Put some Gratitude in your Attitude

Did you count your blessings as you gathered around your Thanksgiving feast recently?Wouldn’t it be great to have that appreciation for family and friends stick around for longer than one holiday?   Try putting some daily gratitude in your everyday attitude!

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Good attitude is contagious….

A few days before Thanksgiving, I was wheeling a bulky shopping cart around a very congested grocery store.  My list was long and I was unfamiliar with the layout of this new store.   Since I was shopping for my pregnant daughter who is an awesome cook, there were a few items on that list that were also new to me.  It’s been quite a while since this single woman did a major family grocery shop just a few days before a big holiday.   In the midst of the produce section I took a few minutes to soak it all in — the colorful abundance of fresh food choices, the spicy scents of autumn treats, the hustle and bustle of customers filling their carts.    Taking the time to be grateful had a positive effect on my overall attitude about the daunting task ahead of me.

What impressed me the most was the calm, cheerful, helpful demeanor of the grocery store employees.  They were not acting like they were overwhelmed or exasperated by the many customers who approached them asking for help.  I witnessed the impact that this had on the customers.  Smiles were returned, people were more patient with each other in crowded aisles.   A young man in the cheese department articulated how grateful he was for his job and for the customers who made that possible.    He told me that this is how they distinguish themselves from other grocery stores — great service and gratitude.  His positive, appreciative attitude was infectious.

So I came home not only with the groceries — I came home with a generous and grateful attitude.

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When the wheels fall off…..

We’ve had a lot of crazy things happening in our life over the past week that can put a strain on family — I tripped over the dog and injured my shoulder, my daughter lost her wallet, the baby bumped her head badly on the sidewalk, the house alarm went off in the middle of the night due to dead batteries, a flat tire on the car, the dog got an eye infection.  Well, you get it — Life!

There have been a few times recently where we all felt worn out, overwhelmed and cranky.  Admittedly it takes a little extra effort to stop and catch our breath, assess the situation and then find something to be thankful for — but it is so worth it.  Occasionally we can even laugh about the latest bump in the road.

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What we learn from children…..

I’ve been trying to help my little 14-month old granddaughter cope with frustration as she is learning a new skill, is overly tired or not getting her way.   Distractions such as a favorite song or counting toes usually brings a smile to her face.  I can see the frustrations wash away as that smile breaks out and we make eye contact. When she is older, I will teach her about using gratitude and mindfulness when emotions bubble up.

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Helping young children learn coping skills comes naturally to us.  As adults, we could benefit from a refresher course for ourselves.

Adopting a similar distraction technique when we are flooded with emotions can make a huge, positive difference in our lives. Instead of counting toes, we can count our blessings.

So pause to put a little gratitude in your attitude next time you find yourself frustrated, stressed out or angry.   You just might begin to smile and find a softer way to deal with problems.

 

 

 

Choose Your Own Adventure…

 

When my sons were pre-teens, there was a series of books entitled “Choose your Own Adventure.”  The basic story line was laid down and then the reader would get to choose one of several options that finished the story.  Each option provided a remarkably different ending to the basic story.

It’s dawned on me lately that life is very much like those books — and it is our choices that determine how our life story evolves.

 

Celebrities give us dramatic examples of life choices and the resulting impacts on their careers and the lives of others.  Tiger Woods comes to mind.   Most recently, Ryan Lochte’s fabricated story that unnecessarily tainted the Rio Olympics in many ways. It’s not just about Tiger and Ryan — how many innocent others were affected by their poor choices?

 

 

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Very recently I’ve had some thought-provoking conversations with friends about matters that tug at our heartstrings — Strained family relationships, estrangements, coping with destructive behaviors of others, and serious health issues.   A lot of choices were made over the years and the results were not so positive. How might these lives be different had better choices been made?

 

Consider the divorced dad that doesn’t make his young child a priority.  He is a no show on his visitation days, misses soccer games, birthdays and graduations.  Then later in his life, when his child is grown, starting a career, getting married and having babies, dad has a “wake up” call and decides he wants to insert himself back into his child’s life.  It’s pretty likely that his child doesn’t want any part of it.  What drove dad’s decision to be absent in his child’s life?  Resentment against mom?  Too busy with work or social life?

Can he contrast what his relationship with his child might look and feel like if he had made other decisions — and made his child a priority?   Would they be sharing funny stories about their adventurous good times together with that sweet little toddler nestled in his now grown child’s lap?

 

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There is often the regret that we realize too late — we fail to make the time to stay in touch with a beloved family member or friend and then are crushed when we learn that they have suddenly passed away.  Were we really “so busy” that we couldn’t make the time for a quick phone call on a regular basis?  What about a surprise visit for a birthday or holiday…or better yet, no occasion at all!  How might our lives actually been enriched by the time spent with that family member or friend?

 

 

Take some time to reflect on your own life history and look at the choices you’ve made that may have gone sideways.  How were you feeling when you made those decisions?  Did you get the result you wanted?  Were you letting your emotions be in charge?

Ask yourself this one BIG question — how would that event in my life story be written had I made a better choice?

We can all fall prey to our conditioned responses when conflicts arise.   This is where mindfulness can make a significant difference and it take serious commitment on your part.  You have to stop in your tracks and take inventory about what is really going on.

Are you getting defensive because you feel attacked?  Is it really something you did…or is the other person having a really bad time and deflecting it to you?  If you did screw up, was it intentional and purposefully mean?  If it was a mistake, did you own it and apologize?  What is your “go to” response — slam the door and walk out, yell louder, or blame someone else?

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For over a year, I have been practicing mindfulness in my daily life and even after a year of committed effort, I find myself really struggling sometimes to not give in to old non-productive responses.  It takes every ounce of my willpower to breathe deeply and acknowledge my feelings and at the same time, strip them of the power to control my actions.

Trust me when I tell you that gathering up the willpower to stop that steaming locomotive of emotions is no easy feat.  Deep breathing really helps — its the best gift you can give your body when pressure is mounting.  Why do you think they teach it as a basic skill for getting through labor and delivery?

Did you ever notice how things escalate in the midst of conflict?  Voices get louder, body language becomes more pronounced and words fly faster than the speed of light.  Very often, we jump into our conditioned patterns without a moment’s hesitation.

Simply slowing down when I’m face to face with confrontation gives me a sense of control.   It’s a new practice for me and it becomes a strong reminder to be mindful.

I’ve recently discovered that if I turn my typical reactions away from thinking about me, and my feelings, I’m gaining valuable insight into what the other person is feeling and needing, how they process and what their values are.

Most importantly, it gives me a lot of clarity about my choices in resolving the situation. Admittedly it doesn’t mean that the solutions are easy or fast.   But I am convinced that I’m beginning to make better choices and wiser decisions.

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We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it.

We can make amends.

We can make different choices and get better results.

We can be role models for others, especially our children and grandchildren.

Life is short….make the most of your personal adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for the Memories…

Unknown   A box of old photos, some faded letters and a sterling silver teapot swaddled in bubblewrap arrived on the doorstep.  There was a handwritten note with little pink hearts nestled in the tissue paper.

That personal note recalled memories brought to life by this box of treasures.  Reading the note conjured the images of a little blonde-haired girl laughing as she tore the wrapping paper off a Christmas present, of a smiling couple cutting a tiered cake while music, laugher and conversation drifted in the background.  Poignantly, the heartfelt note conveyed some lasting, loving experiences shared with a husband who passed away much too soon.

Fourteen years had slipped by since he died.  Teenagers were now married adults with children of their own.  Family and friends were now retired, had moved, dealt with health issues, or also passed away.   In the blink of an eye, 14 years of life happened.

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Recently, my daughter and I had been sifting through moving boxes in a hot, humid garage sorting out what to keep, what to donate and what to discard.  Suddenly we both broke into tears and laughter as we gazed at old photos and touched treasured keepsakes.  Memories of vacations, holidays, adventures and milestones came to life as we both warmly shared our fondest experiences.

It was as if the entire garage had been turned into a live stage and dozens of life’s vignettes were being acted out right before our eyes.  We laughed till tears ran down our cheeks.  We rolled our eyes at bad hairdo’s and our fashion faux pas.  We grew silent in personal reflection as we read his postcards and letters to us.

Our memories were more alive than ever.  Suddenly it was like the 14 years had vanished and we were reliving the highlight clips of our lives.

A fascinating observation about memories is how each of us has a different perspective, poignant moment or touchpoint that resonates with us.  The memory is enhanced by each of us adding our personal details.

It becomes richer in color, more alive and subsequently, a more vivid memory.

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We carefully boxed up some  photos, letters, and the silver and shipped them to his sister.   I could envision her surprise and rush of memories as she unpacked the treasures.

What I had not anticipated was the gift I would receive in return — a lengthy note back to me chock full of her own beautiful memories of her brother and her grandmother.  Some of these stories were new to me and others I’d forgotten.  Now I could watch a movie in my head of another young girl with bouncing curls on a New York shopping spree with her doting grandmother many decades ago.

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I’ve learned a few noteworthy things from my recent trip down memory lane.

  • Memories are best when shared.
  • Memories are inspirational and often serve as reminders of what is most important in our busy lives.  Make time for your loved ones.
  • Each of us has a filter through which we process an experience.  Be mindful of other’s filters and appreciative of their perspective.
  • Most importantly, memories can remind us just how much we were and are loved.

 

 

Inspired by BreatheShelleyGirl and her post ” I love you. Have a cookie.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ready, Set, Go — I’m a Blogger!

I’m just getting started in building my blog about all the changes I’m currently making in my life.  The past year has been full of self awareness, mindfulness and redefining my purpose and my dreams.  It’s my hope to share insights, some hearty laughs, and a little wisdom along the way.

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Mindfulness will be the cornerstone of my foundation as I reshape my life and I’ll be sharing ideas of how to incorporate mindfulness into our busy, every day lives.  It will come as no surprise that often means getting our faces out of our phones:)

 

Finding meaning and purpose in retirement will be another aspect to my blog.  I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I’m doing each day that makes me feel like I’m contributing in a positive way to my family, my friends and the world in general.  Conversations with friends and folks I meet while traveling have really sparked my interest in exploring this topic more deeply.

Creative writing is something I have enjoyed all my life and I am working to accomplish two goals with this hobby  The first goal is to write children’s stories that incorporate mindfulness into the message. My hope is that we can teach children to deal with their emotions in a healthy way, to be kind and respectful to others, and to be resourceful in problem solving.  I’ve wanted to write children’s stories since my boys were little and I have had a few false starts along the way.  It is my adorable granddaughters that have really inspired me to get make this happen!  This goal also ties into finding meaning and purpose in retirement so that gets me even more motivated.

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My second goal is to write whimsical stories about funny everyday experiences that often happen to us when we least expect it.  Erma Bombeck was always my inspiration for my amusing anecdotes, so I am hoping to do her some justice and spread a little humor along the way.

 

 

When I originally decided to launch a blog, it was intended as a way for my friends and family to keep track of all my adventures as I am about to relocate once again.  Now I have a much more definitive purpose to my life and my blog.   I want to extend a hearty thank you to my daughter and son-in-law and to my many friends who listened to my ideas, who encouraged me and gave me food for thought and inspired me to keep going…and growing.