Tag Archives: gratitude

Portraits of Gratitude 2014


There’s a certain degree of perfection that people try to attain as the holidays approach. The perfect Thanksgiving meal, the best presents, the ultimate in outdoor Christmas light decorations. And I’ll admit I fall prey to it just as much as the next Joe. I find myself lured by the Siren’s call. The one that insists that everything must be homemade to be acceptable. Make your own butter! Needlepoint that pillow! Craft your own Thanksgiving centerpiece from fishing line and dried cranberries! And sometimes I succeed, patting myself on the back as I create my own Thanksgiving table runner from ribbon and construction paper. And other times I fail miserably, as evidenced by the burnt homemade granola bars now lining the bottom of my garbage can. And the pressure of being perfect, of creating the ultimate moment for your family is, dare I say, exhausting. And virtually impossible.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I feel like there is also tremendous pressure to be as grateful as you possibly can. Of savoring each and every moment of the past year and never, ever forgetting to be appreciative and humbled by the bounty of our lives. And as much as I wish I could, I just can’t seem to find the energy to be grateful all the time. I mean, I wish I could. I wish I could be one of those amazing people who go through every second of every day soaking up the wonder of life and saying little prayers of gratitude to every flower, every tree, every moment of sweetness. But I’m tired, people. And I find it almost impossible to feel grateful when I’m scraping doggie doo-doo from the bottom of my son’s tennis shoes. “Isn’t it wonderful that he had so much fun that he walked though poo without noticing! I am grateful for those small moments of happiness!” Nope. It’s just poop on a shoe. I don’t mean to say that I don’t experience moments of great thankfulness, in which I am literally overwhelmed by the beauty and sweetness of my life and the people in it. I do. And I cry over it quite often. But it’s just not every second of every day. At some point I think you have to put the grateful voice on mute in order to get the laundry done , pluck the gray hairs, and start all over again tomorrow. And that’s OK. It’s OK to be tired and cranky and ungrateful…just as long as, occasionally, you turn the volume up on that little voice that’s telling you to stop and put down the fabric softener and the tweezers and remember that even though we may be baffled by the complexities of life, at the rhyme and reason for the events that unfold before us, we can be mindful of the wonder inherent in the journey. My life is messy. It’s loud and frustrating and beautiful and sad and outrageously funny. And I wouldn’t change anything about it. But in loving my life as much as I do, there comes a freedom to be irritated by it. To loathe making lunches every morning. To cringe at the urine lurking behind the boys’ toilet. To roll my eyes each and every time my husband rearranges the dishwasher with the precision of an engineer. I think we work hard enough that we’re allowed to sigh occasionally out of complete frustration, while never forgetting how lucky we are to be irritated by anything at all. For it is in loving something so completely and so generously that we are able to feel the flip side of it, and yet still continue making the lunches, and cleaning up the pee and watching the gray hairs accumulate like a badge of honor.

That said, and in the spirit of last year’s post, I give you my 2014 Portraits of Gratitude…

I am eternally grateful that I married this guy…

IMG_2418

And that I can easily drive and see a place that looks like this:

IMG_3374

That, despite the distance, my children can have friends like this:

017

And that this coffee mug exists…

019

For letters like this (please note President Taft trapped in the bathtub)…

Top.bmp

For these two amazing, funny, crazy, inspiring boys of mine

IMG_3143

Who send me texts like this

IMG_5036

And for people who write books like this

IMG_5082

And students who make art like this

IMG_4815

And this

ella creation

And who never let me forget that I am learning from them

IMG_1641

For a small Beastie

DSC_0187

And a thespian

IMG_4884

That this guy picked me up from the airport

IMG_3840

When I got to fly across the Pond and drink tea with my dear friend

248249_10151429715578479_671330544_n

And go back to the one place in my life that truly changed who I am

DSC_1485

For mother and grandmothers all rolled up into one

DSC_1601

For furry things

DSC_1360

And furrier things

eliot

I am grateful for kitchens

IMG_3329

And for the friends who cheered me on as I read my heart out

IMG_4907

And for jumping in, white bra and all, without a single moment’s hesitation

129

Let’s all give ourselves a break this Thanksgiving and aim less for perfection, and more for perfect chaos. For though we grumble and grimace, our lives are full of everything we can handle. And with each new memory, whether joyous or heartbreaking, comes a firmer ground on which to stand. (Hopefully with no dog poo on it).

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Portraits of Gratitude 2013


There’s a certain degree of perfection that people try to attain as the holidays approach. The perfect Thanksgiving meal, the best presents, the ultimate in outdoor Christmas light decorations. And I’ll admit I fall prey to it just as much as the next Joe. I find myself lured by the Siren’s call. The one that insists that everything must be homemade to be acceptable. Make your own butter! Needlepoint that pillow! Craft your own Thanksgiving centerpiece from fishing line and dried cranberries! And sometimes I succeed, patting myself on the back as I create my own Thanksgiving table runner from ribbon and construction paper. And other times I fail miserably, as evidenced by the burnt homemade granola bars now lining the bottom of my garbage can. And the pressure of being perfect, of creating the ultimate moment for your family is, dare I say, exhausting. And virtually impossible.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I feel like there is also tremendous pressure to be as grateful as you possibly can. Of savoring each and every moment of the past year and never, ever forgetting to be appreciative and humbled by the bounty of our lives. And as much as I wish I could, I just can’t seem to find the energy to be grateful all the time. I mean, I wish I could. I wish I could be one of those amazing people who go through every second of every day soaking up the wonder of life and saying little prayers of gratitude to every flower, every tree, every moment of sweetness. But I’m tired, people. And I find it almost impossible to feel grateful when I’m scraping doggie doo-doo from the bottom of my son’s tennis shoes. “Isn’t it wonderful that he had so much fun that he walked though poo without noticing! I am grateful for those small moments of happiness!” Nope. It’s just poop on a shoe. I don’t mean to say that I don’t experience moments of great thankfulness, in which I am literally overwhelmed by the beauty and sweetness of my life and the people in it. I do. And I cry over it quite often. But it’s just not every second of every day. At some point I think you have to put the grateful voice on mute in order to get the laundry done , pluck the gray hairs, and start all over again tomorrow. And that’s OK. It’s OK to be tired and cranky and ungrateful…just as long as, occasionally, you turn the volume up on that little voice that’s telling you to stop and put down the fabric softener and the tweezers and remember that even though we may be baffled by the complexities of life, at the rhyme and reason for the events that unfold before us, we can be mindful of the wonder inherent in the journey. My life is messy. It’s loud and frustrating and beautiful and sad and outrageously funny. And I wouldn’t change anything about it. But in loving my life as much as I do, there comes a freedom to be irritated by it. To loathe making lunches every morning. To cringe at the urine lurking behind the boys’ toilet. To roll my eyes each and every time my husband rearranges the dishwasher with the precision of an engineer. I think we work hard enough that we’re allowed to sigh occasionally out of complete frustration, while never forgetting how lucky we are to be irritated by anything at all. For it is in loving something so completely and so generously that we are able to feel the flip side of it, and yet still continue making the lunches, and cleaning up the pee and watching the gray hairs accumulate like a badge of honor.

That said, and in the spirit of last year’s post, I give you my 2013 Portraits of Gratitude…

I am eternally grateful that I married this guy…

IMG_2418

And that I can easily drive and see a place that looks like this:

IMG_3374

That, despite the distance, my children can have friends like this:

017

And that this coffee mug exists…

019

For letters like this (please note President Taft trapped in the bathtub)…

Top.bmp

For these two amazing, funny, crazy, inspiring boys of mine

IMG_3143

Who send me texts like this

IMG_5036

And for people who write books like this

IMG_5082

And students who make art like this

IMG_4815

And this

ella creation

And who never let me forget that I am learning from them

IMG_1641

For a small Beastie

DSC_0187

And a thespian

IMG_4884

That this guy picked me up from the airport

IMG_3840

When I got to fly across the Pond and drink tea with my dear friend

248249_10151429715578479_671330544_n

And go back to the one place in my life that truly changed who I am

DSC_1485

For mother and grandmothers all rolled up into one

DSC_1601

For furry things

DSC_1360

And furrier things

eliot

I am grateful for kitchens

IMG_3329

And for the friends who cheered me on as I read my heart out

IMG_4907

And for jumping in, white bra and all, without a single moment’s hesitation

129

Let’s all give ourselves a break this Thanksgiving and aim less for perfection, and more for perfect chaos. For though we grumble and grimace, our lives are full of everything we can handle. And with each new memory, whether joyous or heartbreaking, comes a firmer ground on which to stand. (Hopefully with no dog poo on it).

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A Tale of Grief and Gratitude


“learn to dance in the rain”
copyright k.t. blue designs 2012

(This post originally appeared in the Walnut Creek Patch. It’s as relevant today as it was then, so I have reposted it….I hope you know how much I continue to benefit from your love and support and kindness. All my love to you all…)

Exactly two years ago, my husband and two sons and I were landing in the Newark airport to visit my husband’s family for the Thanksgiving holidays. As any parent knows, a cross-country flight with children can have its obstacles. We were duly armed to the teeth with Wimpy Kid books, Chex mix, and fully-charged iPhones. Once there, we enjoyed a beautiful time – taking the boys to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, peeking out over New York City from the top of the Empire State Building, visiting my own personal Mecca, the New York Public Library. Bundled in our scarves and winter coats, we soaked up all that our family had to offer and flew home, a bit tired and a lot grateful.

In the weeks following that trip, the meaning of the word “grateful” would take on an entirely new meaning, with my husband’s diagnosis of testicular cancer.  What began as a rather mundane doctor’s appointment, ended with a phone call that would change our lives forever. Suddenly, we were thrust into a new vocabulary in which words like treatment and prognosis found their way into our daily life. It was scary and humbling and ultimately began a new chapter in both of our lives. Doctors told us, “if you’re going to get a kind of cancer, this is the kind to have”, based on the success of various types of treatment and remission rates. We took that small nugget of optimism and ran with it, putting on our armor of humor and positive thinking as a means of steeling ourselves against a mysteriously ominous foe.

My husband, God bless him, took this opportunity to develop an arsenal of jokes – he was “having a ball”…he was “one tough nut”…he was even “a sad sack.” And the jokes helped. We held on to one another and laughed and cried and moved forward in the best way we knew how. Through surgery, through radiation and towards whatever lay on the other side.

To say I fell in love with my husband all over again during his radiation sounds quite unbelievable and yet that’s exactly what I did. To watch my tall, handsome partner come home each day during his three week treatment with a tired smile on his face was devastating and reassuring all at the same time. There were nights when he couldn’t unbutton his own shirt. There were nights when he seemed right as rain and we talked over hot slices of Extreme Pizza and everything seemed safe in the world. And the juxtaposition of those two realities became our new normal. To say we were changed by this would be the understatement of the century.

The news of the diagnosis, the surgery, the doctors, the radiation and the “we’ll see you in six months” forever altered our mindset and our vision of life. We became grateful of new things – pieces of our relationship that, perhaps, we had never even noticed before. We pulled our sons to us closer, we saw our friendships with new eyes and we became thankful in a way that seemed more true and authentic.

And then, two weeks after my husband finished his last radiation treatment, my father unexpectedly passed away. One moment I was at my son’s Little League game and the next I was driving down Interstate 580 towards my hometown and my mother, suddenly a widow and I, suddenly fatherless. With this loss, came a sharp, new sadness – one that held no optimism for future good news, leaving just a wake of seemingly unending sadness.  The first few weeks were a  whirlwind of phone calls, documents, flowers, casseroles, sleeping pills and the keen awareness that I had to keep up appearances for my two children.

Seven months later, I still find it nearly impossible to wrap my head around these two experiences. It is hard work, this grief, and it continues through many iterations. There are days in which I laugh and find small moments of, dare I say, carefree joy. And there are others, like on Halloween, when I paused at the front door of my house on the way to a costume party, and couldn’t stop crying for two days. It is a journey of introspection and of finding strength that you weren’t quite sure you had before all of this happened. While the circumstances of these two events of the last year are different — and the way in which I have found myself facing them uses two seemingly disparate skill sets — with both, I am struck by the sheer power of the families in my community who have collectively risen to the occasion and created an almost improbable support network within moments.

I have, over the last several years, been on the baking end of, what I like to call, the “casserole hotline.” I have cooked chicken potpies and enchiladas and sweet potato soup for families in our neighborhood and within our group of friends who have suffered a loss, an illness, an unexpected tragedy. While I understood that this was a nice thing to do, I never understood the importance of this small gesture until I was on the receiving end of it. For weeks following my husband’s diagnosis and my father’s death, the doorbell would ring and another dear friend of mine would come in, bearing a warm plate of cookies, a Tupperware filled with tortilla soup, a delicious bottle of wine.  In feeding my family, these amazing individuals kept us afloat and carried us along with each new dish and bowl. I will never be able to truly express just how thankful I am for this and for every kindness afforded my family in the last year. We are blessed beyond belief. We have known great friendships in our lives, but never before have we felt so acutely the power of community. It is here that I find a new sense of gratitude.

In the past, Thanksgiving had offered a small moment in which to find things for which to be grateful – some deep and self-defining, others fleeting and simple as the fall of a leaf, the sound of my children’s laughter, the joy of losing a few pounds. And yet, with the rug quite literally pulled out from under me, I’ve been able to see the things and people in my life for which I am most grateful. I am grateful that I can wake up in the morning, feel the loss of my father and the uncertainty of my husband’s health, and yet still find it within myself to make myself a pot of hot coffee. That I can touch the heads of my sleeping children in the morning as a first call to wake up and get ready for school. That I hear the first small steps of happiness re-enter my mother’s voice as she navigates this strange new world into which she has been thrust. I am grateful for the people in my life who know the full depth and details of my experience and yet still find it within themselves to embrace me both literally and figuratively, no questions asked. I am grateful for old friends and new ones, brought to me at a time when I needed them most. They say that when God closes a door he opens a window, and I have felt that window open with great abandon and watched it allow so much goodness into my family’s life.

I have known great grief and I have been blessed to be part of this outpouring of support. When it is my turn again to turn on my oven and put all of my love into a casserole dish, I will do so with a renewed sense of purpose and appreciation for the bonds that we create among one another.  There is beauty in these bonds. We are never more beautiful than the days when we give of ourselves and link arms in protection around another one of us — creating, perhaps, one small warm and safe place in the world.

Originally published in the Walnut Creek Patch: http://walnutcreek.patch.com/articles/gratitude-154f858f

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There is Beauty in these Bonds…a Tale of Grief and Gratitude


hold my heart

Exactly one year ago, my husband and two sons and I were landing in the Newark airport to visit my husband’s family for the Thanksgiving holidays. As any parent knows, a cross-country flight with children can have its obstacles. We were duly armed to the teeth with Wimpy Kid books, Chex mix, and fully-charged iPhones. Once there, we enjoyed a beautiful time – taking the boys to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, peeking out over New York City from the top of the Empire State Building, visiting my own personal Mecca, the New York Public Library. Bundled in our scarves and winter coats, we soaked up all that our family had to offer and flew home, a bit tired and a lot grateful.

In the weeks following that trip, the meaning of the word “grateful” would take on an entirely new meaning, with my husband’s diagnosis of testicular cancer.  What began as a rather mundane doctor’s appointment, ended with a phone call that would change our lives forever. Suddenly, we were thrust into a new vocabulary in which words like treatment and prognosis found their way into our daily life. It was scary and humbling and ultimately began a new chapter in both of our lives. Doctors told us, “if you’re going to get a kind of cancer, this is the kind to have”, based on the success of various types of treatment and remission rates. We took that small nugget of optimism and ran with it, putting on our armor of humor and positive thinking as a means of steeling ourselves against a mysteriously ominous foe.

My husband, God bless him, took this opportunity to develop an arsenal of jokes – he was “having a ball”…he was “one tough nut”…he was even “a sad sack.” And the jokes helped. We held on to one another and laughed and cried and moved forward in the best way we knew how. Through surgery, through radiation and towards whatever lay on the other side.

To say I fell in love with my husband all over again during his radiation sounds quite unbelievable and yet that’s exactly what I did. To watch my tall, handsome partner come home each day during his three week treatment with a tired smile on his face was devastating and reassuring all at the same time. There were nights when he couldn’t unbutton his own shirt. There were nights when he seemed right as rain and we talked over hot slices of Extreme Pizza and everything seemed safe in the world. And the juxtaposition of those two realities became our new normal. To say we were changed by this would be the understatement of the century.

The news of the diagnosis, the surgery, the doctors, the radiation and the “we’ll see you in six months” forever altered our mindset and our vision of life. We became grateful of new things – pieces of our relationship that, perhaps, we had never even noticed before. We pulled our sons to us closer, we saw our friendships with new eyes and we became thankful in a way that seemed more true and authentic.

And then, two weeks after my husband finished his last radiation treatment, my father unexpectedly passed away. One moment I was at my son’s Little League game and the next I was driving down Interstate 580 towards my hometown and my mother, suddenly a widow and I, suddenly fatherless. With this loss, came a sharp, new sadness – one that held no optimism for future good news, leaving just a wake of seemingly unending sadness.  The first few weeks were a  whirlwind of phone calls, documents, flowers, casseroles, sleeping pills and the keen awareness that I had to keep up appearances for my two children.

Seven months later, I still find it nearly impossible to wrap my head around these two experiences. It is hard work, this grief, and it continues through many iterations. There are days in which I laugh and find small moments of, dare I say, carefree joy. And there are others, like on Halloween, when I paused at the front door of my house on the way to a costume party, and couldn’t stop crying for two days. It is a journey of introspection and of finding strength that you weren’t quite sure you had before all of this happened. While the circumstances of these two events of the last year are different — and the way in which I have found myself facing them uses two seemingly disparate skill sets — with both, I am struck by the sheer power of the families in my community who have collectively risen to the occasion and created an almost improbable support network within moments.

I have, over the last several years, been on the baking end of, what I like to call, the “casserole hotline.” I have cooked chicken potpies and enchiladas and sweet potato soup for families in our neighborhood and within our group of friends who have suffered a loss, an illness, an unexpected tragedy. While I understood that this was a nice thing to do, I never understood the importance of this small gesture until I was on the receiving end of it. For weeks following my husband’s diagnosis and my father’s death, the doorbell would ring and another dear friend of mine would come in, bearing a warm plate of cookies, a Tupperware filled with tortilla soup, a delicious bottle of wine.  In feeding my family, these amazing individuals kept us afloat and carried us along with each new dish and bowl. I will never be able to truly express just how thankful I am for this and for every kindness afforded my family in the last year. We are blessed beyond belief. We have known great friendships in our lives, but never before have we felt so acutely the power of community. It is here that I find a new sense of gratitude.

In the past, Thanksgiving had offered a small moment in which to find things for which to be grateful – some deep and self-defining, others fleeting and simple as the fall of a leaf, the sound of my children’s laughter, the joy of losing a few pounds. And yet, with the rug quite literally pulled out from under me, I’ve been able to see the things and people in my life for which I am most grateful. I am grateful that I can wake up in the morning, feel the loss of my father and the uncertainty of my husband’s health, and yet still find it within myself to make myself a pot of hot coffee. That I can touch the heads of my sleeping children in the morning as a first call to wake up and get ready for school. That I hear the first small steps of happiness re-enter my mother’s voice as she navigates this strange new world into which she has been thrust. I am grateful for the people in my life who know the full depth and details of my experience and yet still find it within themselves to embrace me both literally and figuratively, no questions asked. I am grateful for old friends and new ones, brought to me at a time when I needed them most. They say that when God closes a door he opens a window, and I have felt that window open with great abandon and watched it allow so much goodness into my family’s life.

I have known great grief and I have been blessed to be part of this outpouring of support. When it is my turn again to turn on my oven and put all of my love into a casserole dish, I will do so with a renewed sense of purpose and appreciation for the bonds that we create among one another.  There is beauty in these bonds. We are never more beautiful than the days when we give of ourselves and link arms in protection around another one of us — creating, perhaps, one small warm and safe place in the world.

Originally published in the Walnut Creek Patch: http://walnutcreek.patch.com/articles/gratitude-154f858f

2 Comments

Filed under inspiration