Counting My Blessings

Practicing Gratitude: Noticing


I've been intentionally focusing on gratitude for many years.  

It started when I was in the middle of chemo . . . when I didn't feel terribly good and the days seemed really long and I worried about my future and felt like I had lost my center.

I started keeping a list of all the things in my day that were good; things that connected me to myself -- and the world around me.

It helped.

I kept doing it.

It turns out that one of the easiest "first steps" in developing a gratitude practice is . . . noticing.  Simply noticing and acknowledging the things in our lives that we are grateful for can foster feelings of contentment and joy, respect for what we have, and connection to the world around us.


I know that intentionally noticing and acknowledging things we're grateful for each day is powerful because it's kind of like . . . a vicious circle.  The more we notice the good things in our lives, the more we are able to notice the good things in our lives.  Y'know?  And that creates an ever-expanding circle of good.

The things we list don't have to be the big things (although that's often where we start) -- like family and housing and health and jobs.  They can also be little things we just . . . notice . . . when we start paying attention.  Bird song.  The scent of hand lotion.  The flow-y way my pen writes.  The fact that I hit a green light just when I needed it most.

I decided to try a new approach to my gratitude list-making this month -- building on that "vicious circle" analogy.

I grabbed a piece of illustration board, and starting with a heart, I drew some outwardly-expanding lines.  Each day, I write down my gratitude list for the day within the lines.  Now, I'm starting to use my watercolor pencils and a waterbrush to bring color to my list.


Acknowledging my gratitude makes me feel good.  I share my good-feelings with people around me.  And then they feel good.  And they share their good-feelings with the people around them.

Start a list.

Let's spread gratitude's good-feelings all around.


With Gratitude


"Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like
wrapping a present and not giving it."

                                                                                    -- William Arthur Ward



I know that many of us are busy  this month . . . paying attention to gratitude and putting together daily "gratitude lists."  Creating these daily lists is a great way to notice - and write down -  things in our everyday lives that we might otherwise take for granted.  In fact, gratitude lists are beneficial in helping us develop healthier, happier, more meaningful lives.

Want to take your gratitude journey even further?  Here are three more simple things you can do to practice gratitude this month:

1 -- Give one compliment every day -- either to a person directly, or by sharing your appreciation for something.  ("That's a great scarf!"  or "What a beautiful view!")

2 -- Vow not to complain, criticize, or gossip for a week.  Once you break the habit, you'll find more positive energy in your life.

3 -- Sound genuinely happy when people call you on the phone, or when you meet them face to face.  Other people feel valued when you greet them positively.


Today's post is part of Three on Thursday.  To read more lists, be sure to check in over at Carole's!


Looking for the Good


It's November . . . a month that we typically associate with thanks and gratitude and abundance.

But, y'know?  Sometimes it's challenging to keep gratitude foremost in our minds.  Sometimes it's just too much.  And sometimes, well . . . let's just say it's been a bit of a rough year around here.

So I'm working hard to find the good.

Yesterday, it was just a small thing.


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Yesterday, I realized how grateful I am that most of the trees in my yard are conifers, or are deciduous trees that drop their leaves right in my garden beds where I use them as mulch.  (I am also a firm believer in mowing fallen leaves into your lawn as fertilizer -- a Master Gardener Smart Gardening practice.)  

So, yeah.  Yesterday, I was grateful that this huge pile of crunchy, fallen leaves . . . isn't mine to deal with!


I started out this blogging week wondering why the month of May... always seems to bite me in the butt.

It really has been a brutal couple of weeks in terms of busy-ness.  Mostly with things that are fun and enjoyable -- but that get to be a bit... much... when layered on top of each other, all at once.

I'm feeling pushed and pulled and in desperate need of some replenishment right now.

When I woke up and walked into my bathroom this morning, though, I saw THIS on the wall... 


it was a good reminder to me.  About perspective.

Yes.  Life gets busy and feels crazy sometimes.

But.  Life is also grand.  And what makes it interesting, really, is all those bumps in the road and unexpected side trips and detours.  

The sparkle in my bathroom this morning reminded me to shift my perspective just a bit.

Today, I'm going to embrace my life -- the busy and the fun and the obstacles, alike -- and make sure I keep my eyes open to see the sparkle!

Have a great weekend.

Extra . . . Ordinary

The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.
                                                                                                            --- Thomas Moore


Today for Ten on Tuesday, Carole gives us an interesting topic:  Ten Seemingly Ordinary Things That Bring Us Joy.  

It got me thinking.

Ordinary.  What a . . . strange word.  It's not usually employed as a Good Thing.  Or as a compliment.  I mean, really.  Who wants to be ordinary . . . in a world where EXTRAordinary is King?

But I rather like ordinary-ness, myself.  

After all, it's the
routine . . . the ordinary things . . . that form our lives and provide us with structure and foundation.

While extraordinary is certainly nice once in a while, ordinary things . . . are special, too!

For me, these seemingly ordinary things bring joy.

  1. Sitting in the sun, especially when it's been AWOL for awhile.
  2. Walking around in my garden with a cup of coffee.
  3. Sleeping with the windows open on a chilly night.
  4. Picking herbs to use in my cooking.
  5. Waking up to a hot cup of coffee.
  6. Crossing things off my to-do list.
  7. Driving with the sunroof open.
  8. Deadheading and weeding in my garden.
  9. Bringing in the mail.
  10. Having good, sharp knives in the kitchen.

How about YOU?  What seemingly ordinary things bring you joy?


Join the fun!  Sign up to recieve Ten on Tuesday prompts here - or read other lists here

A Very, Very, Very Fine House


When I read about Carole's Ten on Tuesday topic for this week, this song just jumped right into my head. . . 


(You knew it would, didn't you?)

Like Carole, I love my house!  


We've lived in this house for nearly 12 years now.  It's so weird to think that it could possibly have been so long ago . . . that we moved to Kalamazoo in a whirlwind . . . whipped into a frenzy from our first corporate downsizing* . . . trying to find a home for our soon-to-be high school freshman and new 6th grader!

Brian and I actually "found" our house while looking at options online.  The two things that sold us on its charms - right through the computer screen - were two things I still really love about our house.


1 -- I love the curved brick fireplace in my living room (although not so much with the screen. . . but JoJo's love of "sticks" of all kind make it absolutely essential).


2 -- I love the library!  This little room is right at the front of the house, with a bay window on one wall and this wall of shelves on another.  (Before my Kon-Mari craze, those shelves were packed FULL of books, I'll have you know.  Now . . . there are whole, empty shelves in there.)  This room - which may have been The Factor that convinced us to buy the house -- is where I spend most of my time (I'm sitting in it now. . . ) as it's quiet and comfortable for reading, knitting, and working.

Once we moved in, I loved making the house our home!


3 -- I love all of our big windows and the views they provide, like this one in my living room - looking out into my backyard.  (Of course, these are the same windows I'm whining about now . . . as we're getting those replacement quotes.)


4 -- I love my garden.  When we first moved in, I must admit that I was completely frustrated and overwhelmed by the extreme "cross-slope" of the yard.  But, over the years, I've learned how to live with it and sort of . . . claim it as my own!


5 -- I love my kitchen.  It's big with plenty of space for cooking and gathering together.  (And it's even nicer now, with new appliances that all match!)  (Maybe someday I'll get around to switching out the cabinet hardware, too.)

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6 -- I love my front-porch view.  Because of that same cross-slope I still whine about from time to time, I do have a pretty fabulous view from the top of our hill.  And, because my house faces west, I get to enjoy fabulous sunsets -- and impressive approaching storms, too.

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7 -- I love that our house is comfortable -- not fussy.  We have plenty of space to spread out and enjoy the things we like to do.  Our house is the kind of house you can kick back in without worry.

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8 -- I love that my house reflects our personalities.  You could say our "decorating style" is just kind of an eclectic mix of . . . stuff we like.

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9 -- I love the location of our house.  We are close to pretty much everything -- yet secluded enough that I can create a wildlife habitat in my own backyard!  Five minutes from the highway . . . AND a yard full of woodland creatures.  You really can't beat that!

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10 -- But mostly what I love about my house . . . is the comfort and warmth and happy memories we've created within it!  It really is . . . a very, very, very fine house.

How about YOU?  What do you love about your house?


Join the fun!  Sign up to recieve Ten on Tuesday prompts here - or read other lists here


* Three downsizings, so far.  (And counting. . .)


Clap Along. . .


 Can't help myself. . .


(If the embedded video disppears today, click here.)

It's January.  It's bleak.  (It's even snowing here right now.)  But.  There is much to be happy about!  Here are Ten Things I'm Happy About today . . . 

  1. I feel GOOD again!  Finally kicked that bug  . . . and can leave the house without a box of Kleenex and the worry about a coughing fit.
  2. Ice melt!  We had a bit of a January Thaw over the weekend, so streets are fairly ice-free.  Driving is easier, and it's even possible to walk the dogs again.  (This may be temporary.  Because snow.)
  3. Vacation plans!  Tom and I are finalizing plans on a trip to a much warmer place in March.  South.  Far south.
  4. Space!  Although I have a long way to go with Operation Create Space, I am inspired by the empty spaces I have already cleared.
  5. My gym!  Even though it is swarming with the usual influx of January People, my gym offers a great environment for working out.  (In the winter, I am especially happy about the indoor track.  Because I hate running on a treadmill.)
  6. Garden conferences!  The registration brochures are beginning to arrive in my mailbox.  I love thinking about gardening during the winter.
  7. More daylight!  Although it's barely noticeable . . . the gradual return of extended daylight makes me very happy.
  8. Having options!  I like deciding . . . how I'm going to spend my time, what I want to do next, what project I want to tackle, what I want to make for dinner.  Choice . . . is good.
  9. Simple pleasures!  I have a few things that just make me happy when I use them . . . a wine glass painted with birds, the orange leather cover on my planner, a pen that writes nicely.  
  10. Electricity, utilities, pharmaceuticals, and public services!  Yep.  Just read Station Eleven, and I am most appreciative of the world we live in.


What about YOU?  What are you happy about today?


 Join the fun!  Sign up to recieve Ten on Tuesday prompts here - or read other lists here



Right Now . . . November 2014

November . . . You've just gone whizzing past.  Leaving a trail of . . . weather . . . in your path!  


Here's what's happening for me. . . Right Now! 

Watching . . . Snow come. Snow go. Not much on the ground at the moment (it's really amazing how quickly 19 inches of snow can melt in the crazy-weather days of November), but I hear more is on the way.

Reading . . . I'm reading Small Blessings (Martha Woodroof) on my iPad, and I've just started listening to Some Luck (the new one by Jane Smiley).  It's too early for me to have an opinion on either of them.  But I just finished We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler - and loved it. WARNING:  If you're thinking about reading that last one, don't click the link and don't bother to read ABOUT the book before you begin.  This is one that is best approached without any fore-knowledge. (And that's coming from someone who has no qualms about reading the ending first.)


Knitting . . . You guessed it!  Still working on this shawl.  But.  I'm so close to finishing that I can taste it!  A couple of good hours this weekend and I'll be done!!

Listening to . . . The new Foo Fighters album.  (Of course.)


Planning . . .  I am in FULL Holiday Planning Mode.  I kind of hate this part of the holidays, but once I get myself completely organized, I'll be ready to sit back and just let it all unwind.

Feeling . . . Better now.  But I've been struggling with a nasty attack of diverticulitis this week.  (It happens.)  I'm hoping to be back on solid food in time for Thanksgiving dinner. . .

Humming . . . Papa was a Rolling Stone.  Temptations.  (Don't ask.  I never know why these songs pop into my head.)


Wondering . . . How folks DO the Black Friday thing.  Because I just . . . can't. 

Drinking . . . Liquids.  (See above.)


Itching to . . . Just sit.  And knit.  (But not until the weekend.)

Needing to . . . Get to the grocery store for One.Last.Thing.  (Before the CRAZY really begins.)


Organizing . . .  All Holiday All the Time!

Delighted by . . . My new fridge!  (Our old one died . . . thankfully, in the midst of the polar vortex.  So we could just use the garage as our ice box.)  (I'm so excited because a matching new stove/oven is coming, too.  But not until after Thanksgiving.)


Inspired by . . .  Craft Friday!  I heard about it first on Beverly's blog, and I am so excited to participate.  I have my materials ready.  (Now I just need to dig out my sewing machine. . .)


Celebrating . . . Thanksgiving!  With both kids, their significant others, and my parents.  It's going to be a great day!

How about YOU?  What's going on for you . . . Right Now?