December 31: New Year’s Eve

This time a year ago I started this blog about the things I was grateful for. It started as a way to look at the positives in my life, instead of the negatives, which are so much easier to let become the focus. I made a commitment to write daily for a year. It wasn’t always easy and a few days I was late getting my post in, but I’m proud of myself for doing it. Every. Single. Day. I plan to keep the blog a little longer but will write less frequently. It’s been a good exercise. A friend asked me recently if it’s made me happier–all this focus on gratitude. My honest answer? Not really. At least I don’t think so. For me, happiness is something that comes and goes. What it has done is made me more conscious of my life. There’s something about purposely reflecting on the positive things at the end of the day that’s been good for me. I dare you to try it. Maybe not in blog form, but buy a journal and write stuff down. Make a Sunday list of the things that stand out to you at the end of the day. Maybe you’ll find, like I did, that it’s the small things that stand out. The big moments in our lives seem to change our trajectory, but it’s the little things that keep us moving. For me, it was stuff like laughing with my kids, dinner with friends, hugs, cat snuggles and good puppy behavior, crossing items off my to-do list, and just hanging out with my boyfriend. Find what makes your life full.

Of course, there have been some pretty big moments in my past year as well. Things I didn’t expect. Times that were really hard. Times that were really good. I started out last year in what seemed like a new chapter of my life. Just me and my cat and my two kids in a new house that still needed some work. I spent last New Year’s Eve alone, watching tv, singing karaoke in the dark, heading to bed just about midnight. I wouldn’t have imagined then that this New Year’s I’d be in Texas, spending the evening with my boyfriend, a guy who’s been an unexpected blessing. I didn’t know I’d lose my dad this year; it’s still a bit unbelievable. A year ago I hadn’t planned on getting a puppy or to be 6 credits into a graduate program with a 4.0 GPA (did I mention that? Yay me!). But here I am, 365 days later in the same, more-updated house with my still awesome kids in what seems like a different life. However, isn’t that the way things work? We may think we know what our life is about and think that we have things under control, but we don’t know. That’s why we can’t give up and we can’t take things for granted. Each day is it. Each day is all we can worry about. So each day we should look for the good stuff. I’m glad I decided to write about the positives every day for the last year, and I’m grateful you took the journey with me. I hope I somehow inspired you to look for your own simple moments. I won’t be blogging every day, but I’ll continue to look daily and I’ll write occasionally. Stay tuned in. I hope you have a fantastic New Year’s Eve and a coming year filled with much to be thankful for…

August 19

Well, I have to admit something. Lately I’ve been so tired by the time I get around to writing at night that I struggle to even get through a post. I usually end up typing up something quickly on my iPad or my phone app while sitting in bed before I fall asleep. I’m sure it’s been noticeable; I feel I should apologize to everyone who’s actually reading this regularly. I for one, really dislike bad writing, so it’s been disappointing for me too. But when I started this blog, I did it with the intent of finding at least one thing a day to be grateful for and write about, so I’ve at least kept that commitment to myself. It may not have been exciting lately, but the process still gets me to think about my day. Sometimes it really is the mundane or even repetitive things that I realize I appreciate the most. Or something random. For instance, tonight my kids and I had dinner outside. I grilled chicken and made corn on the cob and mashed potatoes from a box. (Don’t judge me. It’s good if I measure things correctly.) It was a nice evening since the humidity went down and a breeze came through. My puppy had been a nuisance during meal preparation; he acts as if he’s never been fed. Ever. Even though I give him a teeny bit more than his weight/age suggestion, he seems to want more. He had eaten his dinner, yet still did the constant jumping up on the counter with one of us with responding with the automatic Down, Chance. So just before we sat down to eat, I filled his Kong toy with peanut butter hoping to keep him occupied. That lasted only a few minutes until he realized that it may be easier to sneak food off the table. And so ensued the puppy jumping and the responding Down, Chance, once again. Eventually he quit, we finished dinner, and as we got up to leave, Chance used his ninja skills to grab the remains of an ear of corn off a plate and take off with it. My kids began to chase. He darted and zigzagged through the yard. Just as Emma almost reached him, he half swallowed the ear, slowed down enough to gag it back up and took off running again. At this point, I was just enjoying the show. As was my neighbor from his back yard. It was just like a Three Stooges episode where Emma would grab, miss, and Chance would change direction. I finally yelled out to encourage my daughter, You were on the track team; catch him! She wasn’t amused, but Bree and I and the neighbor were. The neighbor dogs were barking; Bree and I were laughing. Chance finally stopped in an effort to simply chomp the corn cob as quickly as he could, and she got it away from him as it broke into pieces. The entire episode was unexpected dinner entertainment, and I was thankful to be there as a witness.

May 6

I guess today I’m thankful for ice cream. There’s something about comforting foods, especially when shared with people you care about, that turn lousy days into good ones. I had another episode of allergy eyes today, which made me a bit cranky. The itching and burning skin was almost intolerable. And I’ve given birth without pain medication, so I know about pain. I did go to the doctor, but he was at a loss and referred me to a dermatologist. In the meantime, he told me to continue taking my allergy medicine and quite wearing makeup. That’s not happening. Well, I’ll continue with my meds, but I’m not going to go to work looking like a red raccoon. People looked at me funny all day and asked if I was ok. I know they thought I had been crying. A lot.

So, tonight my feel good was ice cream at Baskin Robbins. You know how you hear all the time that it’s the small stuff that counts. Well, it’s true. The small, good moments can outweigh a lot of bad if you let them. My ice cream cone and good company didn’t really take away the pain of my still red eyes, but it helped my attitude. I’m grateful for that.

Day 24

I honestly found it difficult today to think of something I am grateful for. I was crabby for most of the day. It was cold and blah. My work day dragged on. I had an afternoon meeting I wasn’t excited about. I had to force myself to go to the gym after work. I couldn’t find anything exciting in the refrigerator to eat for dinner. Really, all I wanted to do was complain.

So I stopped to think about the big picture. Nothing dreadful happened to me today. That’s a really good thing.

And then I thought about all the little things in-between my complaints. I have a job and I got there today because my car started, even in this weather. During my day, I spoke to numerous friends and acquaintances, some who simply checked in to say hello or emailed funny photos they thought would make me smile. My daughter stopped by my office to laugh about how she stalled her new car on her way to work. Then texted me later to say how she stalled it about 20 more times going to her dad’s house, but made it there safely. My niece sent a message, saying she got accepted into DePaul University, something she’s been hoping for and planning on for a long time. I had the chance to see several colleagues in my afternoon meeting and had an interesting discussion about teacher/student expectations during the learning process. A friend I hadn’t seen in a while met me at the gym and we had the chance to catch up over an hour on the treadmill. Then we made plans to get together again over the weekend. And because I found nothing decent to eat, I ate junk. Well, I added cheese to my popcorn, so I think that counts as something halfway good for me.

Once again, when it comes right down to it, I really don’t have much to complain about. Not every day is exciting, but there’s always something to be thankful for. Even if it’s just in the details.