THANKS – a word not taken lightly

I’ve been revisiting some of my old blog posts lately.  I won’t make a habit of continually re-purposing my vintage pieces – since you can easily read back into the archives if you’d like.  But something about this time of year, the Thanksgiving holiday, is prompting me to recycle what I feel are timeless pieces and valuable reminders.

I can’t take credit for this post though.  Thanks is a poem written by my youngest son in 2012, when he was 13 years old.  It is simple yet profound.  I’d love to see what story his words would tell now, 2 years later, 2 years older and surely 2 years wiser!

Perhaps we should all follow this practice, and pause to put into words; to explain, describe and define those things that we are most thankful for in life.

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Thanks – By Peter Feinman

As my eyes rise from the depths of silence,

Peeking over the warmth of my blankets,

My mind begins to tick,

The rays of the golden sun greeting my sensitive pupils,

And I think to myself how lucky I am.

 

I tip toe into the bathroom as I complete my morning routine,

And I slowly scan the room in awe as I notice how much I am provided with,

And how fortunate I am to be able to clean my body,

And wear the clothes I do.

While walking to the bus I hear the crunch, crunch as the gravel rolls beneath my feet,

I hear the honking of car horns,

And I hear the whines of other children,

And at that point I know that I do not have to go to school, I get to go to school,

And I think to myself how lucky I am.

 

I feel a breeze of excitement rush past me as I open the school doors,

I feel the loneliness wash away as friends reunite at 8:50a.m.,

I feel the love between the teachers as they watch the students glide by while sharing a cup of coffee,

Then, I realize that I am surrounded by friends and teachers who care about me,

Who I can share conversations and laughs with,

And I think to myself how lucky I am.

 

I take a seat in a smooth leathery chair of a yellow school bus,

And as I stare out the window, all I do is think,

I think about how great our nation could be if all men were not just created equal, but we stayed equal,

If race, religion, ethnicity, and social class did not make up who we are today,

If people looked at others from the inside and by the way people act,

If all people were born with the same opportunities and chances in life,

With freedom, a gift from God, people can rise to the highest parts of life,

And I know that because I am free I will have many more opportunities that will come my way,

And I think to myself how lucky I am.

 

I sit down and start to turn the slick pages of my textbook,

And the steam coming from the fresh food finds its way to my nose,

And I smell the sweet soap from the upstairs bathroom, and I smell the pumpkin scent from the crackling candle mounted on the counter top,

And I am grateful to sit with my family and taste the warm food melt in my mouth,

Before sipping the ice cold water to wash it down,

And I think to myself how lucky I am.

 

I drown myself with the blankets that rest on my bed,

And I squeeze one more yawn out as I stretch until my body tingles,

And I wonder what adventure will I be in tomorrow,

And I tell myself each day a new story is told,

And it is my job to live each one to the fullest,

And I am grateful that I am healthy and able to live my life,

And I think to myself how lucky I am.

 

So I want to say thank you,

Thank you God,

Thank you Mom,

Thank you Dad,

Thank you Ben,

Thank you Gigi,

Thank you Poppy,

Thank you Pagi,

Thank you family,

And thank you friends and teachers,

For allowing me to be myself,

And standing by me in the lows of life,

And flying with me in times of celebration,

Thank you for the life long lessons you have taught me,

And for the amazing experiences and memories that are planted in my mind forever,

And for the inspirational quotes and ideas that have blossomed within me,

I am grateful for everything you do for me,

And thank you for loving me and showing me how lucky I am.

Thanks1

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Me and my favorite poet!

Happy Thanksgiving!

with Joy, Gratitude & Love,

Creating a Gratitude Board

When I published last year’s piece  Grow a Thankful Tree , it was with the intention of re-establishing our family’s Thankful Tree tradition.  That’s my cutie-patootie nephew (many years ago!) after hanging a leaf on our holiday thankful tree.

229_2975Given that my boys and nephew’s age range last year was 12-17, I figured the tree idea might be a little too crafty (or like an elementary school art class) for their teenage liking.  So instead of growing a Thankful Tree – I decided to try creating a gratitude board.  I had big expectations, but lots of apprehension that this new tradition would take off.  Nonetheless, I laid out a large whiteboard (approx 34 x 22 inches) and a basket of dry erase markers, and crossed my fingers.  I shared with my family that this was replacing our Thankful Tree, and all they needed to do was simply write down something (or many things!) they were grateful for.

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To my surprise, the Gratitude Board was a HUGE hit, with teenagers and adults alike!

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I left the board propped on a chair in the corner of the kitchen, and as the week progressed, the white space slowly disappeared as the board filled up with gratitude.  Everyone enjoyed reading each other’s gratitude…and I continued to read them long after the holiday ended and my family departed.  Plus I took a photograph so I could read (while literally laughing out loud at our humor) and re-read our 2013 Thanksgiving Gratitude for years to come!

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I bought some fresh new dry erase markers and cleaned the board spotless so we can document and share all that we are grateful for this Thanksgiving 2014!

Below is my post from Thanksgiving 2013.  I hope you have fun with whatever way you choose to record your family’s gratitude.   Feel free to comment and let me know what works for you!  HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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Thanksgiving is one of the two times each year that my dad, sister and her two boys travel south to visit us….and I am counting the days (hours & minutes) until they arrive!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, because the expectation is simply to BE with family.  It’s 4-6 days filled with cooking together,  playing board games, sleeping in, overdosing on football, taking walks, eating large quantities of once a year yummies, and watching late night movies.

Each year, the Sunday after Thanksgiving arrives and I’m filled with sadness that the time passed so quickly and my family is leaving.  In an effort to combat this already expected outcome, I’m going to set the intention to be totally present to my family, to honor the relationships and to share my gratitude with them.  This is going to require an awesome action to help me fulfill my intention…..

awesomebadge

In anticipation of next week’s holiday – this awesome action is…..

To GROW a THANKFUL TREE!

When the kids were little we used to create a thankful tree each Thanksgiving.  Sadly, it was one of those family traditions that disappeared as the boys hit double digits.  This is the perfect year to bring back this awesome action and  re-establish it as a family tradition.

I love growing a thankful tree because it’s an outlet for each of us to express and share what we are grateful for, plus it’s a visual representation of our family’s expanding gratitude.

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How to grow a thankful tree…..

1.  Collect fallen sticks or small tree twigs and place them in a vase to create the foundation for the thankful tree.

2.  Cut leaf shapes out of red, orange and yellow construction paper, mimicking the richness of the autumn leaves.

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3.  Set the paper leaves around the base of the vase with a few pens, and family members can write down what they are grateful for.

4.  Punch a hole in each leaf and use a thin ribbon to attach it to the twig tree.

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5.  By Thanksgiving dinner, your thankful tree will be in full bloom.  Throughout the meal, take turns reading what everyone is thankful for.

You can grow your thankful tree, exactly as I described.  Or feel free to take the concept and mold it into something better suited for your family.

*  Thankful journal – purchase a journal and invite your family members to write (and date) their gratitude directly into the journal.  This would be an awesome way to keep the gratitude lists together year after year.

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*  Thankful box – use a shoe box or photo keepsake box to collect each person’s gratitude list during the holiday.

*  Thankful whiteboard (blackboard) – leave a whiteboard and dry erase markers easily accessible, allowing the family to create a colorful graffiti board filled with gratitude.  Before erasing it, be sure to add the date and take a photograph to capture it forever.  Better yet – take a family picture around the thankful whiteboard.

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*  Thankful scrapbook – build a holiday thankful scrapbook with photos, handwritten gratitude and other memorabilia and keepsakes.

*  Thankful chain – cut construction paper into 5 inch by 1 inch strips.  As each person writes down something they are grateful for, curve the strip into a circle (held by staple, tape or glue), creating links that connect, building a chain.  Each year could be an individual paper chain, or add on year after year, creating a growing chain of gratitude.

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Get creative or keep it simple.  The point is to give your family a way to express, share and record what they are grateful for.

with Joy, Gratitude & Love,

Thankful – Through the Eyes of a 13 Year Old

Recently I was organizing the clutter on my computer’s desk top when I came across a poem my Peter wrote last year in 8th grade.  I was as moved this time as I was the very first time I read it.  As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I felt compelled to share the message of gratitude through the eyes (and words) of a 13 year old.

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Thanks – By Peter Feinman

As my eyes rise from the depths of silence,

Peeking over the warmth of my blankets,

My mind begins to tick,

The rays of the golden sun greeting my sensitive pupils,

And I think to myself how lucky I am.

 

I tip toe into the bathroom as I complete my morning routine,

And I slowly scan the room in awe as I notice how much I am provided with,

And how fortunate I am to be able to clean my body,

And wear the clothes I do.

While walking to the bus I hear the crunch, crunch as the gravel rolls beneath my feet,

I hear the honking of car horns,

And I hear the whines of other children,

And at that point I know that I do not have to go to school, I get to go to school,

And I think to myself how lucky I am.

 

I feel a breeze of excitement rush past me as I open the school doors,

I feel the loneliness wash away as friends reunite at 8:50a.m.,

I feel the love between the teachers as they watch the students glide by while sharing a cup of coffee,

Then, I realize that I am surrounded by friends and teachers who care about me,

Who I can share conversations and laughs with,

And I think to myself how lucky I am.

 

I take a seat in a smooth leathery chair of a yellow school bus,

And as I stare out the window, all I do is think,

I think about how great our nation could be if all men were not just created equal, but we stayed equal,

If race, religion, ethnicity, and social class did not make up who we are today,

If people looked at others from the inside and by the way people act,

If all people were born with the same opportunities and chances in life,

With freedom, a gift from God, people can rise to the highest parts of life,

And I know that because I am free I will have many more opportunities that will come my way,

And I think to myself how lucky I am.

 

I sit down and start to turn the slick pages of my textbook,

And the steam coming from the fresh food finds its way to my nose,

And I smell the sweet soap from the upstairs bathroom, and I smell the pumpkin scent from the crackling candle mounted on the countertop,

And I am grateful to sit with my family and taste the warm food melt in my mouth,

Before sipping the ice cold water to wash it down,

And I think to myself how lucky I am.

 

I drown myself with the blankets that rest on my bed,

And I squeeze one more yawn out as I stretch until my body tingles,

And I wonder what adventure will I be in tomorrow,

And I tell myself each day a new story is told,

And it is my job to live each one to the fullest,

And I am grateful that I am healthy and able to live my life,

And I think to myself how lucky I am.

 

So I want to say thank you,

Thank you God,

Thank you Mom,

Thank you Dad,

Thank you Ben,

Thank you Gigi,

Thank you Poppy,

Thank you Pagi,

Thank you family,

And thank you friends and teachers,

For allowing me to be myself,

And standing by me in the lows of life,

And flying with me in times of celebration,

Thank you for the life long lessons you have taught me,

And for the amazing experiences and memories that are planted in my mind forever,

And for the inspirational quotes and ideas that have blossomed within me,

I am grateful for everything you do for me,

And thank you for loving me and showing me how lucky I am.

Thanks1

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Me and my favorite poet!

Happy Thanksgiving!

with Joy & Gratitude,

Awesome Action – Grow a Thankful Tree

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Thanksgiving is one of the two times each year that my dad, sister and her two boys travel south to visit us….and I am counting the days (hours & minutes) until they arrive!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, because the expectation is simply to BE with family.  It’s 4-6 days filled with cooking together,  playing board games, sleeping in, overdosing on football, taking walks, eating large quantities of once a year yummies, and watching late night movies.

Each year, the Sunday after Thanksgiving arrives and I’m filled with sadness that the time passed so quickly and my family is leaving.  In an effort to combat this already expected outcome, I’m going to set the intention to be totally present to my family, to honor the relationships and to share my gratitude with them.  This is going to require an awesome action to help me fulfill my intention…..

awesomebadge

In anticipation of next week’s holiday – this awesome action is…..

To GROW a THANKFUL TREE!

When the kids were little we used to create a thankful tree each Thanksgiving.  Sadly, it was one of those family traditions that disappeared as the boys hit double digits.  This is the perfect year to bring back this awesome action and  reestablish it as a family tradition.

I love growing a thankful tree because it’s an outlet for each of us to express and share what we are grateful for, plus it’s a visual representation of our family’s expanding gratitude.

tree2

How to grow a thankful tree…..

1.  Collect fallen sticks or small tree twigs and place them in a vase to create the foundation for the thankful tree.

2.  Cut leaf shapes out of red, orange and yellow construction paper, mimicking the richness of the autumn leaves.

tree4

3.  Set the paper leaves around the base of the vase with a few pens, and family members can write down what they are grateful for.

4.  Punch a hole in each leaf and use a thin ribbon to attach it to the twig tree.

tree

5.  By Thanksgiving dinner, your thankful tree will be in full bloom.  Throughout the meal, take turns reading what everyone is thankful for.

You can grow your thankful tree, exactly as I described.  Or feel free to take the concept and mold it into something better suited for your family.

*  Thankful journal – purchase a journal and invite your family members to write (and date) their gratitude directly into the journal.  This would be an awesome way to keep the gratitude lists together year after year.

tree7

*  Thankful box – use a shoe box or photo keepsake box to collect each person’s gratitude list during the holiday.

*  Thankful whiteboard (blackboard) – leave a whiteboard and dry erase markers easily accessible, allowing the family to create a colorful graffiti board filled with gratitude.  Before erasing it, be sure to add the date and take a photograph to capture it forever.  Better yet – take a family picture around the thankful whiteboard.

tree8

*  Thankful scrapbook – build a holiday thankful scrapbook with photos, handwritten gratitude and other memorabilia and keepsakes.

*  Thankful chain – cut construction paper into 5 inch by 1 inch strips.  As each person writes down something they are grateful for, curve the strip into a circle (held by staple, tape or glue), creating links that connect, building a chain.  Each year could be an individual paper chain, or add on year after year, creating a growing chain of gratitude.

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Get creative or keep it simple.  The point is to give your family a way to express, share and record what they are grateful for.

with Joy & Gratitude,

Practicing Gratitude…..

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Today begins the month of Thanksgiving.  Although this is traditionally a one day holiday, many people have turned November into gratitude month, expressing one thing they are grateful for, each of the 30 days of the month.  But why stop there?

On my journey to discovering awesomeness, I’ve adopted the habit of practicing gratitude on a daily basis (sometimes multiple times a day), and it has been one of the most profound and impactful additions to my life.

Let me take you back a few years, before I began practicing gratitude…..

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Day in and day out, I found myself overwhelmed by my life.  Within minutes of waking up each day, I’d be anxious about all that I intended to accomplish, knowing there was never enough time.  If anything threw me off course of my pre-planned day, I would get irritable, distant, frustrated and overwhelmed.  Life occurred as a struggle, moving at a frantic pace – with little to no peace or contentment.

The truth is, I wasn’t very pleasant to be around, and I have three awesome guys in my house that can confirm that fact.  I finally hit a point where I realized I was spending the majority of my life upset, rather than joyful.

I can’t recall exactly what prompted me to start a gratitude practice, but I will be FOREVER grateful that I did!!!

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My intention was to find 5 things each day to be grateful for and my first attempt was quite comical.  I remember sitting down at my computer, ready to list what I was grateful for, but I was like a  zombie staring at my computer screen.  I didn’t want to be grateful for the obvious – my family, my house, food on the table, hot water etc.  Not that I’m not grateful for those things, but they felt too big and broad.  If I was going to do this every single day, I needed to be able to distinguish what I was grateful for right now, in the moment!  This was turning out to be more difficult than I had anticipated.

So I continued to sit there patiently, waiting for gratitude to grab me.  Then I noticed the smell of coffee throughout my kitchen.  So I wrote it down.  Next I heard the birds chirping like a symphony, just outside my window.  So I wrote it down.  The house was quiet, and I felt peaceful.  So I wrote it down.  Dinner was already in the works, cooking away in the crock pot.  So I wrote it down.  I glanced across the room and noticed both of my yellow labs sound asleep together on the same dog bed.  So I wrote it down.

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As I reviewed what I wrote, my gratitude list felt so insignificant.  Yet, each item was something that put a smile on my face, made me feel joyful, and brought me peace.  I left it as I wrote it, and moved on with my day.

I repeated this practice, day in and day out, sometimes being grateful for the little things in life, sometimes for the major milestones.  I stopped judging and assessing what I was grateful for, and just allowed myself to enjoy the process of noticing and distinguishing that which made me feel grateful!

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It wasn’t long, maybe within that first week, that I realized it is IMPOSSIBLE to be angry, stressed, or negative when I’m feeling grateful.  You simply can’t feel 2 completely opposing emotions at the same time.  So in addition to continuing with my daily “5 things I’m grateful for” habit, I began to practice gratitude as a direct coping mechanism when I noticed myself feeling negative or stressed.

It looked something like this…..

If I received a call from the school nurse that one of my boys had a fever, I would typically be frustrated and anxious that this would mess up my day.  But when I implemented my new gratitude practice, I could be thankful that I worked for myself and didn’t have to ask permission to leave work early to pick up my son.  I could be thankful that I lived across the street from school, so I my son didn’t have to wait more than 5 minutes for me to get him.  I could be thankful for the opportunity to try and make him feel better by cuddling with him, relaxing and watching a movie together.

It sounds so simple.  And it is!

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The hardest part is making it a practice, a regular habit, day in and day out.  It takes time to retrain your thought process to notice and distinguish that which YOU are grateful for, rather than all that isn’t right, isn’t working, isn’t good!

What better day to start YOUR gratitude practice than today, November 1st – the first day of the month of Thanksgiving.

Here are just 5 of the many things I’m grateful for today….

1.  My little guy has transitioned into his freshman year of high school with grace and ease!

2.  My first born guy completed his early action college applications ahead of the deadline (which is today)!

3.  My guy had an awesome first season as the head coach of Ruffner Middle School….and now I’m thankful football season is over!

4.  Only 25 days until I get to see my sister, nephews and dad for Thanksgiving!

5.  I started sharing my writing 5 months ago today – and I love being a blogger!

with Joy & Gratitude,

What’s a Moppy?

Her name was Dorothy Footer.

Her friends called her Dottie.

To me, she was Moppy.

Since I was the first grandchild born in my family, the naming of the grandparents was a hot topic of discussion while I was in utero.  As the story goes, everyone was sitting around the dinner table when my grandfather shared that he wanted to be called Poppy.  Without missing a beat, my grandmother piped in with “So what does that make me, a Moppy?”

And it stuck…..

I was one of eight grandchildren fortunate enough to know exactly what a Moppy was.  But to the rest of the world, that name left them wondering.  Point in case, my younger cousin was sharing with her kindergarten classmate that her Moppy was coming to school the next day for Grandparent’s Day, to which her friend asked “What’s a Moppy?”

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Today is the 18th anniversary of my Moppy’s passing.  She died of a broken heart, just 6 months after losing her lifelong partner, my Poppy.  What better way to honor and remember her than to answer the question…..

What’s a Moppy?

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1992 – Moppy & Poppy dancing at my wedding

My Moppy was the most distinguished, elegant, classy woman I’ve ever known.  And yet she was NOT pretentious or arrogant.  She was warm and friendly, inviting you in with both her eyes and her smile.

As refined as she was, she embraced being a Moppy with every cell in her body.  I think she actually loved her given grandmother name because it emphasized how unique and special she was.

Moppy was athletic, holding her own equally as well with a tennis racket or a golf club.  One of my fondest childhood memories was sharing time with her on the golf cart, giggling and eating chocolate together as we traveled from hole to hole.

Her competitive nature was expressed off the playing field as well, simply by giving her a deck of cards or a backgammon board.  You can learn a lot about a person by playing a strategic game with them.  One of the first things I discovered was just how smart my Moppy was!

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Moppy LOVED sweets!  As thin and as fit as she was, she always had a stash of goodies she would share!  Hershey kisses, peppermint patties and space bars.  In the summer, we would enjoy some Moppy-juice, which was her root beer and milk concoction that tasted much like a root beer float.

Moppy was generous.  We didn’t have much money growing up, which was especially difficult during my teenage years as I tried to fit in.  But once a year I would feel like a princess when Moppy would take me on a shopping spree to Bloomingdales.

My Moppy certainly faced her share of adversity, challenges and life obstacles.  But with grace and poise, she always guarded and protected her role as Moppy, even if it meant wearing a mask of  joy when she might have been feeling less than joyful!

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Moppy was funny!  One of our silliest moments together was shortly after I graduated from college.  I was 20-something and she was 60-something, but there we stood at the back of a local market, in a dark little hallway, playing Pac-Man together.  We were laughing so hard we attracted the attention of other shoppers.  I can’t recall if our laughter was based on the simple fact that we were actually playing Pac-Man together, or if it was because we were each seriously competing to win this silly video game.  What I DO remember, as if it were yesterday, was the pure joy we shared in that experience.

My Moppy was selfless.  She was the wife of an extraordinary, accomplished and well loved man.  Given the era she lived in, she fully accepted the role of his wife, which over the years meant she put their family and him first, before her wants, needs and desires.  Had she lived in a different time, I know she would have impacted the world with her awesomeness!

moppyLooking back, some of the most special times I had with Moppy were when we were alone, just the two of us…..when I didn’t have to share her with anyone….when we got lost in the moment, together.

I am grateful for the 30 years we shared.

Everyone should be lucky enough to have a Moppy in their life!

with Joy & Gratitude,