The Gift of Gratitude

Today concludes a week of focused attention on gratitude, the high frequency feeling of thankfulness. I was inspired to spend this week thus, because of Thanksgiving. Rather that spend a day saying “thank you”, I chose to be mindful of the large and small blessings in my life during the days before and after this national holiday. That desire created a beautiful, soulful week.

My gratitudes this past week were expressed for major blessings, such as family, health, a plant based lifestyle, business, creativity, writing and the life expanding gift of travel.

And my days were full of gratitude for the small things: fall flowers, the beauty of nature, laughter, meeting new people, scoring bargains, finding the perfect Christmas tree, a fun movie with my sister (review tomorrow), and the many nods, winks and love notes from the Divine that assures me that my trust is well placed and my life path true.

It truly has been a joy filled week. And because my attention has been focused on gratitude, I have found much to be grateful for. It is more than appreciation for people and things and experiences. It is also the awareness that gratitude has the power to shift me, and shift my perceptions of the world.

It is difficult to be anxious, sad, indignant, judgmental or angry when I am counting my blessings. Beyond appreciation, gratitude has fostered fun, thoughtfulness, peace, kindness and compassion.

Robert Holden wrote, “The real gift of gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become.”

I have found that to be true this week. I’ve looked at the world differently, aware of all the gifts I have been given. In that state of mindfulness, there is no room for mentally shuffling through incidents from the past or projecting into the future. Noticing my blessings keeps me grounded in the present, as my life unfolds moment by moment.

The Week of Gratitude is over, however, I am continuing to cultivate this virtue. And the prayer I whisper all day long truly is thank you.

O Christmas Tree

A simple gratitude post this evening, for a simple joy, bringing home this year’s Christmas tree. Today I packed up the fall decor. This evening, tabletops and shelves are empty, blank canvases awaiting creativity. Tomorrow the Christmas boxes get unpacked.

With temperatures in the 60s this afternoon, it was the perfect time to pick out my Christmas tree at Lowe’s Garden Center. No coat, hat or gloves were required. No shivering in the cold as I sorted through trees. I am grateful for such a gorgeous day and a pretty little fresh Fraser Fir.

I have always preferred a real Christmas tree. While I see the benefits of having an artificial tree, I love the earthy scent of a fresh tree and the feel of soft needles as I decorate. At one time Greg and I cut our own tree each Christmas. It is much easier and quicker to select one that has already been cut at a Christmas tree farm. Selecting a tree at Lowe’s is my yearly tradition.

The only thing that has changed over the years is the height of the tree. I used to purchase a seven foot tree. Then I downsized to one close to six feet. Now, my tree is in the five to six foot range. They are easier to handle, at this size, and easier to decorate as well. They still smell just as fragrant.

Lowe’s always has a great selection of Fraser Firs and Douglas Pines, in a variety of sizes.

I make careful considerations: Not too skimpily branched. No glaring empty spots. Nice shape. Not to big around. Greg stood trees up as I selected them so I could view them from all angles. Tree number three was perfect!

The attendant in the garden center made a fresh cut at the base and wrapped the tree in netting. They always have a bin of cuttings, free for the taking. I bring home green pine boughs, to use on the front porch.

I am full of gratitude for a mild sunny day in late November, fresh, aromatic Fraser Fir trees, Lowe’s Garden Center with its kind helpers, my friend Mike for the use of his truck, and Greg’s assistance in getting my sweet smelling tree home.

Tonight the tree is relaxing in its spot in my living room, drinking in cool water. It is as yet unadorned. However its scent wafts to me every time I walk by or enter the room.

Tomorrow, I decorate.

“O Christmas tree, O Christmas, how lovely are thy branches…”

Black Friday Fun

To many, being grateful for Black Friday may seem crazy. I am though…grateful, that is, not crazy. Do I care what other people choose to believe? Nope. Not only did I save money…I had fun…met new people…shared in an adventure…laughed…and got to order something I’ve been wanting for a while.

I hear all kinds of negatives about this day. And people are certainly entitled to their opinions. I choose not to be negative, even though I don’t always go out and participate. As one who worked in retail prior to real estate, I know how crucial this day can be to businesses, especially small, locally owned shops. For many, their business surviving the next year is dependent on this day and the holiday season. And for people with limited funds, their hard earned cash goes farther when they can take advantage of deep discounts.

And for some, the thrill of the hunt is plain fun for them. My sister Debbie and niece Ashley excel at finding bargains. For me, I don’t typically shop on Thanksgiving Day, or stand in line in the dark before stores open at 5:00 am. I wait until noonish to venture out, if I have a reason for shopping. However those who enjoy Black Friday shopping and make an adventure out of it or create a family tradition around it…you go…and have fun.

My own adventure was precipitated by the need for a new blender. Mixing a fruit smoothie daily, plus additional heavy use since going plant based, has killed off my ancient blender. It was time for a new one. I purposefully waited until today to purchase one, sure I could get a great deal. I was not wrong! With the Black Friday sale at Kohl’s, plus a coupon I had received by mail, plus $30 Kohl’s bucks to spend later, I bought a top of the line $199.99 Ninja Blender for $105.99. I am so excited to create with this awesome kitchen appliance!

Also at Kohl’s I purchased six other items, spending $41.27 for items that normally would have totaled $159.08. My total saving today at Kohl’s: $211.81. That’s awesome…and certainly something to be grateful for. But the best part of being at that store today? Standing in line with positive, joyful people that I had never met before.

I started my shopping at noon. Apparently others had the same idea about beginning later in the day. The store was packed and lines stretched to the back of the store. You know what? If you are going to shop on Black Friday you’d better just be prepared to stand in line and make the best of it. Of the hundreds of people I encountered, I only heard two shoppers complain. Shhhh…they were both males.

The two ladies in front of me in line and the one behind me were of like minds. We decided we might as well have fun while we waited. Our thoughts create our reality. So guess what? We had a blast. We chatted like old friends. We told stories. We held the place in line for each other and took turns darting to displays to pick up something else. I grabbed a sweater in the right size for one of my new friends. She tried it on and asked how she looked. She looked beautiful. The staff at Kohl’s did a great job at managing crowds and had every register open with two sales associates per check out. Cheers to all of them!

The woman in front of me, who had an adorable little daughter with her, shops Black Friday sales out of necessity. Her money goes farther. She can spend less and accomplish more. The woman behind me was elderly. She was purchasing clothing for herself. Same motivation. Her limited funds can do more. This is a yearly event for her, when she buys essentials for herself.

Greg, who had dropped me at the door, came into the store to find me. One of the ladies waved him over and called out, “She’s making new friends!” She was right. Cheers too, to Greg, who had a wonderful cheerful attitude as well and chose to make it a fun afternoon.

Back home, I went online and picked out this little beauty for me, from Boho Style, at a $20 savings. Check it out HERE. This silver feather ring has significance for me, and I was deeply touched that it popped up on my newsfeed today. More about that later. Let me just say this was a playful wink from the Divine.

And then another delightful surprise. I’ve been wanting to order the Ancestry DNA kit and have my DNA tested. I know I am primarily Scottish, Irish and English. Or am I? I can trace my Lauderdale roots back to Lauder, Scotland. But lots of families have married into the Lauderdale line down through the centuries. Where did they originate? I am so excited to get a map of my heritage.

I intended to order the kits last Wednesday, one for me and one for Greg, as our children will then have a complete heritage background. Normally $99 each, the kits were on special for $79. I use a special loadable debit card for online purchases, for security reasons. When I went to load my card Wednesday, the lines were long and I had cooking to do at home. I decided to wait until today to order. Today through Monday…Black Friday through Cyber Monday…the Ancestry DNA kits are reduced to $59 each. I purchased three, including one for my college aged grandson. Savings: $120. More gratitude…more joy…great excitement!

As a bonus, I joined Ancestry.com. I am in the process of transferring the info in my overstuffed-pages falling out-genealogy notebook into Ancestry’s easy to use online family tree system. I am already discovering more valuable info.

What an incredibly fun day. How tender my heart feels for those who dared to shop today, whatever their reasons for doing so. How empathetic I feel towards those working today. I worked Black Fridays in retail for years, alongside Greg and all three of my children. We can tell stories that make listeners laugh, shake their heads…or cry.

Today, I saved a total of $351.81 by shopping Black Friday sales, both in stores and online. Monday is Cyber Monday. I already have items waiting in a shopping cart on Amazon. I expect to save big there too.

And Tuesday? That day is Giving Tuesday, a national day set aside for corporations and individuals to give to the charities and organizations of their choice. It’s a day to make a difference. I participate every year. The money I saved today…and will save Monday…at least part of it will be distributed to several organizations that I support. Saving money on Black Friday let’s me make more of a difference on Giving Tuesday. This year I have a new organization to help people through. I’ll be giving to them in my name and the names of my five grandchildren.

And for that opportunity , I am extremely grateful.

Christmas Spirit

I know it is still two days before Thanksgiving. And I have devoted time this evening to pouring through plant based recipes in preparation for Thursday’s meal. However, the magical thing happened today, that finds me about this time every year. I never know quite when it will rise from the corner of my heart, where it resides the rest of the year, and flood my being. I am grateful for it and it is my gratitude today.

The Christmas Spirit awoke in me.

I love this time of year…from mid October to my birthday in the new year, January 9. The cooler weather and colorful leaves signal the approach of the holidays. It is my favorite time to decorate and cook and nest. Love and joy and yes, gratitude overflow my heart.

These are the events that triggered Christmas Spirit today.

Greg sent me this photo from Lowe’s this morning. These fresh beauties have arrived! Ill be purchasing mine this weekend. Years ago, I cut trees out in the wild. Ask me sometime about THE Christmas Tree incident that ended in disaster. Now, Lowe’s Garden Center is my tree destination and I receive much joy from selecting the perfect tree.

I received my first Christmas message from a friend, via Facebook Messenger today. It made me smile.

I visited the arts and crafts store, Michaels, to check out the feasibility of an idea I have. Of course, the store is in full Christmas mode, with holiday music playing overhead and shoppers already getting a head start on gift buying. This is where I began humming Christmas songs and a smile first appeared. Christmas was stirring within my heart. I nodded and spoke to other shoppers as I browsed. I don’t mind crowds at all, especially this time of year. I love the feeling of being on a shared adventure, rather than viewing it as a competitive one. Even though I don’t need more Christmas decor, I was captivated by a little gingerbread house with matching trees and a tiny gingerbread man. I bought it!

And Christmas thus Christmas began, for me, on November 21. The humming turned into singing. While cooking dinner, my iPod played through holiday songs. And after dinner, I set out the items I’ve already purchased for this Christmas season.

I buy myself a heart ornament every year, to represent my shiny Mithril heart. Mithril is a precious metal referred to in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Hobbit stories. It is strong, silvery and valuable. My Christmas tree is adorned with many heart ornaments. I like this simple metal heart for this year.

I also add a Christmas mug each year to my collection. This is my first owl mug. He is adorable. I found the wooden sign in a vintage shop. It will find a spot in my snowman village.

And this tartan ceramic Scotty dog ornament came home with me from Scotland. I purchased it in a gift shop near Loch Ness. It will remind me of my travels this year.

I am so grateful for this beautiful season, when love and joy, peace and wonder overflows. For me, it is a time of sharing with others, and a time of personal reflection as the year winds down and a new one approaches.

The boxes of Christmas decorations will come out of storage this week, and my house will be transformed. My heart already is. My life reflects that.

I don’t care what anyone says about welcoming Christmas too soon. When the Spirit moves me…it moves me. I would not bid it to wait. I agree with Charles Dickens’ well known character, Scrooge, after the Spirit of Christmas was born in his heart and made manifest in his life. I keep a reminder of Ebenezer’s words hanging year around in my house. And I too honor Christmas in my heart.

Touching Heaven

With this being Thanksgiving week, I have decided to very mindfully celebrate a week of expressing gratitude.

Gratitude is the quality of being thankful, of showing appreciation for gifts, large and small, especially those freely given. I have a choice. I can feel and express gratitude or I can choose to be ungrateful. Living a life of gratitude means I notice the gifts I’ve been given, from flowers and sunsets, to real estate closings and a grandchild’s hug. Nothing is taken for granted and life itself is a gift. I can feel gratitude even for the challenges during the journey, seeing them as opportunities to grow and shift.

Johannes A. Gaertner said “To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven.”

Day 1 I felt gratitude for my family, all of my family. I am blessed to have mother, stepdad, stepmom, sisters, brother, daughters and daughter-in-law, son and sons-in-laws, grandchildren, nieces and nephews all living within an hour and a half of Joplin. I get to spend time with them and be a witness to their lives.

Today I considered what I wanted to express gratitude for. There are so many things that I am grateful for. Without overthinking it I opened my heart and went with the first image that popped up.

For Day 2 I am grateful for the opportunities to travel this year.

The travels this year were so much more than planning a trip and then hopping on a plane. I have wanted to explore the world for a long time. Nine years ago, on Mike Dooley’s TUT website, I wrote out my desire and expressed it this way:

Rome, Italy

I gave my heart’s desire to the Divine…and let go of the outcome. It’s not that I sat back and did nothing. I dreamed. I looked through travel brochures. Five years ago, when my grandson expressed a desire to go to Italy after graduation, we dreamed together and released that shared goal to the Divine. Last January we met with a travel agent and the dream began to become a reality. Amazingly, the funds poured in as needed, to meet the expenses for the trip.

What a beautiful lesson for me in dreaming, trusting, letting go and receiving.

Taxis to Venice

Orvieto, Italy

A year ago, my sister Debbie asked me about going on a trip to Scotland and England. We decided to include Ireland as well, and our group grew to include our mom, sister Linda and Ashley, Debbie’s daughter. If I had wanted to play it safe, I would not have agreed to two major trips, three months apart. I am so grateful I said yes. And there they were, the three countries I wrote about visiting, with Ireland thrown in, all in one glorious summer.

Dublin, Ireland

Eilean Donan Castle, Highlands, Scotland

London, England

Again, the funds arrived for the UK trip, exactly on time. And for the second time this year I boarded a plane and followed my heart. There were other elements that came together, to express gratitude about, connected to these travels. Six family members were able to journey with me. My health improved dramatically, by way of Anthony William and a plant based diet, so that I could walk freely and enjoy these trips. My mother experienced improved health as well. Little and not so little details fell into place. Protection was given for all travelers.

And my wanderlust was truly born, set free. I have other places I hope to visit. More corners of the world to explore. The Divine knows the desires of my heart. I am grateful for that as well.

I recognize that this year of travels, these adventures, are representations of my life journey. The dreaming, the playing, the letting go and trusting, and the birthing of dreams into reality…my life is shaped by these components as well. And I am full of gratitude that traveling deepens my awareness of these connections between my wanderings around the globe and my journey through life.

Perhaps most of all, I don’t want regrets. I don’t want to be sorry that I balked at an opportunity to travel or hesitated when I could have grown. I am grateful that traveling enlarges my soul and exposes me to other people and other cultures and teaches me important truths about who I am.

Dr. Steve Maraboli sums it up well.

“Your ability to see beauty and opportunity is proportionate to the level at which you embrace gratitude.”

I am embracing gratitude.