Code Blue: Gratitude Withdrawal! (Next Challenge is ON, Baby.)

As the holidays approach, I’m embarrassed to admit that this week has been entirely sucky. I’ve felt overwhelmed by life in general, by my only-child parent care-taking guilt and worries, my kid obligations and stress, and my work, which continues to dramatically uninspire me as I cram on deadlines until midnight only to write more editions of corporate gruel.  And the fact that I already received my first Christmas card in the mail a few days ago – WHILE IT’S STILL NOVEMBER FOR GOD’S SAKE, PEOPLE – sure as hell didn’t  help. (No, it wasn’t a Thanksgiving card, which would have been fine. Doesn’t everyone know that most citizens ceremoniously TORCH cards that come that early in November only to stress us the hell out about how behind we are?)

I seriously think the main reason for my crappy mindset this past week is due to my lack of gratitude blogging, which I had been doing religiously for 100 days.  I should have been celebrating this 100-day success all week, but instead I was busy being irritated and overwhelmed by everyone and everything.  I think the diagnosis is full-on gratitude withdrawal. Either that or everyone and everything is getting on my nerves on purpose, which you never know.

So here’s the deal:  My next challenge will be to blog about Grasping for Gratitude – One Day at a Time –  for a minimum of three days per week for as long as I feel like it. But I can’t stop until I proclaim another challenge (that way the procrastinator beast within me is held somewhat accountable).

Thank God I took exercise out of this next challenge.  I am grateful for my openness to try it and for my ability to see that it wasn’t going to fly. I really don’t need anything else to feel guilty about.  So let’s pretend like that never happened. (I’ll exercise anyway as much as I can, but it won’t be part of my blog.)

This Grasping for Gratitude idea will also be the focus of some other writing I am working on. I have talked to so many friends lately who have hard stuff (crap) going on in our lives right now — as we all do (if not now, then at some point).  And, frankly, the only way we’re going to make it to the other side of whatever we’re dealing with — without turning into resentful, grumpy or bitchy people — is by grasping for gratitude as if our life depends on it.  And I’m determined that when we make it to the other side (or onto our next chapter), we become stronger human beings who are more compassionate, more self-aware and more centered.  This is my goal.

So …  I’ll take a shot of gratitude, with a little salt and lime on the side.  This will help me get past the gaudy, overboard, unmatching lights that went up in my neighborhood several days BEFORE Thanksgiving (Bah Humbug) that make me insane.  (And that I find so particularly ironic considering I live in such a crunchy energy-conserving state.)  …. Along with many other things that make me nuts. (Thank goodness my friends and family enjoy nuts.)

Whew, I feel better.  Thanks for your patience with my little rant. And thanks – ever so much – for your support on this journey.

I challenge YOU to jot something down that you are grateful for every time you read one of my Grasping for Gratitude posts. Grab a notebook or pad of paper (nothing fancy – that’s just a procrastination technique), or start a running document on your computer’s desktop – and start a simple list of what you’re grateful for – one day at a time. You’ll thank me later.

What are you grateful for today?

The results are in. Gratitude Experiment: Day 100

Holy moly this is my 100th post, the end of my 100-day gratitude experiment! I’m a day late posting due to travel, but I’m again back in the saddle with my red furry muse by my side.

Thanks so much for accompanying me on this journey of gratitude. There is absolutely no doubt that more purposeful daily gratitude has made a profound difference in my life.

These past 100 days have undoubtedly made me more aware of my own energy and observant of the energy and environment around me. It is hard to explain how good that feels. So much so that I know that I must continue to make it part of my writing.

This journey has also helped me learn about the blogosphere and the world of possibilities for my writing. Outlines are in the works for ebooks related to gratitude and Alzheimer’s support. The possibilities are endless. The trick is narrowing them down and prioritizing. What a great problem to have.

My blogging is now part of me and it will definitely continue. As will my practice of disciplined gratitude which has truly helped me begin to center my mind. But there is still much more for me to learn and more centering to do.

I’ve learned that a challenge proclamation is certainly the best way to tame the procrastination beast within me. So the question remains what will the next challenge be? I will proclaim it by week’s end.

In the meantime I close with this quote from Buddha which sums up my thoughts quite well at this moment. Thank you again for continuing to follow me on this journey!

To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.

In a Tulsa state of mind. Gratitude Experiment: Day 99

While I’m in a Tulsa/melancholy state of mind, I am once again be grateful for memories of my sister today, and for the time I get to see her in her beautiful daughter’s face on this Thanksgiving trip.

Most of you are by now used to what MacGyver calls “my stream of consciousness style of conversation” which automatically flows into my blog style, so I figure why stop now?

When I opened the window shutters on Thanksgiving morning, I immediately noticed the tree  outside the window. It still had leaves, unlike all of our trees back home – that was notable. But more notable was the memory it transported me to as I stared and took it in.

I’ve never been good at identifying tree types, but this tree reminded me of one not seen often in Colorado. I’m going to  call it an oak even though I’m not 100 percent sure.  But at any rate, immediately the song “Tie a yellow ribbon ’round that old oak tree” from the 70s popped into my mind.

Then my sister’s version of it popped into my mind – also in from the  70s – when she gave me grief on a daily basis for one thing or another. (If you’re six years younger than your sibling, it’s pretty much automatic that you will bear the brunt of your older sibling’s harassment daily and hopefully look back on it later and smile.)

And because my sister was particularly sarcastic and she found herself to be hilarious at the time , I  remember her harassment as all the more funny as I reflect on it.

I was around five or six years old, and like many kids that age, I wasn’t particularly into washing my hair a lot (especially compared to my sister was in full-on wash your hair at least twice a day teenage  mode).

So, “Tie a yellow ribbon ’round your dirty hair” became the theme song in our house f0r quite  a while. I can hear my Mom humming it.  Hopefully you can hear the tune in your head, so this makes more sense.  It was pretty awesome. There were even some yellow ribbon props involved. My sister didn’t do anything at less than 100 percent, harassment included.

And that’s my stream of consciousness for today… I’m grateful for this particular memory that makes me smile, for the ability to remember it, and for all the sweet memories that this sweet town brings back as they rush into my mind at every turn.

Do you have a sibling memory that makes you smile?

Twice the gratitude. Gratitude experiment: Day 98

This post is from yesterday but I’m just now coming to from my tryptophan sugar coma. And it was well worth it.

I was blessed to get to spend the day back home with my family early in the day and Macgyver’s later in the day.

Family, tradition, and wonderful food made by someone else – pretty hard to beat and makes me feel ever so thankful.

Can’t help but always feel a little melancholy on this homecoming holiday as it makes me think of my sister. I only missed one Thanksgiving with her in my thirty years of life as her sibling.

I can remember greeting her with a hug in the hallway of my Dad’s house, around the corner from where I now sit and type. Like it was yesterday. We would usually compliment each other’s outfits and compare hair color, always striving to find that perfect brown formula to mask our identical red undertones just as our Mom did for years. Then I would kiss her on the forehead when we said goodbye (a tradition developed out of convenience as her ‘little’ sister who towered over her.)

Thankful for many things today. And for the memories of Thanksgivings past.

What memory are you thankful for today?

Being Grateful – Old School. Gratitude Experiment: Day 97.

Today I’m grateful to have learned about a music group that makes me smile from one of my favorite blogs, free penny press.

I’m reposting her post here about  a young trio of sibling musicians from London who create wonderful, bluesy old-school music using no computers or digital equipment.  Novel concept these days. They are darling old souls, and cool as all get-out.  If you watch the video, wait for the part where they are filming in the country – brilliant.

Check it out:


Kitty, Daisy & Lewis

In the world of music, most singers depend on recording studios magical touches to add a bit of sparkle to their recordings. Enter a trio of siblings from London, Kitty, Daisy and Lewis who are kicking it back to the old school style of recording and performing.
The trio records in their home studio which consists of antique recording equipment such as 8-track tape machines and vintage BBC and RCA microphones. Kitty, Daisy, and Lewis do not use computers or any digital format during the recording process. As an added plus, they sell their music not only on CD’s but also LP’s and 78 RPM’s.

I’ve never been a big fan of Rockabilly music, but these young singers have converted me. They also sing Blues, Swing, Country and R&B among other styles. If I shut my eyes and just listen to them, I would swear it was the 60′s and I was at an outdoor country fair.

Here is a great sample of their musical style:

Kitty, Daisy & Lewis have gained popularity since first performing less than a decade ago.
Their shows are always to packed, sell out crowds and it’s no wonder. People want authenticity and these three certainly deliver that to the masses.

For more information they can be found @ Kitty, Daisy & Lewis (here on Word Press I might add)

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Meditation Contemplation. Gratitude Experiment: Day 96

I’ve contemplated meditation a lot lately. But for some reason making time for meditation seems to rank right up there with exercise for me.

My oldest son has learned a lot about meditation recently and wants to develop his meditation skills. And I know it would be good for him. In fact, I know it would be helpful for our entire family. The trick is making the time to quiet our minds long enough to reset with reality and what matters.  Life, as it often does, seems to get in the way.

I often wonder if  my avoiding exercise and meditation has to do with being intimidated at the thought of what I could discover if I was to actually still my mind enough to focus long enough on either. After all, these past 95 days have shown me what a difference becoming more aware of my self, my thoughts and my surroundings can make when it comes to reflection and peace.  Each day when I take the time to sit and write, a certain amount of discontent seems to escape from my mind while a new parcel of knowledge about myself settles in.  At the same time, my shoulders begin to rest a little lower and my breath becomes more easy.

I’ve stumbled upon enough of these and other indicators lately to point me squarely in the direction of meditation.

So today I am grateful to receive all of the messages that the universe and the powers that be send to me.  I’m also thankful that I can slow down every once in a while and actually listen.

Do you meditate or think about meditating  — even if you use a different word for the same concept?

Picking my battles. Gratitude Experiment: Day 95

Origin of the phrase “pick your battles”:

References a well-known aspect of military strategy, which suggests that when troops are thinly stretched, they are often unsuccessful. For example, when a country tries to fight a war on two fronts, it often struggles to secure both, and sometimes it is more advisable to deal with one issue before proceeding to the next to ensure success. The more fronts a military is coping with, the harder it is to handle the strategic and day-to-day operations on all of these fronts, and sometimes a front must be abandoned because there are not enough personnel to secure it, which is generally undesirable.

It’s funny how the older my kids get, the more grateful I am for the big things and the more I let the small things slip – things I would have never pictured myself letting go.

Our rule is to make your bed every day no matter what. That’s how my Mom taught me and the rule was passed down.  Beds are not to be unmade unless you are in them.

Another rule is to be respectful and kind to your family members.

Some days, because they were kind and respectful and there were few arguments, I walk right past their unmade beds and gently pull their doors closed.

Picking my battles one at a time and grateful to be able to step back, take a deep breath, and accept an occasional defeat.

Do you ever have to pick one battle over another?

Cursing the Argentine Pie. Gratitude Experiment: Day 94

This post is from yesterday and it would have been posted yesterday had it not been for Argentine Corn Pie.

Lest I bore you with details, here are the cliffnotes:

1. Themed dinner party – Argentina theme

2. Each couple brings a dish – I chose “veggie/side” option to bring

3. Google search led me to Argentine Corn Pie – sounded easy enough, two pies should be perfect

4. I was sorely mistaken

5. Spent most of the afternoon (thank goodness I started early) working on these damn pies

6. I do not like to cook for good reason – usually doesn’t end well (see past post:  Not sure any bitch can cook)

7. First one came out like a charm, second one did not set-up correctly (even though I swear I prepared it exactly the same way) – ceremoniously buried it in my kitchen trash

8. MacGyver ran to the store for me and I made another pie at the last minute

9. Looked iffy but I took it anyway

10. That pie ended up in the kitchen trash of our hostess – we shared the one that turned out beautifully and there was enough alcohol that no one noticed a shortage of Argentine Corn Pie

In closing, I lost almost four hours of my life to Argentine Corn Pie. Lesson learned – next time stick with dessert, buy it at the bakery and fashion a miniature Argentina flag to stick in the middle of it. Done.

I’m grateful that I didn’t let this futile exercise in cooking affect my evening and we had a wonderful time. With age comes great wisdom to not take anything too seriously.

What’s your worst cooking disaster?

My Own Little Red Riding Hood. Gratitude: Day 91

I saw her as she started to get out of the car today at the end of my sidewalk. In her little red hooded coat. Mom was more hesitant than usual today, but I got her to come with me —  out of the car, up the walk and into the house.  She even giggled a few times as I did my best Three Stooges silliness to make her laugh.

Today was my Wednesday with Mom day, when my stepdad drops her off to spend time with me while he goes to his doctor appointment.

As I took her little red jacket off once we were in the house, I felt the circle of life rounding up to a near completion.  As if I was my mother taking a coat off of me when I was little.  But instead, it was me taking her coat off as she looked at me quizzically, wondering what I was doing as I gently removed her coat.  I ushered her to a seat at my kitchen table with magazines for her to shuffle like she seems to enjoy.  I even made her a sandwich and thought about how she used to make me a peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich each day after school with a glass of milk in a jelly jar glass.

Her Alzheimer’s continues to progress and she hardly speaks.  But she is happy and I can still make her smile.  For that I am grateful.  I dread the day when I can no longer make her smile, but I try not to focus on that.

The little red coat she wears was given to me on Christmas when I was almost 16, by my Dad and stepmom.  I always loved that Woolrich coat and it matched my first car — it was a clue that Christmas that I had a red present that might be in the driveway.  (It’s actually the same coat that I was wearing in the photo from my post ” letter to my 14-year-old self .”  And I’m pretty sure that picture was  taken that same night as my sister and I celebrated Christmas with my Dad and stepmom.)

Mom always liked this coat too, and as I grew out of it, her petite frame was still able to wear it, so she adopted it. And because she has always taken perfect care of everything,  today it still looks just as new as it did years ago.  It has a plaid lining and hood, and sometimes my Mom wears the little hood when we go out.  Like my own little red riding hood.

Today I am grateful that I am able to spend time with my Mom in her little red coat on Wednesdays.  The days are a bit long, sometimes zapping my energy from the emotions of it all, but I am glad I can spend time with her.

What are you grateful for today?

Places I remember. Gratitude Experiment: Day 90

Post 90!  Holy Cow!

One of the WordPress prompts this week was to write about lyrics to a song which speaks to you.  This instantly made me think of one of my favorites that I started listening to on my car ‘cassette deck’  back in college.  Yikes, that dates me.

At any rate, the song which speaks to me the most  hands-down is by the Beatles, called “In My Life.”  On my Pinterest board for my funeral (yes, I am dark but practical), I’ve noted that this song would be perfect.  I’ve also posted a poem and my favorite flower arrangements.  Again, dark, but practical.

Here are the first two verses of this song which transports to ‘places  I remember’ every time I hear it:

All My Life by the Beatles

(Intro… great little acoustic guitar segment) 

There are places I remember
All my life …though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone …and some remain

All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends …I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life …I’ve loved them all.

There is something about the twang of the acoustic melody in this song that just makes me smile while good memories pour into my mind.

Today I’m grateful that I got to write about my favorite song.  And that I had a better day.  Just as busy and just as lacking in exercise, but a somewhat more fruitful day (despite yet another trip to the DMV only to realize I was still lacking one more document for a title transfer).

The best part was that it was a day of advocating for my son, which so far is proving to have been well worth it.  (I think I want to write an e-book about the importance of advocating for your children.   This and 30 other topics.  More on that later.)

I’m also grateful that I’ve come to the realization that when you are starting an exercise ritual with Cold Turkey as your starting place, three-times a week exercise is a much less self-sabotaging starting goal.  (So if you are on this challenge journey with me, the goal is now three times per week.)

Question for you: What song’s lyrics really speak to you?

New mantra for the moment. Forgiveness is half the battle. Gratitude Experiment: Day 89

I thought about not posting today.  About beating myself up for not exercising and posting twice as much tomorrow.

But I’m all about honesty.  And in my mind, what good is my blog if I’m not honest.

So, today I did not exercise. Certainly not in the sense of the planned out, well-executed 30 minutes of physical activity.

But I’m not sure if I sat down all day.

Lots of driving to and from today… and worrying in between.

To far-off emissions testing facilities– for my son’s car so that we can tag it– only to realize that they too are government offices and closed on Veteran’s Day. Lovely.

Answering work emails from my phone and crossing my fingers for a lack of typos. And making appointments for my Mom.

Lots of working on help for my oldest son who continues his battles with teenage life and angst. And driving him to and fro various appointments.

And his brother, the ever so patient one, to and fro his own activities and appointments, hoping his patience holds out.

Only to return late in the day, wiped. But grateful to be able embrace forgiveness of myself for not exercising, for not perfecting this whole life thing, and for just being.  And breathing.  And realizing that breathing is good.  Damn good.

What do you forgive yourself for?

Mantra. Gratitude Experiment: Day 88

 One of the blogs that I follow had a post a few weeks ago that asked readers about their personal mantra.

I’m the type of person that has quite a few mantras and favorite quotes, but I would say that I have one main mantra.  I started feeling very strongly about this one after I lost a few people dear to me within a few years and realized just how fleeting life could be:

Life is far too short to spend too much time doing things that don’t make you happy or being with people who don’t make you feel good.

That’s my deep thought for the day.

What’s your mantra?

P.S.: I walked around downtown this afternoon with a friend for 30 minutes for my exercise.  It was after brunch and mimosas, but let’s not let that spoil it.  My body was moving, after all.

Today, I’m grateful that my personal mantra has helped me realign my priorities a few times so far during my life, and that I have working feet and am able to walk without pain.  Something I certainly take for granted on a regular basis.

Changing My Barnacle Ways. Gratitude Experiment: Day 86

Before I moved to Colorado, three friends from my early career days of my advertising/pr world and I met once a month at a greasy diner to dish industry gossip and give each other grief. We did this for about five or six years religiously until I set sail for the Rockies.

As our meetings became regular, we decided to name our group, making it easier to reference. “Club Net” was the decided name, since many of us kept time sheets at work where we had to account for our time, and ‘networking’ or “Club Net” sounded way more official than ‘slacker late lunch with friends.’

We did kitschy white elephant gift exchanges each holiday season and papered our little greasy diner corner booth with ridiculous pictures and signs for each other’s birthdays. One year I got a vintage Weinermobile toy and another year a ‘vintage’ cowboy boot coffee cup, on display near my desk as I type.

We were all writers by trade and, as such, we would often email around new “words of the day” when someone came across a new word. When words were distributed, each of us had to use it in Club Net related sentence. (Yes, we were easily amused and severely sarcastic which is a dangerous combo.)

We each ended up with group nicknames that we still use to this day. Hydro became the nickname for my friend who eats like a bird and drinks copious amounts of water (in a greasy diner no less), Maladjusted Mel for my friend who is maladjusted enough for the name to perfectly fit, and Big Billy for my other friend with my shared affection for grease and whose car had a license plate frame from a Big Billy car dealership. I also affectionately called him my “Twin Stomach.”

In the early days while my name was being determined, the word sedentary came up during one of our word exercises.  Because of my well-known lack of affection for exercise, one of my Club Netters used the word in a sarcastic sentence describing  yours truly.

Horrified and amused, and later back at my desk (clearly working hard), I looked up the actual meaning of sedentary and this came up as one of the definitions:

Sedentary: pertaining to animals that move about little or are permanently attached to something, as a barnacle.

After I brought this to my group’s attention, it was official.  Barnacle would be my Club Net name.  I still close much of my correspondence with these colleagues with my “Barnacle” pen name, almost fifteen years later.

However now it has come to my attention that times (and my metabolism) have changed and middle age is upon me. So I’ve decided it’s time to change my Barnacle ways.  To shake my barnacle-self loose from the shackles of stillness that bind it.

So when one of my Yodas (see WWYD post) suggested that my new blog challenge involve exercise, it was the perfect idea.  If I can make myself write each day by publicly proclaiming a challenge, then perhaps I can make myself exercise?  And exercise ties-in perfectly with my extended gratitude experiment.  I will be able to measure the effect of exercise on my positive gratitude attitude. And perhaps fit back into my skinny jeans at some point as a bonus.

So, for these last fourteen days of my 100 Day Gratitude Challenge, I will exercise each day for a minimum of 30 minutes.  And I will have to incorporate what type of exercise I do into my posts, so that I will be held accountable.

If this is successful, I will make it part of my new Blog Challenge, which begins on November 16. If it’s not successful, you won’t hear anything more about it because I’ll act like it never happened. 🙂

However, I’m hoping this will help me jump-start the barnacle moving process, for which I found these tips online:

 Tips and Advice for removing barnacles:

  • The more often you clean barnacles, the less difficult the job will be.
  • If the removal task is too daunting, there are professional services that will remove the barnacles for you. However, the process is time consuming and can be costly if there are many barnacles and/or the boat is large.  (I’m thinking ‘boat’ here could apply to my arse.)

Wish me luck and join in if you’d like. Tis the season for overeating, so the timing is right.  I’m sure many of you already exercise regularly as most adult humans do.

But if you don’t, feel free to publicly proclaim you own starter-14-day-exercise-challenge in a comment below and then take note as you watch it affect your attitude.  It’s only 14 days after all. Barnacle history begins now.

Letter to my 14-Year-Old Self. Gratitude Experiment: Day 85

This week a writing prompt caught my attention, so here goes:

Dear 14-year-old-me,

There are so many things I want to tell you.  I’m not sure where to start.

First off, I think you should start writing in a journal. Quit fighting it. It is part of who you are. Get a journal and just write in it. You’ll be glad later.

Also, as much as your sister bugs you sometimes, please realize how wonderful and brilliant she is and how lucky you are to have her.  She is more a part of you than anyone else ever will be. Soak up every single minute of her.  Do not, I repeat, do not, fight over stupid things. Life is ever so fleeting, so keep this in the back of your mind.

As for your parents, you will not have them around forever either. You need to cut them a little slack. I know you are a teenager, and a ‘feeler’ and all, but you are awfully dramatic.  You’ll realize later that parenting is no cake walk, trust me.

Your Mom is a bit fragile and needs you to be easy on her; she is doing the best that she can. She will teach you many things about life and you will be glad that she did. Try not to get annoyed with her and realize that everyone is in charge of their own happiness.

And your Dad, even though you don’t realize it now, is really a big softie under that tough-as-nails exterior.  He’s just afraid to show it.  He too is brilliant, like your sister was.  He will take you to wonderful places and you will learn great things from him, so stop fighting it and take it all in.  He loves you a lot and you are way more like him than you realize.

Even your stepdad, cut him some slack too.  I know it’s not fun right now, but trust me, he’s going to blow you away with his strength, grace and love for your mother later in life.  He’s still a work in progress, as are we all.  I know you also don’t realize what a blessing it is that you have your stepmom in your life.  She will be there to take care of us all in our darkest hours, and she has a very sweet place for you tucked away in her heart. She too will teach you many things in life.

I know this is getting heavy, so bear with me.  Know that you are already blessed with a few friends who you will have for life.  You don’t understand how rare or fortunate this is.  Take good care of them and don’t blow them off too much to be with your boyfriend.  They will have your back more times than you can ever imagine and they will be your sisters.  Plus, in not too many years down the road, you are going to meet your soul mate, so don’t sweat the boy stuff.

And before I forget, please don’t worry or obsess about how you look or what size jeans you wear – ever.  Trust me, you will have ups and downs all along the way and it really doesn’t matter.  Plus, I promise you’ll look back one day and wonder why in the world you ever criticized the way you looked (except for your blue eye shadow – you seriously need to go easy on that this next few years).

Be sure to step back every once in a while and realize how good you have it. Try not to complain and realize that it’s all relative (you will probably say that a lot in your life).  Find a way to start giving of yourself to help others not as fortunate, so that you can make it a habit for life and keep perspective.  You have some service in your heart and you will find that it energizes you.

Lastly, realize that how you look at things affects everything in your life. And that hurdles and challenges in life are the bricks that build us.  You can do anything and handle anything thrown your way.  You have no earthly idea how strong and passionate you are.  Just remember to leave your ego at the curb every once in a while.

I think that’s it for now, my friend.  I’m grateful that I was able to reflect on these things for you. Godspeed.

Yours truly,

Older Self