to share it with you, and I hope you’ll come along.

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Confession time

Confession time. There are days when I’m not feeling overly grateful. For those days, I turn to The List. The List includes all those gratitude-worthy moments I’ve experienced on my super gratitude-filled days. It’s my compilation of oh-no-it’s-10:00pm-and-I-haven’t -felt-any-bursts-of-inspiration-today items. So I pick a topic from The List and write about it. It’s typically a great exercise, as it gets me back on the figurative gratitude horse.

Today was one of those days that I thought I was going to need to cherry pick from that list. And then, a small miracle occurred. At 5:12pm, as I was still working away at the office, one of my coworkers (who works at a separate office location) emailed me and asked if I wanted to go grab a drink. Let me think… YES. Today had been a great day, very successful from my career point of view, but nothing I thought anyone would relate to as far as writing a blog post goes.

So my coworker and I headed over to the brewery. We joked about our days, swapped stories about our husbands, and traded shopping secrets. Somewhere into my second beer I realized that I might just be making a new friend here. I’ve had the same tight-knit group of friends since college, and never felt totally comfortable bringing someone new into our group. But sitting next to me at the bar was this fun, funny, intelligent woman who loved watching The Bachelor as much as my girlfriends.

Which means that you guys are not reading an item from The List today. You’re reading an in-the-moment lightening bolt of gratitude. Gratitude for my friends new and old, and gratitude for the little surprises at the end of a day.

How about you? As the work week is winding down, what are you most grateful for? Oh, and just a heads up to everyone: tomorrow starts a special Irish version of gratitudeequation. I mean, it is St. Patrick’s Day weekend, after all! Tune in tomorrow through Sunday to hear why I owe everything to the most beautiful isle I’ve ever visited.

The audacity of Gen Y

Kids these days. Who do they think they are? Pushing for equal rights, for equal pay, for the change they want to make in the world.

I’m grateful to be part of such a dynamic generation, but that isn’t the focus of my post today. The focus of my post is on those kids who are at the tail-end of Generation Y, the high schoolers and middle schoolers who impress me day in and day out.

I mentor a 13 year old girl at the local middle school once a week. The first time we met, we had a “get to know you” questionnaire to fill out together. After questions like, “What’s your favorite food?” What is your favorite thing to do on a Saturday?” we got to, “What is the most important thing you learned in the last year?”

“Um, it would probably be something that has to do with my job,” I said. “So… yeah. My job.” Wow, I can be so eloquent when the mood strikes me.

Without missing a beat, this little 13 year old beside me said, “I learned that it’s more important to have friends who really care about you than it is to be popular.”

Oh dear. I was way out of my depth here. This kid obviously knew a lot more about life than I did. Barely in her teens, she had grasped a concept I still struggled with. And her belief in that statement did not stop with her words. I saw her interact with classmates and friends, and it was clear she frankly did not give a damn about social status. Naturally, that made everyone like her that much more.

More recently, I became involved with a “gender equality club” at the high school. When I started my job last spring at a local non-profit, I was told this group of high schoolers loved volunteering for the organization. Subconsciously, I thought two things: 1. That’s great that they say they want to volunteer, but I bet I can’t count on them. They’re just high schoolers. 2. A high school club that promotes gender equality? It must be a bunch of girls.

They offered to volunteer at our fall fundraising event. Thirty of them had signed up, but I only assigned volunteer posts to fifteen, feeling certain that no more than half the teenagers would show up to volunteer at 6:30am on a Saturday. At 6:35, I had over thirty eager faces, both boys and girls, awaiting my instructions.

While I’m proud to be part of my generation, that’s not why I’m writing today. I’m writing because these kids floor me with their generosity and dedication. At this rate, the world’s problems will be solved within twenty years. I’d say that’s something to be grateful for.

Best Moment Award

I am so honored to receive the Best Moment Award today! 

Best Moment Award, web awards, blogging awards, winners, nominations

Awarding the people who live in the moment,
The noble who write and capture the best in life,
The bold who reminded us what really mattered –
Savoring the experience of quality time.

RULES:

Winners re-post this completely with their acceptance speech. This could be written or video recorded.

Winners have the privilege of awarding the next awardees! The re-post should include a NEW set of people/blogs worthy of the award; and winners notify them the great news.

Acceptance Speech

Humbled? Yeah, you could say that. You could most definitely say that. When I started this blog last month, I never dreamed people would actually read it. For them to not only read it, but to like it? Unfathomable. Yet here we are, thanks to tworedtornadoes, who, by the way, has an exquisite writing style. But before I move forward, I’d like to take a few steps back.

My mother made me a published author at age three. She still has the book, the only copy of my first “published” story. My first grade teachers were the next to invest a whole lot of time and effort into my writing. Each month, they allowed every student to submit a story for publication, to be completed with a typewriter and cardboard cover. I was hooked. I, I told everyone I met, was going to be a writer.

And then, slowly, I realized this wasn’t something I could say I was going to “be” when I grew up. It made people smile in a knowing way that communicated, “How adorable. She still has hopes and dreams.” And so I started saying I was going to be something a bit more mainstream: a journalist, a grant writer, a teacher. These responses earned me a respectable nod and a, “Oh you’ll make a great (insert writing-affiliated career here).”

Then one day I woke up and that career wasn’t enough anymore. It was confining, allowing for minimal creativity in my writing. So I joined all of you, the blogging world, and felt like I was back in the first grade. Today I’m grateful for all of you who have liked my posts, become my followers, and most of all, for those who have taken time to comment. You take me back to the first time I wrote a story and saw the words come to life. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Most of all, I want to thank tworedtornadoes for encouraging me and finding my work worthy of this award. Secondly, I want to thank Michelle at Play for her upbeat, happiness-ridden blog. Michelle at Play, you’re my pick for this award. Congrats!

Dear Mrs. Sperry: A letter to my past

Yesterday’s gratitude challenge was to write a letter to someone who has positively impacted your life. I figured I’d better put my pen where my post was, and started writing.

Dear Mrs. Sperry,

I paused. I hadn’t seen this woman since I was 17 years old. She, at the time, had been 82. She sent my parents a card very Christmas since we moved away from our neighborhood in Phoenix in 1989. She and her husband, Bill, had been our next door neighbors, our pseudo grandparents in my early years. We have countless family videos of me at age three, curly blonde ponytail sticking out, and Mrs. Sperry smiling in the background. In her mind, I was probably still a toddler with a squeaky little voice.

So I didn’t write much about the me of today; I wrote about the me she knew. I told her that every year at Christmas I still put out the little Santa doll she gave me, and that I still remembered her inviting us over to pick oranges from her backyard grove. I thanked her for staying in touch with my family for all these years and for keeping us in the loop on the old neighborhood. I told her I was sorry to hear Bill had passed away, but that I hoped her son was doing well and still lived nearby. I thanked her for the memories.

Putting the envelope in the mailbox, I said a silent prayer that she would receive it. It took me too long to realize a letter is always a welcome surprise, that I did have something worth writing to an old friend. So to all my friends, watch out. Your mailboxes are about to be flooded with letters from me, because I’m so very grateful for each and every one of you.

Who else has completed this week’s gratitude challenge? I’d love to hear all about your experience.

Gratitude Challenge #1 is waiting to bring you joy

We’re starting something new over here at gratitude equation. Every Sunday, I’ll be posting a gratitude challenge for everyone to take part in. It will help us get our week off to a very grateful start, and share the joy a bit! The first weekly challenge is below. Please feel free to comment on this post to share the results of meeting your gratitude challenge, because I would love to hear all about it! Then go ahead and challenge your friends and family to complete it as well. We’re starting a gratitude movement! I hope you all enjoy it:

Gratitude challenge #1

Sink or swim, it’s time we dive in

Many of my friends are artists on the side. They, like me, have some passion they work on nights and weekends when their 9-5 job is over for the day. We’re all a little shy about our projects, making light of them whenever anyone asks about how we’re progressing.

And then there’s my friend Meredith, an artist who dove straight in and within a couple of short years has quit that 9-5 job and is supporting her family solely through her art. We went out for beers at the new brewery in town last night, and her confidence made me grateful to know her. She doesn’t apologize for her artistic hopes and dreams, doesn’t downplay them. Instead, she proudly creates art like this:

Birdware Pottery

And then she sells it. For her, it’s just that easy. Her pride in her work made me question mine. My husband is the only person I know who is aware I have a blog and two unfinished novels hiding in my bedside drawer. The truth is, I’m terrified at failing as a writer, so prefer to let everyone think I’m, well, NOT a writer.

Instead of letting that fear dictate my actions, shouldn’t I instead be grateful there are at least 24 people out there (based off my last count of followers) that think my words are worth reading every now and then? Shouldn’t we all embrace gratitude and shun fear?

The answer is, of course, yes. But should and will are two different things. So I’ll continue to take my baby steps forward in my quest to be simply grateful for my talents and dreams. I hope you will too.

Oh, and be sure to check out Birdware Pottery!

Happiness is as easy as 1, 2, 3 (4, 5)

When seeking happiness, we have two choices: we can either chase after it, or sit back and realize it’s already sitting in the corner, waiting for us to notice. Happiness is in every laugh, every thought-provoking conversation, every good book, every hug, every day of sunshine. All we have to do is be grateful.

I’ve read a number of excellent posts today on the importance of contentedness. The theme of each was the same: enough already! It’s time to stop running after something we already have. That being said, we will all have those down days in which we don’t want to put any energy into being grateful. For those days, try this exercise and see if it doesn’t make you just a teensy bit happier:

Step 1: Write down one thing in your immediate vision that makes you grateful. It could be the couch your sitting on, the book on your bedside table, or the cup of coffee in your hand.

Step 2: Write down one person that makes you feel grateful. If it’s your spouse who is causing your sour mood, think of that friend who will listen to your complaints. If your boss is making life difficult, think of the coworker who has your back.

Step 3: Indulge in your surroundings. Surroundings are something we can’t easily change, so embrace yours. If it’s raining outside, curl up with a good movie and a cup of tea. If the sun is shining, go play frisbee with the dog. You’ll be surprised how your perspective can shift when you fully accept something you can’t control.

Step 4: Have one thing that always, always makes you laugh. For me, I nearly always bust up at The Daily Show’s “Moment of Zen.” Laughing will release the stress and give you instantaneous joy, right there in the moment.

Step 5: You should be feeling just a bit better now. All that’s left is for you to do something nice for someone else. It might just be shoveling your neighbor’s walk, or it might be calling up an old friend. Hey, it could even be reblogging a great post you read! My mantra remains, Want more? Give more.

Want more reminders of why we should be happy in the here and now? Check out these great posts: http://bepaulin.wordpress.com/2013/03/09/enough-already/, http://melissabear.wordpress.com/2013/03/09/gratitude-attitude-the-gratitude-journal/

So today, I’m grateful that happiness is waiting for me, inviting me to take a seat and stop chasing it. I think I’ll take it up on that.

A happy invitation

It’s your turn: Time to share that gratitude!

In the past three weeks, I’ve been sharing a lot with you, my readers. Today, I’d like to hold back my furiously typing hands and hear what you have to say. After all, the point of this blog isn’t just to see how happy gratitude makes me–it’s to see if we can all get a little more happy in our lives. So here’s your chance: tell me why you’re grateful! Maybe together we can inspire a little more gratitude.

Writing into the unknown

I have a drawer in my bedside table that transports me to other worlds. Tucked under some old photos and notebooks are two stories waiting to be completed. One is stalled 90 pages into the plot, waiting for that stroke of brilliance that turns the antagonist in the right direction. The other is barely four pages long, waiting for any inspiration at all.

I’m suffering a dire case of writer’s block with these two other worlds I’ve created. Yet even as I hit my head against my desk, waiting for the narrative path to unfurl before me, I’m grateful for what I have looking back at me from the pages: potential. Each story is at the crossroads of either falling apart entirely, or becoming a vehicle to escape the mundane.

Which, naturally, is why I’m stuck. But rather than force the characters down a story line they and I might not be ready for, today I’ll just be grateful. I’ll be grateful for the imagination I have dreaming these worlds into existence, grateful for the infinite roads I could walk down with these stories. Grateful for the potential.

freedigitalphotos.net

freedigitalphotos.net