Green with gratitude

There’s a wall in our apartment that I’m especially fond of. It’s an accent wall, painted olive green, contrasting the cream color of the surrounding walls. It’s a nice color, but what I love about it is hidden between the paint strokes. If you look closely, you’ll see a story of a couple coming together as a team.

It took my husband and I five months after moving in together to paint the wall. I had wanted to add a splash of color since day one, but my husband-then-boyfriend balked at the idea. Living together was one thing. Decorating a home together? Um, no thanks. It became the source of many arguments and more than once made me question our relationship. Silly, I know. But in my mind, I kept thinking, If we can’t even choose a paint color, how are we ever going to plan a wedding?

Enter his friends and some mojitos. We had a handful of the guys over for dinner and drinks one night and I managed to get everyone just buzzed enough to agree that that wall needed to be painted. Luckily, one of the friends there was the manager of the paint store just down the street. We all ran down there, mixed a can of paint, and lugged it back up to the apartment. By this time it was nearing midnight and we’d all had a bit to drink. In other words, we were about to have a painting party. To this day, I find new paint spots on the ceiling and wood floors.

The transformation in progress.

      The transformation in progress.

 

The end result

The end result

Somehow, I don’t mind those little reminders in the form of smudges and splatters. It wasn’t moving in together that was really our first big step as a couple. Moving in together was a smart financial decision, since we no longer saw the point in paying two rents. No, our first big step was made that night when, finally, with the help and support of some friends, we chose a paint color. It might not seem as important as getting our dog together, our very romantic proposal, or getting married, but it at least laid the groundwork for those things to happen. Painting the wall was our way of saying this was our home, together, and that it was a home worth decorating.

So every evening when I settle down to write, I look at that wall and give it a little salute of gratitude. Cheers, my friend.

How I found lifelong happiness hiding in a cup of joe

Mmm… coffee. The aroma, the chocolatey taste, the key to love swimming in its murky waters…

That’s right, the key to love, tucked quietly into everyone’s favorite drink. Or at least it was for me. Let me explain.

I was fresh out of college when I started working as a barista at the local coffee shop. I had just started dating this guy I met through some friends, so I was not interested in the flirtation of customers. And believe me, there is a lot of flirting that goes on at coffee shops. If any behavioral psychologists out there care to enlighten the rest of us on the subject of flirtation in the service industry, I’d love to hear it. But I digress–back to my story.

So I was not looking for love when I started my stint as a barista. I already had a boyfriend and thought I was reasonably happy with him. At least, I thought that for a few months before he became much less charming, much less interesting and much less intelligent. Okay, he probably didn’t becomes less intelligent, but I finally caught on to the fact that he was the most brilliant person I’d ever met. 

While that relationship was crumbling, I was building new friendships at the coffee shop, not only with my co-workers, but with customers as well. A few of them are still some of my closest friends, and one of them is now my husband. A family friend of the shop owners, he was a regular who, rather than becoming less of all the qualities I listed above, became increasingly more: more charming, more intriguing, more intelligent, more attractive, more fun. 

One night as I was closing down the shop and washing dishes, I glanced over at him sitting at a table, working on homework. I’m going to marry him. The thought snuck into my mind and announced itself with a giant exclamation point. I nearly dropped the mug in my hands. I let my eyes stretch back to where he was sitting and felt myself calm down. I was going to marry him, and that was a great thing.

About two weeks later, the boyfriend I was still clinging to for no apparent reason dumped me. Another six weeks later and I was on my first date with my husband to be.

Today, and every day, I am grateful for coffee. I’m grateful for the little conspirators in our lives that push us towards a happier, more fulfilling life, all while we think we’re just making lattes.

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Want more? Give more.

I work in fundraising for a non-profit, and today I had the opportunity to witness a whole lot of gratitude. Surprisingly, it wasn’t from someone who needed our services, but from someone who was supporting our services–a bride and groom who were “registering” with our organization for their wedding.

That’s right. Instead of heading over to Crate and Barrel or Macy’s, this couple decided to request that their wedding guests make donations in their honor to the non-profit where I happen to work. The bride and I sat down over a cup of coffee this morning and hashed out a plan to get their guests really inspired to give. I was falling all over myself, thanking her for everything their support could do for our organization. But I don’t think I was the most grateful one at the table. She couldn’t stop talking about how excited she was to be involved with our non-profit, and how excited she was to get their friends and family involved.

That’s when I remembered the secret to instant gratitude: Give more! Don’t believe me? Check out this article from a few years back: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/17/opinion/17kristof.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

See? When we give more of ourselves, we feel grateful for what we’re able to contribute, and that equals a heaping helping of happy. Giving–whether it’s financially, through volunteering, or emotionally–makes us realize we are part of something bigger. It gives us an instantaneous dose of the warm fuzzies, and encourages us to build community. Though being grateful for the things we have might seem easy, it might just be a whole lot easier to be thankful for the things we give away.

Now, just because I write the word “wedding” and think back to my own wedding, please indulge me by allowing me to share my favorite shot from our wedding last summer:

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Yeah, we were feeling the gratitude that day. Thanks for giving me (haha, get it? Giving?) that moment of self-indulgence. Now back to our scheduled programming.

When have you been grateful to donate your time or efforts to something? Let’s share our ideas with one another and spread some gratitude opportunities!

Just the two of us

Today, I’m grateful for not having something in my life: children.

Okay, wait, hear me out. I love kids. Really, I do. Despite the fact that I have a career, I still babysit on the weekends just because I have so much fun playing ninjas and tag. On top of that, I mentor a middle schooler every week. Someday in the not-too-distant-future, I’d love to have a couple kids of my own. Just not right now.

Right now, I’d rather soak in that special brand of marital bliss that only comes (or so I’ve been told) in the first year of a marriage. The newlywed glow and all that. Last night when my husband got home from work late, the two of us uncorked a bottle of wine, heated up some leftovers and plopped ourselves firmly on the couch to catch up on each other’s days and on the latest episode of New Girl. We didn’t worry about anyone but each other for the next three hours before we turned out the lights. Instead, we talked, laughed, and yes, even flirted a bit. I know romance doesn’t end when you have children, but right now it’s nice to focus solely on the romance and communication in our relationship. I know it will make us that much stronger when we do take the plunge into parenthood.

So my gratitude reminder for today is this: At whatever point you are in your life, it is absolutely worth celebrating. While you may not have it all right here, right now, it’s on its way. So sit back and soak up today. And maybe flirt with your spouse while you’re at it.

What future goal are you happy to not have attained yet? Owning a house? Finishing a degree? I’d love to hear your thoughts.