White Christmas Dreams and Santa’s list. Damn that Christmas music. (Grasping for Gratitude)

Christmas tree

I know better.  I really do.  What kind of holiday high was I on to think that turning on old holiday music while I decorated my tree during a Little Red Riding hood visit was a good idea?

Being a bit of a sentimental sap already (especially with old tunes), holiday music has a way of making me miss ‘what was’ more than any other kind of music.  Thoughts of my Mom and sister and I decorating the tree while the Christmas music blared into our fancy room with green carpet and yellow velvet love seats, and all of my Mom’s plants all around the room.

I would get so upset if they started to hang one single ornament or place one strand of silver icicle tinsel garland before I was there with them.  They knew what a younger kid complex I had, so they were very patient with me.  We would get the tree decorated perfectly, just in time for our cat Rascal to knock the whole thing over during the night.

So while my Mom (Little Red Riding Hood) was here today for her Wednesday visit, I thought some holiday music might put a little sparkle back in her eyes while I worked on my Christmas tree so the boys could decorate it later.  Sometimes little things like this can bring her back for a moment. But sometimes reaching for those random lucid moments can be downright exhausting.

I’m really not sure if she even  knew who I was today.  She barely spoke a word and her Alzheimer’s seems to have progressed to a new level. She can’t really dress herself and she seems to have little energy.  I can’t really be sure if she still thinks I even look familiar.  She hasn’t known our names for about two years now.

I kept asking her if the new garland looked okay on the tree and if she liked it.  Not even a smile — which is usually the saving grace of these encounters.  She just looked at me like a was a complete stranger yammering at her and she continued to pick up tree needles from my floor.

As I adjusted my tree ribbon and listened to Bing Crosby drone on about his White Christmas dreams and someone sing about Santa coming to town and checking that list twice, a few tears streamed down my face in slow motion.This isn’t going to get any better and I just hope it doesn’t drag out forever, for everyone’s sake.  And I feel guilty for thinking that.  Nobody gets better with this disease.  They just run out of life.

I tried not to let her see my tears, even though I really don’t think she could notice.   I wished I could have called my sister to complain, whine or speculate about what’s next on this dim horizon.  But I haven’t been able to do that for 13 years. She left me here to figure all this out, even though I know she didn’t mean to.

I know in my heart I have so much to be grateful for.  My health, my family, a roof over my head, my friends…..  But this morning just sucked.

So after a few songs, a few more tears, and a few more blank looks from my Mom who was still collecting dust bunnies and needles from my floor, I grabbed the remote from the table, clicked off that damn music and walked away from the tree.  My throat was tight from my pent up tears and I took a deep breath.

I noticed Mom had something in her hand.  It was a grocery list that my stepdad had written and probably thrown away. She must have had it in her pocket. It was in three pieces and she kept looking at the pieces and refolding them. She’s been a list-maker since I can remember. I grinned because some old habits really do die hard.

Who knew what was going through her head while that music played and I decorated a tall outdoor tree in the center of my living room?  Maybe running her fingers over the little pieces of that list in her hand brought her some kind of comfort that she needed.  If that’s the case, I’m certainly grateful.

“Don’t I know you?” A classy, romantic tale of how I met my husband.

eatatjoesIt was my senior year of college on a Thursday night, when the weekend festivities were just getting started. I walked up to the bar to buy my friends some drinks.

This old college restaurant and bar was smoky and dark, with wood walls, pool tables and a great outdoor patio with lights strung from end to end and benches that would give you splinters if you weren’t careful.  And cheese fries that were the perfect remedy for any college hangover. The place is famous now, and despite the fact that it has become more of a commercial enterprise than a hole in the wall, it sure brings back good memories.

At any rate, I’m guessing Bye Bye Miss American Pie had just finished playing – that was the song that would make the entire bar stop what they were doing and sing along.  And for some reason it always made me want to buy my friends another round of shots (Rattlesnakes to be precise).

I was rather generous with my new credit card that some smart creditor was willing to offer me as a college student who worked 12 hours a week as a Party Pics Photographer.

At any rate, I noticed he was at the bar too, apparently ordering shots for his friends as well. Looked like we had something in common right off the bat. I couldn’t remember his name but I knew him from my 8:30 am Intro to Speech class the last year where he sat a few rows in front of me.  My roommate who was in the class knew him and briefly introduced us in the stairwell one day.  She knew I thought he was cute. I remember watching his hat fall off after he fell asleep in class and jolted his head as he woke.

Our drinks were ordered and I glanced over. “Don’t I know you?” I asked. (I know, so typical, I just blurted it out.)

“Oh yes, I remember,” he said as he turned toward me. (Later I learned that he had absolutely no recollection whatsoever of meeting me. Clearly, based on the hat incident, he was barely awake for that 8:30 am class.)

It was a busy night and it was taking a while to get our drinks. There was a sketchy Hungarian tennis player with a strong accent and bad teeth who had been hitting on me and was hovering around the bar. Who knows why in the world a Hungarian tennis player was going to college in Oklahoma, but I digress. I tried not to make eye contact.

I leaned in toward him. “Hey, would you mind acting like we’re together for a second?” Again, it just came out as I asked this cute guy who pretended to remember me to cover as my boyfriend. He looked confused but I asked him to just go with it. He played along and put his arm around me. (I know this sounds like the perfect pick-up method, but I swear it was not my original intent.)

Six months later, after a lot of grief from my friends who remembered me saying that I would be so old when I married that I’d need a cane to get down the aisle, we were engaged. Another four months later, we were married.

Twenty two years and two kids later … we’re still buying our friends shots.

(This is part of a blog hop How I met my husband from GenerationFabulous)

Click to read more.

If you aren’t registered to vote, quit reading my blog and register. Gratitude Experiment: Day 42

While more countries than ever around the world are fighting for the right to vote, the United States has one of the lowest voter turnouts of any comparable wealthy countries.

According to Pew Center Research, 51 million people are eligible to vote but are not registered.

Of those polled by CNN, 26% said they were too busy to get themselves on the voter rolls. Twelve percent said their vote wouldn’t count anyway, and 10% said they just didn’t want to get registered.

Even more sobering are estimates that only 75 percent of registered voters will actually cast a ballot this fall.

In a USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll of people in the United States who are eligible to vote, eight in 10 say the government plays an important role in their lives. Yet these same people say that the odds are 50-50 that they will even vote.

The main reasons cited are that they are too busy, they just aren’t excited about either candidate, they think their vote doesn’t really matter, or my favorite – nothing ever gets done anyway.

However a look back at history not very long ago shows just how many have fought and sacrificed to establish the right for all citizens in our country to vote.  And it makes this lack of concern distressing, to say the least.

When the US was founded, only white men with property could vote. By 1869, the 15th Amendment guaranteed the right to vote to black men (but it wasn’t until 1965, after much suffering and violence, that literacy tests, as well as many other tactics to dissuade voters of certain races or colors, including violence, were banned).

And it wasn’t until 1920 – less than 100 years ago — when all women in the U.S. could vote, after 50 years of suffragists being beaten, jailed and treated like traitors for wanting the right to vote.

So when I hear that the top reasons given by unregistered voters and by registered voters not planning to vote is that they are too busy or they don’t think it matters, it gets me a little hot under the collar.

Today, on national register to vote day –  as voter registration deadlines loom –  I am grateful for my right to vote and the fact that I realize it does matter.

(For information on voter registration and where candidates stand on various issues, see votesmart.org. For your state’s voter registration deadline visit: http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Voting.shtml.)

I’m no prude, but put your shirt on. Gratitude Experiment: Day 37

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I live right by a beautiful state park. And I live in the number one state to make you feel like a lazy pathetic slug.  Seriously, the ninety-nine-year-olds run uphill marathons here. I’m doing good to take the stairs at a fast clip.

So every day when I drive through my neighborhood there are easily four dog walkers and two or three runners in my line of sight. Today, two men were running without their shirts on.  I had to do a double take in my rear view window on one of them because for a second I thought it was a woman running topless.

Now I have never been called a prude. And frankly, I’m known to occasionally blurt out some purely shocking and crude stuff just to mix things up. But come on guys, put your damn shirt on and leave your nipples for your girlfriend’s viewing pleasure. I don’t want to see them. Or anything else under your shirt, sorry.

Women don’t walk around without any pants on just because they don’t have an extra piece of equipment.  So why should you just because most of you don’t have boobs?

Even if you are some hot hunk or you have fabulously cut muscles, no thanks. I’m sure there are some circumstance where it might be okay in public like at the beach, but I find it pretty skeevy most of the time.  And it immediately makes me think you’re not very smart. And even if you’re just mowing your own lawn, it still makes you look like a tool.

And you know that saying about how women who leave a little to the imagination tend to be a little more classy? It applies to you too, jogging hairy boob chest man, sorry.

Today I am grateful that my handsome husband doesn’t jog, bike or mow without a shirt on and because the thought of doing so really doesn’t go through his mind at all.

There’s an Alien in the Coffee Shop. Gratitude Experiment: Day 36

Okay since I used up my Kleenex writing my last post, let’s get some things clear.  This post is not going to be a) heavy, b) depressing or c) lengthy.   Okay maybe a little lengthy because I can’t figure out how to get my posts to be shorter.  Thanks for your patience.

So early this morning I went to get my hair colored because this new getting gray hair thing just plain pisses me off.  Along with needing reading glasses.   No one told me that my body would start immediately deteriorating at warp speed the minute I turned 43. This isn’t funny.

So I’m in the salon waiting the allotted 20 minutes as my color processes and I check my email.  Two emails are friends letting me know that the Denver Post printed my letter to the editor in today’s paper.  Crap, I forgot to check my paper before I left because I was running late.  Not surprising for me.  And before I left I had a client sending me messages with RED FLAGS of importance for matters far from urgent.

I clicked on the email link to the paper.  Cool, they really printed it.  But it just looked like a blog post.  I wanted to see it in real life because that’s the closest thing I’ve had to a byline in years.  Since they don’t let me add bylines to my data sheet copy selling underground fuel storage tank monitoring equipment.  (Yes, my work is Sexy.) I wanted a paper.

I looked at the timer that my stylist had set next to me and then I looked in the mirror.  I have never had so much dye and so many crazy looking foils all over my head in my lifetime.  I’ve gotten highlights before but this time I was switching things up with my color, so she had to empty the store room of color product in order to apply it all over my graying head.  And all the foils where gathered and gooped together into a column pointing up and out the back of my head.  I looked like that creature from Alien, but without all the spit.  I was looking hot.

But I wanted a paper, damn it.  I looked at the lady in the chair next to me.  I asked her if she thought I would frighten people if I walked over to Dazbog Coffee to ask if they sell papers.  Her eyebrows raised and she suggested I have one of the receptionists at the salon go get a paper for me.  But I was perfectly able.  And I’m sure Dazbog would be nearly empty at this time in the morning.

So I grabbed my purse and headed out.  I now had 14 minutes and I wanted a newspaper.  And I didn’t want to wait.

I walked down the sidewalk past people having coffee and got some stares. No biggie.  Then I walk in, with my sassy salon smock and Alien-shaped-hair-color- foiled head.  The place is packed.  With business people. Really? I made a joking comment to the lady in front of me in line so she wouldn’t be frightened if she turned around and wasn’t prepared.  I looked across to my left and at least four or five men were motioning toward me and staring, among plenty others there.  Maybe guys really have no idea what we go through to look so freaking fabulous? Good grief.

Another lady walked up and totally got it.  Time is money.  Gotta get stuff done.  Next, Dazbog girl points me in the direction of the newspapers in the middle of the cafe loungey area.

The clock was ticking.  I was over it. I grabbed a stack of papers, pulled over at a table near the line and started looking through the sections to find my letter. Then I get the feeling that someone close is watching me even more closely.  I turn my head slowly and see that there is a little three-year-old girl who is squeezing her Mom’s hand and staring at me with her jaw dropped.  Just like the kid  in the  Monsters, Inc. movie.  I think she may have wet herself, I’m not sure.  She was scared to death. I apologized to her Mom and told her I was worried this might happen.  She told me it wasn’t a problem and she does the same thing sometimes.  Yeah right.

The Dazbog gal told me I could keep the paper so I sprinted back to the salon, passing more tables of people staring.  I was over it by now and wanted to pull a foil out, hand it to them and keep on walking.

Mission was complete: hair turned out okay, I looked a little less mommish and I had a pretty good time freaking people out, except for the little girl who may have wet herself.

Plus I got my paper and saw my name in print.  Oh, and helped my cause. For all this, I am grateful.

The long way home. Gratitude Experiment: Day 35

This post is from yesterday…  forgot to hit publish.

Once in a while I purposely take the long way home.  Usually it happens when a great song is playing and the car windows are rolled down or the top is down.  Overcast or misty days are the perfect settings for this.

There is a great winding road near my neighborhood that cuts through part of our state park.  It feels like it’s miles from nowhere yet it’s not at all.  It branches off from a much more direct route to its end, so there are usually few cars on it. And right when I reach my neighborhood entrance, it’s like my car sometimes knows when I need to recharge for a just a moment or two.  And when I need to keep going straight and follow this road, making an extra loop before returning home.

I’ve decided this little road is sort of like my own little spiritual retreat.  Like a drive through recharging station.  This is where I crank up whatever song that most likely inspired me to blow off my original turn.  Usually Janis Joplin is whaling about Bobby McGee, Rod Stewart about his sexiness or the Beatles about places they remember.  Any old song that makes me a little sentimental.

And as I make the wide bend of the road (the best part when I go a little too fast) and refocus, I almost always notice a flock of birds in formation.  I’m always in awe of how these birds can perform such a complex and scientific maneuver. Did you know that birds can fly 70% further with the same amount of energy when in formations like this?

I must admit that I have very little affection for birds.  I had a really bad Blue-Jay experience once when my dog found a baby bird, so I am pretty much terrified of most birds.   I’m not sure what kind of birds these are, but I would assume geese or ducks.  And they never cease to fascinate me when flying in formation.

I love that there always seems to be that one little guy at the end of the formation who can’t quite seem to figure it out, probably losing out on much of the drag reduction benefit of the whole exercise.  I always wonder if his cohorts are giving him a hard time for being a slacker and that just stresses him out even more.

And then at that moment I remember a reference in one of my favorite poems.  A poem that I have given to many dear friends in their times of sorrow.  It’s called “Do Not Stand” and the author is unknown from what I can tell.  It’s written from the perspective of someone who has passed on speaking to someone they’ve left behind in this world.  They urge the reader not to stand at their grave and weep, for they are not there. They are a thousand winds that blow, the diamond glints on the snow, the sunlight on ripened grain, the gentle autumn’s rain. And the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight.

I can feel my heart leap up as I watch the formation pass over me and I think of my sister. Maybe somehow I connect with that little guy at the end of the formation. Like it’s my sister reminding me that everything’s okay, even for the little guy trying so hard to keep up.  I think a therapist could have a heyday with the psychological theories that might explain this series of thoughts.  Probably many theories would be spot-on, or maybe I subconsciously want to be reincarnated as Janis Joplin’s uncoordinated pet bird?  I’m not sure, but I suspect there’s more to it than that. I’ll be sure to save up for that  session.

Then as I turn my car around at the traffic circle and head back home the opposite direction, through this same stretch of winding road, I breathe a sigh and I am renewed.

Today I am grateful for my long way home.

 

RUOK Day. Gratitude Experiment: Day 34

 

 

Photo from http://www.RUOKday.com

One of my lovely followers who lives in Australia liked the post I made about depression the other day after my friend lost her son (the funeral was today). This blogger mentioned Australia’s national  RUOK Day. I was intrigued and had to look it up.

According to the RUOKday.com website, R U OK? Day is a national day of action dedicated to inspiring all Australians to ask family, friends and colleagues, ‘Are you ok?’  The day encourages reaching out to one another and having open and honest conversations in order to become a more connected community.  And in the end, to help reduce the country’s suicide rate.

The day is celebrated on the second Thursday of September (last Thursday).  The site explains that in the time it takes to have your coffee, you can start a conversation that could change a life.

RUOK? is a not for profit organization that works wiith various Information Partners to provide national focus and leadership on suicide prevention by empowering Australians to have open and honest conversations and stay connected with people in their lives.

R U OK? Day was inspired by the son of Barry Larkin (1940 – 1995).  The day is dedicated to his father and all people who have died through suicide, as well as the family and friends who love them. The first RUOK? Day was in 2009 and after only three years an estimated 58% of the Australian population knew about the national day of action. By last week, which marked the fourth year, I’m sure the number had increased.

The website provides resources for connecting with people in the workplace, schools, health facilities, universities and community and sports clubs.

The Aussies are onto something.  I’m not aware of a single, unified suicide preventive effort like this here in the U.S., and I think we could use one.  And frankly, the more we rely on technology to communicate, the more disconnected we become. And the more we need a day like this to promote awareness for the importance of staying connected.

We should all think about asking R U OK? more often.  We never know when we could impact a life with a just few more moments of connection, listening and empathy. 

Today I am grateful for the many inspirations that come from my fellow bloggers, like this heartwarming and sensible concept.

For more information about the organization, as well as steps for how to reach out and start these conversations, visit http://ruokday.com.

 

My Kimono Won’t Close. Gratitude Experiment: Day 28


My husband uses the term ‘open kimono’ to describe my transparent ways.  It’s because I’m not physically able to tell you one thing and really mean another, even if I tried really hard.  And why I would really suck as a salesperson selling anything that I didn’t believe in.

It explains why women who host home trunk show clothing parties, jewelry open houses, or cooking gear parties can’t stand it when I’m one of the guests.  Because everyone there knows that I’ll tell you if you look 30 pounds heavier in the latest trendy vest or if you look like you’re drowning in the latest fashion-forward floor-length dress.  Usually ten minutes in, guests realize that I’m someone who will give them an honest opinion despite its potential impact to a bottom line.

Urbandictionary.com defines the ‘open kimono’ phrase as: (adj.) – business marketing plan that allows consumers to know what’s behind the entire operation, with no secrets kept inside the proverbial kimono.

Some say the phrase dates back to feudal period of Japanese history, when warriors or adversaries would open their kimonos as an offering of trust to show they had no hidden weapons.

My open kimono explains why those who are friends with me know right where they stand with me at any given moment.  I don’t attempt to hide joy, worry, appreciation or aggravation. (I’m actually not sure if I would be physically able to.) I’ll tell you if you’ve hurt my feelings or upset me and I will be completely honest about it.  I’ll also make sure you know if you’ve touched my heart.

I cry at school plays, I cry at weddings, and I cry when I sing Amazing Grace because it reminds me of my grandmother who cried when she sang that song.  I still cry when I say goodbye to my parents after a trip back home. And sometimes I cry when I tell a happy story that makes my heart swell.  And I’m okay with all of it. Even though tears make stoic types uneasy, I know that letting my guard down allows me to tap into depths of emotion that left untapped could make me stale.

Sometimes I think about closing my kimono a little more often.  But then I remember what a fleeting gift this life of mine is.  So why waste time not getting to what’s real when it could all change tomorrow.

I realize this is who I am, open kimono and all.  And for that I am grateful.

Breakfast Club Flashback. Gratitude Experiment: Day 25

Today as I sat waiting in the high school parking lot to drop off my son’s tennis equipment before he left for a tennis match, I was transported to another world.  Actually back to my world back in high school.  And the world according to the Breakfast Club movie in 1985.

This movie has been hailed as one of the greatest high school films of all time, by John Hughes (God rest his fantastic movie making soul).  And the song – “Don’t You Forget About Me,” that instantly reminds my generation of scenes from the movie that have stayed with us since.

The movie follows  five students—Allison Reynold (Ally Sheedy),  Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez), John Bender (Judd Nelson), Brian Johnson (my favorite Anthony Michael Hall),  and Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald) as they surprisingly find common ground with each other throughout a single day of detention on a Saturday.  Each student represented a different clique or stereotype within the school.  If you haven’t seen it, rent it.

Watching the disbursement of high schoolers on a Friday after school took me right there. I watched each stereotype pass the front of my car. During a phase when I am feeling a little old and thinking things are so very different, I suddenly realized things really didn’t seem that different. Had nothing really changed except for the fact that they each had a cell phone and ATM card in their pocket?

The ‘Jock’s (although in this case both male and female) were gathered on the sidewalk high-fiveing each other.  The ‘punk’ hard edge type kids were all walking alone with a jolted gate, looking very guarded. I even saw one bump into a jock, then the jock got upset and held his hands out just like in the movies (if only he had been wearing a letter jacket), then the punker extended his hand and they shook hands and did a “bro” hug.  I should have been filming as it was stereotypical perfection.

Then I also watched as the many ‘princesses’ dialed for their rides exhaustedly while flipping their hair in frustration and simultaneously watching peripherally to see who was checking them out.  Then came the ‘brainiacs’/nerds as I watched them attempt to talk to the cute girl jocks while the huge guy jocks with gelled hair stood to the side fanning their feathers.  They didn’t stand a chance but I was rooting for them.  And I sadly watched a ‘misfit’ walk out to her car alone.

Maybe they will all be in detention together one day and bond over their similarities, but I doubt it.  More likely, they will all find themselves in different cubicles of the same corporate world and bond over the lack of sunlight.  Sorry, that was dark.

Today I am just grateful that the world isn’t really racing ahead as fast as I thought.  And that makes me happy.

A Bittersweet Solstice Approaches. Gratitude Experiment: Day 23

Bittersweet defined is a combination of both bitter and sweet – a feeling that is both happy and sad at the same time. This familiar emotion finds its way back to me each year, just as the first signs of Autumn find their way back to us all.

It’s my favorite time of year and always has been, flooding me with memories of autumns past.  The smells of damp leaves and firewood, the crisp air that fills my lungs, the glorious colors that open my eyes to nature each year, and the sound of fallen leaves underfoot.  My very favorite season.

The approaching September equinox called out to me today, as it does each year when the summer’s curtain draws to a close.  Letting me know that fall is approaching and the time for winter is near. It’s sad to see the summer end, but also sweet to see the cycle complete.

There are two equinoxes every year – one in September and one in March.  When the length of day and night is almost exactly equal all over the world, with seasons opposite on either side of the equator.

Derived from Latin, the word equinox means “equal night.” I explained this to my kids as I drove each one to school this morning, and as I do each year when the sun on the horizon nearly blinds me as if to awaken me from a summer’s sleep.

The autumn equinox happens each year, the moment the sun crosses the equator, always on September 22nd, 23rd or 24th. On any other day throughout the year, our planet tilts away or toward the sun.  But not on each equinox, when the sun shines more directly upon us than any other days of the year, as if to remind us of our smallness in the universe.

Thirteen years ago on September 22nd, just before the autumnal equinox, my sister crossed over and left this world, just as the sun crosses over the equator.  The sun was blinding her way that day, or maybe calling her toward it. It was also my mother’s birthday.

I’m really not sure what God and the universe had in mind that day, but I’m determined not to let it zap the gratitude out of me as I gear up for this month’s memories, filled each year with emotions, both happy and sad.

When I see the sun each morning so boldly reminding us of its presence near the horizon, I know it is a bittersweet reminder for me to plant the seeds of both appreciation and caution for all that is. Today I am grateful for the sun and all that she reminds me to be thankful for.

Not forgotten. Gratitude Experiment: Day 16

I raced to get home after grocery shopping this morning to arrive before my step dad dropped off my Mom.   This is part of our routine.  He drops my mom off on the way to his weekly doctor appointment and I watch her for a while.   My mom has Alzheimer’s and is only 71.

Mentally, I have to gear up for visits with my mom, even though it has gotten easier since they’ve lived nearby for the last year and a half.   I used to be mentally drained for at least a day or so after every visit.  Sometimes it still really takes it out of me to see her this way while knowing that there is much worse to come.  But as I have worked through my grieving process for my old mom, I have learned to try to find a bit of  joy in our moments together as I search for her old self within her.  I like to think maybe my real mom is in there and it will just take me doing or saying just the right thing to get a piece of her back, even if just for a minute.

I looked out the door as she was getting out of the minivan. He usually lets her come up the sidewalk by herself .  Thank God she had her teeth in — my stomach sank at first when I couldn’t tell. Any casual observer would  think nothing of this.  Until she gets to my door.  She reaches for the door, then she stops and stares at me blankly.  Then today, in response to my hello, she said “hi” in her familiar mom tone.  (Hearing her old voice at the beginning of a conversation used to make me think maybe I just dreamed this whole thing.) At any rate, this was much better than her usual shoulder shrug.  I breathed a sigh of content.

As I walked her into the kitchen, the family history notebook she put together years ago was on the counter.  Secretly I was hoping she would recognize it. Maybe it could be the spark for today?  She spent a few years compiling it about 20 years ago and it is ever so thorough, with ancestry charts, old letters my grandfather sent home from WWII, newspaper articles, birth announcements and the like.

I point to it and explain to her that it’s the family history book that she put together years ago.  I told her how helpful it was for my youngest son’s school project last night.  She looked at me puzzled and said, “I did?”  I pointed out photos of her parents and her sister and she gave me a look that was both puzzled and blank at the same time. But I wasn’t giving up.

I motioned for her to sit down as I helped her understand the chair.  I let her thumb through some pages on her own. Maybe the pages would feel familiar?  I showed her the  photos of all of the houses her parents had lived in.  Photos have worked a little before. I narrated as I walked her though the book .  She was more intent than I have seen her in months.  I told her that I would be right back and I ran upstairs to answer a quick email for work.  I do this occasionally with ears perked in case she opens the front door in search of my step dad.  She is always looking for him when she is at my house, as though she thinks he’s in the house or just outside. She is much more at ease when he is at her side, which warms my heart like an old love story.

I started getting anxious and quickly jogged down the stairs, worried that I had taken too long.  To my surprise, I found her still sitting in same spot very intently thumbing through each page over and over and back and forth.  She looked content and engaged.

When my step dad arrived to pick her up she pointed at the picture of herself in a newspaper article when she was one of the beauty queens at her college.  She told him “That’s me” and smiled her cute little smile.

My heart sang.

On the second page of this 200 page family history notebook of my mother’s ancestry, it reads:

“I wish I had been more interested in what my parents told me about their families and early years.  I put this history together in the hopes that the knowledge and memories I have would not be forgotten.”

And for this I am grateful.

Coming Clean. Gratitude Experiment: Day 9.

Okay I have to come clean on something.  I’m starting to get a complex that every day I need to have something profound to write about on my blog.  However, I’m finding that it’s not always that easy.  And I have enough self imposed guilt trips that I am not going to feel guilty about this too.

So, some days I will just list a few things that I am grateful for while ideas for more profound posts percolate in my head (I promise some good ones are forming up there).

– I am grateful today that my family is safe and healthy – I have heard lots of stories this week in our community of those not as fortunate and they are in my thoughts.

-Also thankful that I have a career that is flexible with nice clients (although I really need to quit procrastinating on my work projects – this blog is way too good of a procrastination tool.)

-And grateful for my dear husband, who puts up with all my bad habits and neuroses, making him  the most patient and kind human being on the planet.  For real.

***Can you think of one or two things that you are grateful for right now?  Think about writing just one to three things down each night before you go to sleep on a notepad you keep under your bed.  Nothing fancy required.  Keep a pen by your clock to remind you.

Studies show that those who practice daily gratitude feel better about their lives overall, are more optimistic about the future, and report fewer health problems. Studies have also shown that those using daily gratitude  get more sleep.  With less time spent awake before falling asleep, they end up feeling more refreshed in the morning — and who couldn’t use that?  Other studies show that gratitude can even have a protective effect against heart attacks.

And… it’s cheaper than therapy by a long shot.  Try it tonight. You will thank me later, I promise.