Tag Archives: Gratitude

Thanksgiving 2017

Suddenly the weather’s turned blustery and cold

Leaves that were just green say ‘Gosh, I feel old’!

They shrivel up, blow and slowly flutter –

They fall here and there, they clog up the gutter.

 

Thanksgiving is hours away – defrost the turkey,

Pull out the Pilgrims, traditional and quirky.

Gather the far-flung family, yes, even those who can be rather jerky.

 

Circle them ‘round though this year’s been full of chaos, fear and discord

(At least we know no one should claim to be bored)

This is the best time to put some thought into gratitude –

Genuine thankfulness – enough with the platitudes!

 

There certainly is a long list of recent strife

And maybe Aunt Sarah shouldn’t talk to Uncle Bob when he has the carving knife

But now is the moment we should take to say thanks for the good in our life.

 

A Hearty and Heartfelt Wish for a Plentiful and Happy Thanksgiving to All!!

 

© 2017 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Niceties and Curiosities

“Beauty gives you peace, wherever you encounter it in the world.”

~Jens Jensen

 

A variety of events, occasions and articles have formulated into this post. I am in the midst of binge watching season 5 of Downton Abbey before it is no longer streaming on PBS.org, I read an article that 5/3 bank commissioned a study of our impatience as part of their new marketing campaign (we are a terribly impatient crowd), and I have stumbled back upon these unrelated quotations that I am using in this post and they helped my disparate thoughts to gel. Plus other bits of mental flotsam and jetsam.

 

Downton is set in a time that was more mannered than our own, not a time that was simpler (though we like to imagine that past times were simpler than our own, because we crave simplicity), but also a time when there were stricter class distinctions.  Courtesy ruled interactions, decorum was de rigueur, and while class might have locked you in place it also told you where you stood.

 

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”

~Mother Teresa

 

When the societal changes after WWI started to gather strength, somehow courtesy was weakened with the loosening of class structure.  We have lamented the increasing lack of common courtesy for a very long time, it seems. But still niceties can be more like curiosities these days.  Since solutions have to start somewhere, I work to stay conscious of my own level of courtesy.  There are times when strangers are almost amazed when I have held a door for them.  Not just pleased or thankful, but stunned from complacency.

 

public domain image

public domain image

My local grocery chain is running a promotion right now that I am not participating in, though I have gotten dishes and cookware from past promotions.  When I’m asked if I am participating, I check with the person behind me in line and if they are I say that I am and give them the tokens.  It is a little thing, but it makes us both feel good.  I have been the beneficiary of such gestures in those past promotions.

 

These are tiny little connections with my fellow humans that I only wish could be more frequent.  Sometimes I am too deep in a reverie and I miss opportunities, which is unfortunate. Perhaps a part of our general impatience is just the fact that we have too many interactions with others that are lacking in any connection. Sometimes the opposite happens, I walk into the store frustrated and out of sorts at the end of a long day and by that simple act of sharing those tokens and making eye contact I walk out feeling better about the world.

 

© 2015 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

My Gratitude List

The older that I get, the more I like the fact that we have set aside a national day for Thanksgiving, for gratitude.  I only wish that we paid a bit more attention to this opportunity instead of focusing so much on the sales that now overwhelm this holiday.  In honor of Thanksgiving later this week, here is my list of a few things for which I am thankful, in no particular order.  And certainly not complete.

 

  1. Kitten is feisty and eating and getting a bit more adventurous.

 

11-19-2014

 

  1. Much of my immediate family is gathering for the holiday, it will be good to see both my brother and sister’s families. I only wish my older son and daughter-in-law could make it.
  2. Plenty of interesting things to learn.
  3. I’ve had some good opportunities at work this year.
  4. All my friends and family.
  5. Good books to read.
  6. The chance to write regularly.
  7. Chocolate
  8. Chances to share stories and experiences.
  9. Whenever I feel like humming or bursting into song
  10. Coming home to a dinner that my son has created
  11. Christmas lights sparkling in the too early dark (yes, even the ones before Thanksgiving – I am more forgiving of the home décor than the demand to shop)
  12. Coming across a forgotten favorite – photo, song, book…
  13. Sitting around and chatting with friends
  14. Offering or being the recipient of random acts of kindness

 

I hope that each and every person who comes across this post has a long list of things for which you are thankful this season.

 

public domain image

public domain image

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Long Weekend Coming

I just looked at the calendar and hurray we have a long weekend, for those of us who can take advantage that is.  A bonus day, a holiday, a chance for something other than ordinary.  Most of us who work in offices have had five solid months without a holiday break.  (I’ve always been a bit bemused that the work calendar is weighted so heavily with holidays at the end of the year.)

 

photo credit: Wikipedia

photo credit: Wikipedia

I used to slog through these first months of the year, hanging on to my PTO days just in case they would be needed.  And then I read the best advice, I’ve forgotten where, that we should take a day off every couple of months as a mental health day if for no other reason.  Perhaps to attend to all the stuff that builds up; the phone calls, the need to research, and my favorite – a day off to plan for the next day off.

 

Because here I am rejoicing about this long weekend and realizing that once again I haven’t planned for it.  I haven’t made any arrangements.  And a holiday Monday is no time to try to make any of the phone calls that have been piling up.  Like to the dentist – I really need to make a dentist appointment.  And find a roofer – I’ve been putting off getting a new roof for a couple of years, but I really have to stop procrastinating.

 

Well, it is too late to do some things to make these extra weekend hours count, but it isn’t too late to figure something out.  Plus, I imagine that I am in good company.  Really good planners are shaking their heads at the rest of us, this is a fact, but so many of us could use a personal assistant to keep us on track.

 

We’ve earned this bit of down time.  I hope that everyone gets to enjoy it in some meaningful way.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Remembrance & Relevancy

My dad comes up frequently in posts because I am pretty sure that my work ethic comes directly from his influence more than any other.  I know that anything I understand about tools and fixing things was first honed watching him, sometimes directly for hours and sometimes covertly.  He is still in the creak of the flooring when I manage to find an old-time hardware store and the smell of freshly cut lumber.  I hear him laughing at old puns and sometimes catch glimpses of his very same twinkle in the eyes of both my boys, particularly when some mild mischief is involved.

 

Dad would have been 77 today, a date that he shared with Abraham Lincoln – one starting out his life and the other’s coming to an end on April 14th, 72 years intervening.  Perhaps it was this shared date that started my dad’s deep interest in history, American history, and specifically the Revolutionary and Civil War periods.  Abraham Lincoln loomed large for dad.  A fascination with history is something else that I share with my dad.

Aug 1965

Dad was an only child who came to preside over a noisy family with three children.  While he very much wanted a family, I don’t think that he was prepared for the chaos of multiple children so his basement workshop became a welcome retreat.  He was always very good with his hands and happiest when working on a project, or even had various projects in different stages.  Happy being a relative term for dad.

 

It was highly important to him to be a good man.  A good man provided for his family and had a solid standing in the community.  A good man embodied the Boy Scout Oath and Law, particularly since dad achieved the rank of Eagle Scout and went on to make Scouting his career:

Scout Oath (or Promise)

On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.

 

Scout Law

A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly,
courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty,
brave, clean, and reverent.

(Borrowed from the official website of the Boy Scouts of America)

These principles were the core of his purpose in life, though he had his times when these failed to help him know exactly what to do.  Like many men in his generation, he was at a loss to best express his emotions – positive or negative.

 

Dad has been gone from this world for a little over 15 years.  I just finished reading Jan-Philipp Sendker’s The Art of Hearing Heartbeats and really like what the character U Ba has to say:

“Do we leave the dead behind us or do we take them with us?  I think we take them with us.  They accompany us.  They remain with us, if in another form.”

I like this because I have been thinking a great deal about getting farther and farther away from my parents.  Maybe I’m not.  Maybe because they are still with me, accompanying me, they are still relevant.

 

Dad can be anywhere and everywhere now.  He is part of the appreciation of a finely crafted wood item, he is encouraging a young man on the path to Eagle Scout, he is present at campfires and taking in museum exhibits.

 

Happy birthday, dad.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

It’s on a Loop

Recently, I went to go see August: Osage County with a friend and there are moments from the film that are still with me.  The main one that is looping around in my head is about trying to find a generous place in the heart for another person.  It feels as though Tracy Letts is speaking to me.

Couldn’t we all benefit from a bit more generosity of feeling toward each other?  Both offering it and hoping to receive it.

Valentine’s Day is looming – a time to think of love in all its various forms, though the day seems to be mostly devoted to romantic love.  Love and a generosity of heart can be one and the same or not related at all except stemming from feelings.  It is possible to love someone and yet not have generous feelings toward that person – think of sibling relationships in childhood particularly.

public domain image

public domain image

I’ve ascribed this idea of a generous place in the heart as benefit of the doubt, but I like this more poetic and visual notion much better.  Am I open to another person, are others open to me – do we identify with each other as fellow humans and not just a means to an end.  We are each certainly aware when we feel that our own needs, our own humanity are overlooked or ignored.  How often do we look into our own hearts to measure the generosity that we hold there – even what steps to we take to replenish it?

This is one of those things, like mindfulness, that can hold great benefit but require vigilance to review and maintain.  Or at least periodic thought, no recriminations with a slip into a stingier mode, but a redoubling of energy toward generosity.

The fine thing about enacting generosity in this manner is that it is easy to start.  I can let the person with fewer items in front of me in a checkout line.  Or send empathetic thoughts toward the parent with the unruly child in a restaurant.  I can ask someone I know to explain their reasoning before I assign one to them.  And so on.

There is a great deal about relationships in this movie that I will continue to think about while I test out this idea of a generous place in the heart.

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Random Things for which I am Thankful: Making Connections

I read this short story in my early teen years that described an unusual and cleverly designed prison.  The cells were set up in a sort of spiral within a stone enclosure.  Each cell contained one prisoner and the prison term for that prisoner was based on the length of time that it would take for his cell to work through the spiral to the opening once again.  During his term he would have no contact with other people.  I found this both fascinating from a logical standpoint – how would he eat, how did they remove waste, etc.; and horrifying from a human standpoint.

 

I no longer remember the title or the author but the premise for this story stuck in my mind.  Perhaps because it is the antithesis of our social human experience.  The time alone appealed to my introverted side, but disturbed my extroverted brain cells.  Even the most rabidly introverted person can usually see some benefit in connecting with other people, if within a much smaller group.

 

At about the same age that I came across this story, I believed that if you made a deep connection with someone, you would remain connected to that person forever.  I have a collection of hurtful memories that belie that idea.  Connection does not equate loyalty or longevity, but it doesn’t require these traits to be worthy.

 

A person met in a time of need and never seen again can have a profound effect upon you.  One person caused a terrifying car accident when my boys were very small but I choose to remember the dozen or so strangers who stopped and offered assistance without ever expecting anything in return.  I return this gift by doing the same whenever I can for other strangers in need.  These are the fleeting connections that go under the name of random acts of kindness.  They strengthen our humanity.

 

We have blood connections with family that extend from close relatives to cousins two and three times removed.  There are shared experiences of various family gatherings, there is a built in support network when times are tough.  My aunt and uncle took time out of their busy schedules to drive up and sit with my boys when I had major surgery a few years back.  It was right before Christmas but they understood that my boys would need to have advocates who had been through such an experience before.

 

The sibling relationship is so nuanced and complex.  We have shared so much, but sometimes as rivals and sometimes as allies.  When it comes down to it, a brother might be the worst tease of a sister but don’t take that to mean that as an outsider to the family you can do the same.  The brother may take you to task.  (Can you tell that my brother teased my sister and me mercilessly as children?)

 

Then there are friends and acquaintances.  The selection process for these connections begins randomly – a shared class or activity – and grows deliberately in depth, breadth and length as we nurture the relationships.  My oldest active friendships originated in my junior high years.  The interactions may go dormant here and there and due to all my moves we have a physical distance as a barrier, but we remain friends.  Connected.  In this past year I have added new people to this category; met randomly, identification of some kindred sensibility, connection growing.

I should have written names back in the day, but I am still connected to  4 of the 13, not counting myself.

I should have written names back in the day, but I am still connected to 4 of the 13, not counting myself.

 

Sometimes I might feel as though I am stuck in a stone cell, but I can shake this feeling off by remembering all my varied connections.

 

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Random Things for which I am Thankful: Reading

Reading has been a great boon for me.

 

There are many things that crowd in and call out for our attention, some important and others not terribly so.  We must constantly prioritize all of these external needs, not forgetting that we have our own different internal needs.  I want to focus on one need that is usually quiet and reserved – therefore not often gaining the attention that it deserves from us in the clamor from all the other things in our lives.

 

We should feed our brains regularly.  Sure you think that your brain gets plenty of stimulation with that impossibly long to-do list.  Stimulation and feeding are very different things.  I’ll explain what I mean by feeding, I think you are plenty clear on stimulation.

 

Remember back into your early days when you were eager to learn things that adults knew and that seemed wholly mysterious to you?  Like reading.  I hope that you have at least one memory of curling up in an adult’s lap and reading.  While you search your memory, I’ll share some of my thoughts on reading and some memories.

 

The earliest books that we were given had wonderful pictures and some had a combination of pictures and these black shapes that adults could decode.  Growing curious, it started to become clear that many of the shapes repeated again and again and they were somehow related to the words that the adult would say to tell us the story.  How many of you had a favorite story or two that you knew so well you could pretend to read it?

 

When it was time we finally went to school and learned how to make sense of those shapes, called letters, and to understand how they combined to make words and sentences which made up these stories that opened up our worlds to things far beyond what we could experience in our little neighborhoods.

 

Reading became something that could be shared such as story time at the library, or as part of a classroom lesson – or reading could be something that could be done alone.  For me, reading was always a treat.  Gradually the books became longer and the pictures less frequent but the words would create pictures in my mind to flesh out the story.

 

As I grew I always had a book that I was reading for pleasure – even as an English major in college when I had quite a stack to read for class.  I made time for reading with each new stage of my life.  Then as an expectant mother I had visions of the joy that would come out of sharing my reading passion with my baby.

 

And we did read together, and it was just as wonderful to be the adult cuddling a child in my lap as it had been to be the read-to cuddled child.  (The downside of early motherhood, especially after I had 2 little ones, was that I only managed to read one very short book for my own pleasure in a whole year’s time.)

DSC03604

My boys and I read together often, even once they could read on their own and they got into all the after school activities.  Then our shared reading time moved to a bedtime ritual.  We progressed into classics like Watership Down and read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy (I skipped the Elvish).  It was regular together time that fed all of our minds.  I was devastated when they told me perhaps it was time to stop once they were in their early teen years.

 

I consoled myself with the thought that we had kept story time going much longer than most other families.  Plus we had the bonus of the Harry Potter series.  We reconvened for the latest in that series until my older son was 16.  (Sadly, we each read the last book separately – but discussed it together afterward.)

 

These are good memories with my boys.  I have so many more memories of books that resonate for me down through my years – books that I read as a teen or young adult that have deep meaning to this day.

 

I know that your life is full of so very many obligations, I do.  But your brain wants to be fed.  One of the simplest ways to accomplish this is to pick up a book.  Any book on a topic that interests you – fiction, biography, sports.  I will tell you that it can take me a ridiculously long time to finish even escapist fiction.  I might only read a page or two in a day.  But that page or two takes me away from the everyday of my own life and allows me to experience life as someone else.

 

Reading about something outside your own experience, fiction or not, provides the opportunity to expand your knowledge base and the mental tools that you use to be successful.

 

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Random Things for which I am Thankful: Opportunities

A person once told me that ‘You have to try new things’.  Now we’ll set aside the irony that at the time of the telling, despite my lower age, I had already tried many more things than this person and we’ll focus on the intent of the statement itself.  She was right.

 

There are so many quotes from well-known people past and present about opportunity, carpe diem (seize the day), that I could fill the rest of this post with worthy quotes and have done.  Plus there are whole books on this topic, but my take is why I am thankful for opportunity.

 

I would, and did, tell people right on up through my 30s that I was risk averse.  I wanted a quiet, pleasant, family-centric life filled with familiar things and regular rituals like gathering for Thanksgiving.  My life had taken me to different cities, in 6 states, which stretched my shyness sorely.  I learned to advocate for myself and my family because we were far from the support of extended family.  I had seen all the bumps and hassles with moving companies and utilities and the like as pure frustration, but looking back these were opportunities to learn to be polite but firm, to probe for mutual solution, to be my own best advocate.

 

Moving regularly means leaving behind family and friends, again and again.  It means being the new person wishing for a friendly face.  It means learning how to turn a stranger into a friendly face by taking small steps; by not fearing a roomful of people.  Moving taught me the baby steps to networking long before the word’s definition included this facet of making new contacts and turning those contacts into relationships of varying degrees.  Back then a network was CBS, NBC or ABC.

moving out-8-28-99

Moving means getting acquainted with the fear of the unknown.  Whether the move is a happy thing, or a necessity it is a change in routine, a new set of places to learn; familiar possessions in new positions and unfamiliar rooms.  It shakes things up and rearranges.  Complacency is broken, sometimes providing fertile ground for new ideas to grow.  ‘I can’t do that’ can be seen from a new angle to realize, ‘Well, I know most of what I need to do that’.  Moving gets a person to develop what resilience they have naturally, which is really handy when life offers other bumps in your road.

 

I haven’t talked about opportunity in the familiar manner – get a job offer that you can’t refuse sort of thing.  Because opportunity is often much more subtle than that and therefore far more frequent.  We aren’t likely to get amazing job offers out of the blue very often, but opportunities probably present themselves almost daily if we pay attention.

 

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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