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.

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Me and my favorite poet!

Happy Thanksgiving!

with Joy, Gratitude & Love,

Love is a Verb!

Love is defined as a feeling of affection towards another person.  But it is only truly felt by others when it is outwardly expressed, in the form of an action.

LOVE IS A VERB!

In last week’s Awesome Action – Love, I shared how Gary Chapman explains in his book “The 5 Love Languages” that there are 5 distinct ways to express one’s love.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll let my family photos from Thanksgiving and Chanukah share how we put LOVE into action.

Show your love by giving GIFTS

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Ben is feeling the love!

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What’s it gonna be?

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That’s a BIG box!

Spend QUALITY TIME with someone you love

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Friendly game of Ping Pong

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Family Walk

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Family Corn Hole

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Chilling by the fire

ACTS OF SERVICE demonstrate love

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Awesome repair man gave great service so we could cook our Chanukah & Thanksgiving feasts

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Becky baking an apple pie – with LOVE!

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The boys making edible dreidels

Love someone with your WORDS of AFFIRMATION

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Pagi looking through Pete’s poetry book – and telling him how much he enjoyed reading his work

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Pagi expressing his gratitude for his family on our thankful board

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“Show & Tell” – Becky and I showing and telling our Dad how much we adore him!

PHYSICAL TOUCH is a natural expression of love

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Hugs & Kisses

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Pagi and his grandsons – all touching!

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This love is mutual!

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Love can be silly and fun too!

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LOVE!

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A hug is so easy

I hope you had a LOVE filled Thanksgiving!

Continue to demonstrate your love through actions, and practice the art of giving and receiving love.

with Joy & Gratitude,

The Joy of Family Traditions

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Thanksgiving is a time for families to gather.  Yet each family gathers in a slightly different way.  One of the many things that distinguishes one family’s holiday from another, are our family traditions.

Many family traditions get passed down from generation to generation, often times without the younger generation having any understanding of how it was originally established.  As families grow and blend, sometimes new traditions are established.  Family traditions are a key component that can strengthen a family unit by giving it identity and stability.

The simple nature of a tradition is that it is repeated.  But there is more depth to a ritual than the mere repetition of an action.  The value of a tradition begins with the act of performing the ritual with the family members.  Later, when the family talks about and shares their memories of a family tradition, it’s as though they are reliving it through the conversation, which further reinforces the tradition.  As this cycle continues, the family tradition gets solidified.

Here are a few of our Thanksgiving family traditions that I wouldn’t trade for the world…..

MORNING TIME – I’m a morning person and the rest of my family is not.  Without doubt, I am always the first person awake.  I treasure getting to experience the house slowly come to life as one by one, each person gets up and gathers in the kitchen.  The kitchen is always a focal point, but especially on Thanksgiving morning as the feast preparation begins.

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Pagi and his turkey!

FAMILY COOKING – Cooking the Thanksgiving meal is a family affair.  Each one of us brings our own specialty to the meal.  My dad is known for his turkey and stuffing.  My sister is a master mashed potato maker, as well as the annual apple pie baker.  The boys count on both of my sugar filled sweet potato casserole each year.  One is topped with mini marshmellows, the other with pecans.  The boys have perfected the art of making peanut butter balls.  After a full day of cooking, my guy is reliably the captain of clean up duty.

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Ben & Levi making peanut butter balls (comedy style)

MIMOSAS, LOX and BAGEL – Shortly after the cooking begins, the first batch of mimosas are poured with precision.  This drink recipe is a family tradition passed down from my Aunt Barb and has been shared with many!  It’s a nice hefty glass of champagne, a splash of orange juice, a dribble of maraschino cherry juice followed by one, maybe two cherries that sit at the bottom like the prize in a box of cracker jacks!  We have one late morning meal prior to the Thanksgiving dinner, which is lox, bagel, cream cheese, fresh tomatoes and red onions.  I’m drooling just thinking about it!

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Mimosa in hand, ready for some game time! (2007 ish)

FAMILY WALK – We are always too tired and full following the big meal to do anything active.  So we are proactive and walk our anticipated calories off prior to the meal.  Where we walk varies from year to year.  We’ve gone exploring in other nearby neighborhoods, the beach at the Chesapeake bay, the woods at Seashore State Park,  and the boardwalk at the oceanfront.  The destination doesn’t matter nearly as much as the fact that we are outside and together.

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Beach walk – hand in hand

PHOTO OP – This is one of those traditions that was established years ago, but without any forethought or planning.  Perhaps it’s because the 4 grandsons are hams behind the camera and just love to have their picture taken?  Sometimes this tradition is blended with the family walk, sometimes not.  Either way, we always take a ridiculous quantity of photographs, including all combinations of family members, the majority of which are filled with silliness!  Each year my only hope is to end up with at least one picture where everyone is smiling, eyes opened and no funny faces.  Regardless of the outcome, the photo shoot itself is always a highlight of the Thanksgiving week.

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Silly family photo at its best!

FAMILY GAME TIME – We’ve always been a family that enjoys a competitive game of cards or family board game time.  But one of our more recently established family traditions, thanks to the usually mild Virginia Beach temperatures, has been to take our game time outside.  We’ll bring the corn hole boards into the drive way and open the garage doors, where we keep the ping pong table, creating an indoor – outdoor play space.  Add some tunes and a second round of mimosas, and it’s GAME ON!

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A friendly game of (competitive) corn hole

THE MEAL – Believe it or not, the big meal itself is really not the highlight of our Thanksgiving celebration.  I suppose we keep doing it because that’s the way it’s always been done, but quite honestly, there’s a whole lot of preparation for what seems to be a relatively short dinner.  Besides, I think everyone really just wants to get into comfy clothes and move onto the next family tradition – hunkering down for a movie and dessert.  My favorite part of the big meal is sharing what we are grateful for.  Sometimes it takes the form of a Thankful Tree, other times we simply take turns speaking what we are thankful for as we go around the table.

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Ian and our Thankful Tree

LATE NIGHT ICE CREAM & A MOVIE – We are not traditionally a dessert right after dinner kind of family.  We prefer to digest our meal and save the anticipation of apple pie and ice cream for a little later.  Once the kitchen is clean, everyone slips away to change into their comfy clothes (sweats or pj’s) and much like the morning routine, they return, one by one to the living room to hunker down for a movie.  We never know who will get the hankering for sugar first, but it only takes one person to create an exodus to the kitchen for a late night serving of warm apple pie and vanilla bean ice cream.

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Just another one of our non traditional family photos!

I love our family rituals – the typical ones and the oh so non traditional ones alike.  I love how some have been around for years, while others are newly established.  Even with all our traditions, each Thanksgiving holiday takes on a life of its own.  I can’t wait for tomorrow to see how this year’s Thanksgiving will unfold.

I invite you to think about what makes YOUR Thanksgiving holiday special.   What traditions do you look forward to, and what new rituals would you like to be intentional about creating?

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with love and laughter!  Gobble Gobble….

with Joy & Gratitude

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…..

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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.

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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,

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,