I found Kim and Jason on the Escape Plan blog two summer’s ago. I started to write down the 40 day steps to end Adultitist. Got to number 20. Then got busy. Lost the name of the website because I forgot to save it. Periodically …
Tag: New Years resolutions
Background Pumpkin Photo: By Allison Boham
Gratitude, is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others. (Cicero)
I have much to be thankful for this season. Sure my life is not perfect by any means nor is it how I envisioned it would be; yet, I am happily content. It took a recent email from my sister to allow me pause to contemplate my happiness. She was emotional upon waking up from a vivid dream about me. You know the kind when you are confused all morning because you are not sure it was real or not? She so desperately needed to know I was well and happy. I guess I had been so busy I never took the time to assess my happiness. The single instant that my brain processed the words I was afforded a glimpse inward. Smiling, I concluded that yes I was indeed content.
This past year I spent each month working on a new goal. Through these monthly resolutions I have learned to laugh more, have fun, love more, create and give. What I discovered is that these traits ultimately lead to the one necessary tool needed to resolve our emotional inner battles and those of the individuals we care for. Gratitude. Gratitude above all else is being appreciative of what we have no matter how dull or small. Gratitude is not dwelling on what we do not have.
One night many long years ago I was flying home after a long absence. The sky was a light with lightening. I felt so much joy in that menial experience because watching the lightening over the ocean water back home was one of my favorite past times. Seeing the lightening in the sky in the dark hours of the early morning gave me comfort on my journey home. An anonymous person once said to always keep your eyes open because you do not want to miss anything. His quote was directed at up and coming fashion editors but I think it goes quite well with the ancient proverb that reminds us to “take time to stop and smell the roses.”
Lawrence J. Cohen author of Playful Parenting writes that “Play is one of the best ways to engage with children, pulling them out of emotional shutdown or misbehavior, to a place of connection and confidence.” He goes on to say that, “When we feel exhausted or when we are at the end of our rope, we tend to think that play will be just more of an energy drain. But when we engage playfully with our children, we find that suddenly we do have energy, both for fun and for finding creative solutions to thorny problems.”
Cohen affirms that yes indeed it is difficult for some of us to remember how to play. Sitting on the floor playing Barbies or watching clouds or playing games with our teens might seem boring. Yet, it is necessary for us as parents to explore that world with them not only for their benefit but for ours as well. Play gives us the opportunity to let go of our problems for a spell. Play strengthens relationships and restores harmony. We learn to laugh over spilled milk. Moreover, we come to recognize the simple pleasures of life.
Gratitude is also cultivated through thoughtful acts of service. In serving and allowing others to succor our needs we foster a love for our family and neighbors. We learn to be sensitive of their interests and in so doing we desire to forgo our wants in favor of their happiness. Suddenly, as Mr. Cohen stressed, we find the answers to problems. We feel we can breathe again. We are more forgiving of ourselves and those around us. We can accept the challenging experiences we had to go through even to the point of forgiving those who have offended us in the process. Walks with a friend are not only invigorating to the body but also can be a conduit for healing the mind. This time out clears our minds allowing us to see that we have more to be grateful for than we realized. Even though life is difficult there is still so much to be grateful for if we tune our minds to find it.
To truly develop gratitude we must learn to appreciate the negative aspects of life. Learning to triumph over adversity no matter how awful is one of the most difficult tasks we can undertake. We can accomplish this only through the quality of gratitude. Gratitude is the ability to see hope in our darkest hour. Finding gratitude when we feel we are trapped or lost in a thickening fog of turmoil is by far the most challenging. Moreover, if we can begin to recognize the good that is around us no matter how small or trivial we will have a tangible life preserver to carry us through the tumultuous waters.
In the story “Pollyanna” written by Louise Alcott, Pollyanna taught an entire town that for every misfortune there is always something to be glad about. Individuals whom had completely given up on life were renewed after attempting to play Pollyanna’s “Glad Game.” The game is not an easy one to play especially when grave tragedy strikes. Even little Miss Pollyanna was unable to think of a solitary thing to be glad about after learning she might never walk again. Ironically it was the very people in the community whom she inspired with small acts of kindness that lead her through her darkest hours. Placing blame on another will not erase our pain nor will it bring us happiness. Emotional healing is a necessity required by all human beings. It is a natural instinct to retreat or lash out at others when we feel scared, overwhelmed or abandoned. This recklessness or isolation is the direct result of an emotional shutdown. The only way to ease the loss of a loved one, or find strength when diagnosed with a serious medical condition, or recover from a series of bad choices, and misfortunes is to reach out to others in service.
This lesson is best illustrated in the book “Messenger” the third book in the Giver trilogy by Lois Lowry. There is a small village inhabited by those whom were cast out from their homes because they were lame and no longer of any use. Here they found peace and kindness until one day a man came to join them who could grant wishes. Many of the villagers became greedy and selfish. They were willing to do anything to look more handsome or get a material item. The woods that for so long gave them nourishment now turned on them sucking in the negative energy that energized the community. They were no longer grateful for what they had. They wanted more and would hurt anyone who got in their way. Gratitude gives us permission to let go, to laugh more freely and play harder. In cultivating gratitude we come to understand that material objects or pride have no place in our hearts. We are free to love others more deeply.
Thanksgiving is soon at hand. It is a time to reflect over the past year. I confess that under the duress of the challenges I have encountered this year I have whined just a smidgen. There are two people in my life whom I owe a debt of gratitude. This year I came to better understand my oldest son. The road we had to take to get here was filled with many pot holes. At the same time we have been fortunate to meet numerous families with similar plights such as our own. We have felt enormous support as we’ve banned together to help our children grow to succeed rather than adapt to coping through life. Their friendship coupled with the joy I see within my own son brings me immeasurable elation. I am thankful for the long road we had to travel. My contentment is a direct result from the relationships we have developed.
This month’s resolution is to express gratitude.
— Send thank you notes to the people who made the biggest impact on your life during the year.
— Remember to say thank you.
— Express your affections by saying I love you, I am proud of you, great job. “Feeling Gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” Annonymous
— Offer anonymous acts of service.
— Forgive and make amends.
— Keep a gratitude jar. Write down all the things you are thankful for on strips of paper. Place them in a jar to share on Thanksgiving or at dinner.
Photo: “Dandelions” by Kitchen Table Medicine, Source: Courtesy Photo Bucket I am a horrible test taker. To this day I get sweaty palms and start to second guess myself. I learned in college that the answers to the tests were not straight out of the …
Photo: Dancing in the Rain, courtesy of Photo Bucket
Someone once told me they were leery of overly happy people because they must be hiding something. I think that there are individuals out there who are genuinely happy. The faults of life roll off their backs like RainX on a car windshield. On the opposite side of the glass half-full crowd are those who need to wallow in self-pity. They feel robbed of their liberties if their feelings are not validated. They feel they are fake if they act contrary to how they feel. If they do not feel happy then why should they be happy? Problem is when they are not happy they feel no one should be happy. Thus we are all made to feel miserable with them.
One day I was listening to a radio talk show. The caller expressed the need to be true to her feelings but longed to be happy like her fiancé. Even so, she found it difficult to “fake” being nice if she did not feel like being nice. Her question was if she woke up on the wrong side of the bed was it ok to fake being happy? The host told her if that is what she needed to do then yes it is ok because it is never ok to lash out at someone. The host then added that sometimes when we try to be happy by smiling and doing nice things for other people eventually we become happy.
Not long ago I received terrible news that a dear friend of mine had succumb to liver cancer. She discovered that she had cancer only three months prior to her death. Donna was in her late 50’s. Her life had been fraught with peril at every turn. She was abused and abandoned most of her existence. She was strong. She was a fighter. She survived every negative confrontation thrown at her. By the time we met in my late twenties she was no longer the victim. Her rosy cheeks and denim overalls said everything about her character. She was soft spoken and kind. She would give the shirt off her back to help someone. She was genuine; always a pleasure to be around. She always had a kind word to say on both good and bad days. I loved being around Donna because she was fun.
As the month progressed I learned of the severe personal tumults suffered by several of my dearest friends. I realized that day there are more people than we realize who have or are suffering in some form or another. Despite their afflictions, they strive to keep their heads high making the most of what they have. They have dealt with the past. They are moving on. Their lives are not perfect. They are battle worn and scared. Nevertheless, they are striving to make their lives and those around them better. These women are some of the most noble people I have had the pleasure of befriending. Most importantly despite their hardships they are permitting themselves to have fun and enjoy the pleasures of life.
Photo: Red Boat, by Dapixara
When I was a young girl I loved the movie Pollyanna starring Haley Mills. Pollyanna is a vibrant 11 year old girl. Upon her father’s untimely death she was shipped off to live with her Aunt Polly. The daughter of a Missionary Minister, Pollyanna did without the finer things in life. Her only belongings came from missionary barrels or donations. As it so happens, one summer she begged her father for a doll. The ‘Ladies Aid’ tried to find one but all they received by the time the barrel needed to be sent off was a set of crutches. Pollyanna’s father seeing her terrible sadness came up with an idea. He asked her to find something glad about the situation. When she could not he told her she could be glad that she does not have to use the crutches. From that time forward she and her father played what they called the “Glad Game”. Pollyanna set about changing the hearts of everyone around her including her sour-hearted Aunt Polly. One passage I greatly enjoyed, reading in the novel written by Eleanor H. Porter, occurred shortly after her arrival. Miss Polly had just given Pollyanna her daily schedule consisting of cleaning her room first thing in the morning after which she should read 30 minutes aloud to Miss Polly followed by cooking lessons. In the late afternoon Pollyanna was expected to practice the piano. Pollyanna asked “what about living?” When was she supposed to live when her time was taken up with all these extra activities? She lamented that she did not want to just breathe she wanted to live. And so she did. Her Aunt Polly was surprised at the numerous acquaintances Pollyanna had made and the impact Pollyanna made in their lives. The Aunt Polly was so moved by the town’s love for Pollyanna that her own heart softened so much so that she became susceptible to love and forgiveness. The glad game is not that simple. You must find something to be glad about on all occasions. Learning to look on the brighter side of life enabled Pollyanna to step out without fear of condemnation. People loved her because she was so much fun to be with. She could be friends with even the grouchiest of souls because life held no bounds.
This month’s resolution is to have fun. I made this list in the beginning of the year. When July neared I was unsure of what exactly Fun meant. The word Fun is defined as something that provides enjoyment or amusement. I think fun means being able to lighten up despite our circumstances. Miss Polly caved into and was trapped by embarrassment for 11 to 15 years. Her fears lead her down a lonesome unemotional path. Pollyanna gently guided her away from tight buns, dark clothing and pursed lips and back into a world full of color, friendships and joy. Fun for some may include dancing on the bar top but I am not talking about temporary self-satisfaction. Remember the New Year’s resolution’s purpose is to enlighten us and make us better friends, neighbors and relatives. Some activities are better left in the ignorance of youth. The fun I speak of entails allowing ourselves the freedom to stop and enjoy life. Put the electronics away. Forgive whom you need to. Find the glad in your most heart-breaking sorrows as difficult as it may be. To have fun is to help others find the glad so that they too can have fun. To have fun is to vow even though we wake up disgruntled we can make the choice to fake being glad if we have to. To have fun is to discover why everyone calls you the “party-pooper” or “no fun” and change it.
Photo: Nuns Having Fun
I try to teach my children it is ok to feel hurt, angry, sad, disappointed they are all legitimate feelings. But, we make the choice to let those feelings dictate our behavior and attitude or to let it go. It is not easy trying to tell that to a five year old who demands justice even to the point of missing out on the fun that is happening at that moment. I know there is more injustice going on in the world than we can fathom. There are people out there who are suffering or have suffered tremendous acts of violence, abuse and emotional warfare. Yet, day after day they keep moving forward. The writer Erma Bombeck wrote a column, upon discovering that she was dying from cancer, entitled “If I Had to Live My Life Over.” Erma wrote, “… I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage. I would have talked less and listened more. I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained, or the sofa faded. I would have eaten the popcorn in the ‘good’ living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace. … I would have sat on the lawn with my kids, even if it meant grass stains.” During the month of July I hope to use up the bottle of perfume sitting in the vanity drawer. I want to view my new home as a vacation rental. I want to find more of the glad, relax and have fun.
This is a short but fairly long list on how to have fun. The possibilities are practically endless. My hope is maybe something on the list will spawn additional fun ideas. Please feel free to share your FUN in the comments section.
Each day write down 3-5 positive things that happened that day.
Learn to have fun playing the glad game.
– Watch the clouds
– Watch a sun rise
– Take a midnight swim
– Observe bugs
– Pick flowers
– Build a fort
– Take a treat or a balloon to friends and family.
– Read a book and come up with a project or something fun to do based on the material.
– Call the girls or take your daughter(s) to go get pedicures.
– Go on a leisurely bike ride with friends.
– Host a mystery dinner.
– Have an unbirthday party.
– Pay for the person behind you at the movies or toll booth.
– Act out a book complete with make shift costumes.
– Host a Karaokee night.
– Have a Nerf gun Showdown.
– See how many Balloons it takes to lift off the ground. Then watch the movie “Deckchair Danny”.
– Put on a Shadow Theater show.
– Simply your life and home. Throw out the excess. Ask yourself do I really need this? Why do I have it? Is it in the way? Allow your home to feel like the vacation resort you always wanted to visit.
– Learn something new.
– Go to a concert
– Go on a ‘first’ date with your significant other.
– Take a “I feel good day” off of work, if you can.
– Check the Entertainment section of the newspaper or a local website to see what is happening in your town.
– Celebrate a holiday or an achievement.
– Stay up until 4 AM devouring a good book or chatting with an old friend.
– Plan a picnic
– Play a game of volleyball or basketball with friends and/or family
– Go to the lake
– Rent a houseboat.
– Host a game night.
– Play Frisbee.
– Go to a public sporting event.
– Play a sport.
– Date night at the arcade.
– Have a scavenger hunt.
– Make a home movie.
– Build a rocket or model car.
– Find a new hobby.
– Learn about Geo Caching
– Let the kids jump in the rain puddles
– Most important loosen up and lighten up. Don’t be negative. Be willing to come out of the comfort shell once in a while. Laugh a little more. Smile a lot more. Look for the joy or “Glad” in everything around you.
Photo: Hobbies Magazine February-March 1919 issue, cover by J.E. Standley Several years ago a friend of mine started a Yahoo Group for local moms comprised of her friends, our friends and their friends as a way to share news quickly without having to call everyone. …
In the past I posted a Southwestern Chicken salad recipe and another recipe for Taco Salad. They are simple recipes with very few ingredients. This recipe for Black Bean Chicken Salad is a step up and showcases a zesty dressing that turns the ordinary into extraordinary. Yes it is a bit more work but oh so worth it especially if made with Cilantro Lime Chicken.
6 cups torn lettuce
1 1/2 cups cubed cooked chicken breast
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and
1 cup chopped seeded tomatoes
1 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup sliced red onion
1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro or parsley
1/4 cup chopped seeded tomato
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp olive or canola oil
1 tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp grated lime peel
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp chili powder
In a large serving bowl, combine the lettuce, chicken, beans, tomatoes, green pepper, onion and cheese. In a blender or food processor, combine the vinaigrette ingredients; cover and process until smooth. Pour over salad and toss to coat.