Thankful Thursday – A New Year

NYE15

I haven’t posted a Thankful Thursday in a while. I also cannot believe we are three weeks into 2016. And yet, I’m already planning for spring, and summer, and fall, and I’m not even sure what happened to Christmas except that it was, in surprising ways, quiet, lovely and crazy, relaxing and somehow just what we needed.

I’m thankful.

I am always thankful for our small NorCal town, and the beauties of small-town living.

I am thankful for a Dear One who invited us to our small town Awesome College basketball game on New Year’s Eve – for fun, friends and family cheering together as we encouraged the team and welcomed a new year. And then the goofiness of allowing Tween to stay up until midnight, drinking too much apple cider while snuggling pooch and watching Ryan Seacrest’s (lacking) NYE show.NYEQI
I am thankful for my beloved Guy, and his birthday, and a family excursion to Marin to walk a beautiful wintry beach with my loves.marin dog marin shell marin
I am thankful for opportunities to buy and cook beautiful California in-season produce in enticing ways, to savor flavors and feed my family healthy food.broccoli
I am thankful for new creative projects that challenge, excite, and sometimes scare me just enough.

I am thankful for new books that fulfill my craving to learn through story.Jan16 bks
I am thankful for our moms’ group at church, for the leadership team who pray and lead with love; for the larger group who share their struggles and joys in prayer so we can hope and be encouraged together; and especially for my table group of women with whom we cry and laugh and share in life as we grow in faith and friendship.

I am thankful for snuggly pets.phoebe
I am thankful for my gals who take me as I am, even when I arrive with wet hair because I showered last-minute because I just wasn’t sure I was up to a night out. And yet our friendships light up my life and I need them more than they know.jan gals
I am thankful Finals Week = Almost Over for Teen. I am thankful Teen allowed Guy and me to participate in a coloring project with him (coloring = one of the “school tasks” I’m always willing to do, since no one should truly be graded on coloring), reminiscent of my own mom working on high school projects late into the night with me, cherished memories I hope my son will also have of his mom.C color

Being thankful makes me happy. What are you thankful for so far in 2016?

Jumbled

My kids don’t do transitions well. I know this, and sometimes it still surprises me.

During a still-early fall hallway conversation with Tween’s then-2nd grade teacher, she commented that Tween didn’t seem to be taking school seriously. Without missing a beat I responded, “Give him until Thanksgiving and he’ll be great!” She looked at me cross-eyed, as if I had given the most ridiculous answer. Maybe I had, but time proved me right.

What should surprise me is how little I recognize that I don’t do transitions well. Summer is more than half flown, we’re only weeks from the start of a new school year, and I haven’t yet settled into the rhythm of this season. And it’s about to change, another transition.

I can’t help comparing this summer to last. Apples to oranges but, as I want to continue to learn the lessons packed into our two-month Costa Rica sabbatical, I keep checking our blog to see what we were experiencing and learning last year.

The Costa Rica sun rises around 6am and sets around 6pm and I have never felt so physically in tune with the Earth’s rotation. Not an easy morning person, the sun beckoned me to new adventures each day, at least after a cup of coffee enjoyed facing this view:view

Leisurely mornings, adventure-filled days, and extended togetherness… Costa Rica sunset meant Family Time to eat, talk, play games or watch movies or read aloud. Of course Teen prefers friend-time to family-time, I get it. But a year ago we were making the beach safe for sea turtles and swimming in secluded waterfalls and mugging for the camera with toucans on our shoulders, making memories.

Guy and I took two weeks off for a camping vacation. And then every itinerary we discussed had some strike against it. We researched, Google-mapped, discussed, contacted friends, prayed, and persisted for hours over weeks before coming up for air with the same befuddling conclusion: we need to stay home this summer.

First world problems, I know. But I’m still disappointed.

So instead of adventuring out, we have ventured in to the crazy jumble of our garage to create a hang-out space for our kids and their friends.

We have vision, and still I’m overwhelmed. Cleaning the garage means face-planting in All The Projects I never got around to. I shafted some straight into the trash, donated others, and shuffled some back into the house. Projects covered every surface, and a few miraculously got done. And the panic-stricken late-night realization that the cleaners were coming in the morning meant that a whole bunch of projects went, yup, back into the garage. Oy!

Thank God Guy is an Energizer Bunny! Day 1 we began sorting and donating. Day 2 he pulled Too Much Stuff into the driveway and added storage areas to the rafters, then moved our extensive collection of camping gear up and out of sight. (Inside I’m screaming: “Don’t put it away, I want to use it!” Ugh.)garage

Day 3 we went to work, because that’s what happens when you work at a church and don’t leave town. To be honest, I’ve worked every day of what was supposed to be our vacation, because we are not on vacation, and I mostly work from home anyway. Sigh.

The garage is jumbled but better. I am jumbled, and a discipline of gratitude will make me better.

I’ve just finished reading The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. The surprise ending? A laser-beam focus on gratitude in two steps:

Step 1. For one week try to be aware of your tendency to criticize, to see what is missing, to focus on what is not there and comment on it. Try instead to focus on what is right. Notice what you have and others contribute. Search for things to praise. Begin with simple things. Praise the world. Appreciate your own breathing, the sunrise, the beauty of a rainstorm, the wonder in your child’s eyes. Utter some silent words of thanksgiving for these small wonders in your day. This will begin to change your focus on the negative.

Step 2. Give at least one genuine, heartfelt praise to your spouse [or child, neighbor, whoever] each day for an entire week… extend the exercise one more day. Then add another day…. When you meet someone new, look for what is special about this person. Appreciate these qualities. Remember, this all has to be genuine and heartfelt. Don’t be phony… Tell people what you notice and genuinely appreciate about them.

So I will refuse to criticize this summer, to see what is missing. I will be grateful for the progress we’ve made, the project we’ve undertaken. I will search for bright moments (Teen offered to help me do his laundry – progress!) and offer generous praise.

And eventually the garage will be clean, and I will be grateful.

Project Week

It’s been a week of projects around our house. Tween has been working on a science project. Teen completed a career project. Tween had a music lesson in preparation for his first big concert. Teen and I both finished reading books; Tween has almost finished the book he’s reading. And of course Guy and I both have had work projects.

I’ve also been loosely participating in a month-long online life coaching project. The focus is spring cleaning, not so much the house as our lives. This week’s work centers on relationships, and I realized I’ve needed some work on my relationship with myself.

I want to live intentionally, but too often I make lazy decisions. So this week I have worked on making good choices and thinking well about myself in order to break bad patterns in thought and action.

*I have made healthy choices in food and drink, including starting each day with half a lemon squeezed into hot water. I drink less coffee and still feel energized.

*I have gone to bed with a cup of tea and a book. And sometimes Tween piles in bed with a book we’re reading together, so we enjoy some bonus snuggle time.

*I have used the good skin care because, really, what’s the point of having it if it’s too precious to use, if I preserve it for special occasions? Today is a special occasion!

*I have exercised more days than not – a brisk walk does wonders for body and soul. I have caught myself thinking negatively, “I’m lazy. I’ll never be fit because I always give up.” Blah, blah, blah! I can be healthy, even if I’ll always be curvy. Hooray for curves!

*I have asked better questions: not “Does this make me look fat?” but “How do I feel?” Not “What’s wrong with me?” but “What am I good at?”

*I have smiled more. Have you noticed how contagious smiles can be?

*I have said “YES!” to life-giving situations, and I have said “No” when necessary. Here’s a biggie (for me): I went to bed before Teen was done with his career project. He put it off till last minute, and I allowed that to fully rest on his shoulders and not mine. I did get up early (not much, though) to proof-read it and offer a few suggestions, but I did not allow his procrastination to jeopardize my rest. And hallelujah, it all worked out just fine.

*I have told people precious to me how much I appreciate them. I told Teen I am proud of him and added specific reasons I like him. One of the life coaching prompts was to choose your own personal board of directors. When a friend popped into town and we were able to grab a spontaneous lunch, I told her that she was the first person who came to mind. And how glad am I that she responded with a thrilled hug?

*I stopped for a car backing out of a driveway onto a busy road. The sweet old man who walked to the edge of his driveway, helping the car out at a trafficky time of day, gave me the brightest, kindest smile in response for my simple act: I only just stopped. That’s it. But he gave me a gift of his smile.

*This one scares the life out of me but I’m putting it in print anyway: This week I have begun writing the book that has been on my mind for years. I haven’t done much, but I’ve started. It’s something. I’m ready to stop talking about being a writer and actually become a writer.

*Today was not my best day, bumps and annoyances beginning to end (maybe because I simply couldn’t get to the gym first thing? Something to consider…). Still, hard as it sometimes can be, I am choosing to forgive. I am choosing to set good boundaries. I am choosing to focus on the things I can do and let go of the rest. I am choosing to be grateful, to say “Thank you!” to God for the beautiful things.

As I began to write this blog post, I thought the words had run away with the gunk in this day. I felt sad. And then I read this – oh, how I long to leave beauty marks on the world! And just as I finished, tears brimming my eyes, Tween came in needing extra mommy snuggles just because that’s the lovebug that is our Tween. Sitting in my favorite chair, I hadn’t bothered to turn on the overhead light. He said, “Why is my mom sitting alone in the dark?”, the dark being something completely foreign to this Child of Light who must have on all the lights in all the rooms at all times. He sat on my lap. He snuggled in close. He whispered, “I love this mom.” He kissed my lips.

I accepted it all as a gift: from my child and from my God. It might not be too long before Tween decides he’s too old for mommy snuggles so I will soak in them now to remember later. And I recognize the timing as all God, since Tween couldn’t know just how much I needed those snuggles just then.

So, thinking well about myself: even when I care for myself first in order to care for my loves and responsibilities with my best self, things will not always go the way I plan, the way I hope, the way I want. I can react, lash out or walk away, hide; or I can respond, pray, do the right thing, keep moving forward. I can look for the gifts when they aren’t obvious, and then accept the gifts and say “Thank you!”

The newest rose bushes about  to burst, white roses that erupt from pink buds

The newest rose bushes set to burst, white roses that erupt from pink buds

Easter rains yield new beauty

Easter rains yield new beauty

Thankful Thursday = Happiness!

I asked myself this morning whether I would write a Thankful Thursday post. Answer? Not sure. Then I went to my women’s group at church and one of the topics was “Happy people are grateful.”

So here we go.

*I am grateful that I am developing new rhythms and taking time to write regularly. It’s good for my soul, and I do hope something here encourages you, too.

*I am grateful for the high school girls I meet with for coffee and conversation. They fill my life with laughter and joy and perhaps I encourage them to reflect in new ways on their adolescent experiences. And, let’s be honest, maybe I feel just a little bit cool that a teenager or three consider me good company.

*I am grateful for younger friends who don’t mind when I snag their babies. Today I held an eight-month-old boy who giggled big baby chortles. Best moment of my day!

*I am grateful for friends with more life experience who encourage me to advocate for my kids, to pray for wisdom, to be honest about the struggles. I am grateful for their love without judgment.

*I am grateful for colleagues I enjoy as co-workers and as people. The gals had a quick lunch together today and commented that, while we sure like the guys, girl-talk is good.

*I am grateful for spring-in-winter and the new colors bursting to life on trees: gray and green; yellow; red, rust, and wine; peach, pink, and cotton ball white. The variety of shapes and colors stir my soul.

*I am grateful for the healing arts and that insurance covers my chiropractic visits. As of today my shoulder has healed enough that I can go two weeks between visits, significant since I was at two visits per week last spring, then once a week since summer.

*I am grateful to have followed my instincts on how to protect my body. The chiro gave me a new stretch for my lower back and confirmed that, had I done some additional exercises – the ones more or less ‘mandatory’ for a sleek physique – no doubt I would have done serious damage to my back. (Hah! That’s my ‘excuse’ and I’m sticking with it!)

*I am grateful that, even as Tween steps deeper into adolescence each day, he still wants Mommy snuggles. Yesterday he hugged me long and deep, and all I could think was, “THIS!”

*I am grateful that Teen is doing better than ever in school – no small feat for a kid who was diagnosed with ADHD only a year ago, who all his life had been labeled “lazy” by teachers, who despairingly declared himself, “nothing more than a B student.” And now he has mostly A’s. Hallelujah!

*I am grateful that Teen talks to his parents no-holds-barred on any-and-every subject. No Subject Off-Limits. Sometimes he slips into the adolescent thought-coma and doesn’t respond at all, but when he talks I am aware of what a tremendous gift it is that he engages with us in real conversation on real-to-teen-life topics. And often, he initiates the conversation – talk about a miracle!

*I am grateful for good books and that this whole family enjoys reading. Tween and I just started The Hobbit, a repeat for me but brand-new to him, especially as he’s seen all three movies and they are not the book. I love the power of a good story to whisk us away to new lands and wild adventures!

*I am grateful for a new project that stretches my mind and heart in new ways, and I am grateful for my friend who invited me into this project. I am eager to see how it will turn out.

*I am grateful for our menagerie of pets, some of whom demand that we walk them and play with them and give us affection in return, and some of whom lurk behind glass like zoo fascinations.

*I am grateful for my girlfriends, for opportunities to do life alongside amazing women.

*And today I am grateful for the reminder to be grateful, as the practice of gratitude leads to greater happiness.

Happy Thursday to You!