Thanksgiving has been one of my favorite holidays for as long as I can remember. It was always about spending time with family, cooking and talking with my mom, and sharing delicious food with people we love. When I was teaching in Ecuador, I introduced my students to the traditions and our Thanksgiving meal with Second grade became its own tradition at the school.
When I was at home for the holiday, I loved starting the custom of going around the table and sharing one thing each person was grateful for. Yes, it was an extra treat that it annoyed my little brother, but that is one of the perks of being a big sister.
It was nice to take a minute and focus on the things, situations, and people we are thankful for. I have always believed that focusing on the good will bring more good, so why not make it a habit.
But Thanksgiving is just one day. And the rush and responsibilities of every other day can make it difficult to focus on being thankful. We have so many other things that have to get done, so they take priority.
I saw the idea for a gratitude journal in Oprah’s magazine. The point was to take a few minutes at the end of the day and write down at least five things you are thankful for on that day. It sounded fantastic, so I tried it. I lasted less than a week.
It wasn’t that there was nothing to be thankful for, it’s that at the end of the day I am tired and just want to get to bed. It ended up being just one more thing I had to get done. It is hard to be grateful in that frame of mind.
This month people have been posting what they are thankful for daily on Facebook. I love reading those posts and it does help me to see some of the things I am grateful for in my life. But, if I try to sit down and post one, my mind kind of goes to mush.
When I try and make being thankful a chore, it doesn’t end up working for me.
The other day I was driving to work, as I usually do. I pulled onto the freeway and noticed how empty it was. My first thought was how lucky I am to have such a nice drive to work.
Then I looked up at the sky. The North Carolina sky is a thing of beauty. Every time I look up I marvel at how blue it is and how close it seems. Like I could reach out and touch it. And every time, I say thank you. Because I am grateful to live in a place with such an amazing view.
When I got off the freeway I passed an accident and gave thanks out loud for my safety and the convenience of not being in a wreck. Then I went back to singing along with my iPod, thankful for music I love.
As I sat in the parking lot at school, I realized that I had been thankful at least five times on the drive in. I knew it was something that happened everyday. And I knew that when I left in the afternoon, I’d be thankful on the drive to the gym and grateful for a body that works when I got there. As I left the gym to go home, I’d be thankful for my friends and CrossFit community, and then for my lovely apartment and the chance to sleep comfortably at night.
I realized that being thankful is something that comes naturally. And once we start saying thank you, it is almost impossible to stop.
It’s all in the way we see things. Look for the good, and you will be amazed at how much you see.
If you want to make a gratitude journal or post daily, that is wonderful. But if you don’t have time or the desire to add one more thing to your list, it’s nice to know you don’t have to.
All you have to do is open your eyes and be grateful.
Do you find it difficult to focus on the good in life? Have you ever been grateful for the simple, yet amazing things? What are you most thankful for in your life? Happy Thanksgiving.
Teaching elementary school is the only real job I’ve ever had. I’ve taught different grades and specialties, and in another country, but always with the little ones.
For about a year now I’ve been feeling a pull in another direction. Still in teaching, but college rather than kids. It is part of the reason I’m in an MFA program right now. Yes, I want to become better at the craft of writing. But I also want to teach it.
I went into teaching to make a difference. To help children, especially children in poverty, gain the skills and knowledge they need to bridge the equality gap. When the college teaching dream first began to grow in my head and in my heart, I felt guilty. Wasn’t my life about making a difference?
Then I realized that those students who are making it out of elementary, middle, and high school need me in college. Especially those who are first generation college students and grew up in poverty. I began to see that I could make my dream come true and still make a difference. No guilt necessary.
So what did I do about it?
Absolutely nothing. I kept teaching elementary school and trying to ignore the pull. I was too scared to take a step toward my dream so I told myself it would all have to wait until I completed my MFA.
Yes, I looked at the job postings of all the local community colleges in my area. And, yes, I day dreamed about teaching there now. But each time I thought about applying, I talked myself out of it. What if I wasn’t good enough, or ready enough as I am now? What if I applied and nothing happened? Even scarier, what if I got the job?
So I put it off another month, another term, and tried to focus on where I am now.
But teaching young children is exhausting, especially once you accept that it isn’t what you’re meant to be doing anymore. Add full-time school and writing to that, and I barely have time to sleep. I felt like I was beginning to unravel and something had to give. I decided to go part time.
In September I asked my boss about being moved from full time to part time. She said it might take some time, but she would make it happen. After almost two months of waiting, last week she told me it was impossible. For reasons that were out of her hands, and mine, being moved to part time was out.
There went my easy option. The way that I could have more time and not take any risks.
I was upset when I heard the news, and I thought about the choices I have in the situation. Staying full time at my current school is out. My health and well being aren’t worth the risk.
So I have two choices: I can apply to teach part time at the local community colleges or I can apply for a part time elementary teaching job at another school in my district.
The second choice would be easier. I know I am a good reading teacher, my resume is up to date, my principal would give me a good recommendation, and all I’ve have to do is click apply. There are positions available now, even some that begin immediately.
But it isn’t what I really want. And if I think about it, if I was meant to teach elementary school part time, wouldn’t it have worked out at my current school? I believe the universe is supportive, so there must be something else in store for me.
When I sit still and listen to my heart and my gut, they both tell me to go for what I really want. To apply to community colleges. I didn’t listen before, so now the universe is giving me a push. I can’t just stay where I am and ignore it. A choice has to be made, so I might as well chose my dream.
If it wasn’t for my principal’s decision, I wouldn’t be taking this step. I would stay safe where I am now, with more time for myself. I would probably say I’d apply come summer, but who knows if I’d actually follow through. It’s scary to go for what you really want and if the back-up plan is set in place, it is easy to put off that first step.
So life took away my back-up plan and left me without a safety net. I’m choosing to trust in life and go after my dreams. I trust that when I take that first step, the next part of the path will appear.
But, I can’t find out until I jump.
Has life ever given you a push when you were scared to go after your dreams? Do you ever wonder what you could accomplish if you weren’t afraid to fail? Has going after your dreams paid off? I’d love to hear stories of success!
When I moved across the country I couldn’t sell my condo in Oregon. The market wasn’t right and clearly the timing was off. That mortgage, and the condo that I had once loved, became like a weight around my neck. In August I wrote a post about how I needed to change my attitude because all of the frustration, hate, and worry I was feeling was being projected out into the world, and focused on my condo.
I decided to focus on how much I loved that condo when I lived there.
And I decided to be open to either renting or selling. Maybe the market had improved in the year I was gone.
I changed my thoughts to positive and I changed the way I talked about the condo. I closed my eyes and remembered the moment I walked in and saw the place for the first time. It was love at first sight.
I decided to take the rental ad off Craigslist for a few weeks. It had been up so long that people would think something was wrong with the place. And all the calls and showings hadn’t turned into actual renters.
I figured why not talk to my realtor and see if selling was a possibility, too.
My realtor told me that the market had changed since I left, and for the better. She said August was a great time to list. Something about interest rates, I think.
She did some research, I looked at my loan and did some calculations, and we came up with a listing price. If it was going to sell, I needed to be able to pay off my loan and all the fees that come along with selling property. And, in the back of my mind I held on to the small dream of getting back my down payment.
But what I really wanted was someone to love the condo as much as I did. Someone to buy it and make it their home.
So I sat down and thought about how much I loved the place and how I wanted someone else to fall in love with it and go into contract on it (leaving it open for renting or buying) so that it work out the best way possible for everyone involved.
Then I lit a candle and let all my worries go.
Actually, I kind of forgot about it.
Until a little over a week later when I saw three missed calls from my realtor. I called her right away to make sure everything was ok.
Everything was more than ok. There was an offer on my condo. A full price offer from someone who loved the place and even wrote me a letter to say just how much they wanted to buy it and call it home.
But before we could take a deep breath and get the acceptance signed, another full price offer came in.
I flipped out. Two full price offers in the same weekend! It was pretty amazing.
The second offer was from someone who wanted to buy it as an investment. Which meant they would rent it out, not live in it and love it.
It wasn’t a difficult choice.
I accepted the offer of the buyer who loved the condo, because that’s what really mattered.
The rest was a blur of paperwork, phone calls, and emails. Sure, there were little nuisances along the way (don’t get me started on the taxes). But, in the end we all got what we wanted.
I can now say that I am no longer a home owner. I don’t have to worry about a mortgage for a place where I don’t live. The buyer has a condo they are happy to come home to everyday, the two realtors made their money and had a good experience doing it. Even the people from the title company were friendly and helpful.
And, I even got my down payment back!
It was win, win, win all around.
All I had to do was change how I felt and thought about the condo and focus on what was best for everyone involved. The hardest part was to let go and trust. Once I did that, everything fell into place.
Because it really is true what everyone says: Things really do turn out ok in the end. We just have to focus on the positive and have a little faith.
Has changing your thoughts helped you? What is the hardest part? Is it letting go and having trust? If you look back at your life can you see how things have worked out for the best? Does focusing on the positive help you get better results?
Life is stressful. We all have a lot going on. Jobs, hobbies, school, exercise, friends, families, not to mention we have to do the laundry and figure out how to keep ourselves fed. Sometimes it feels like a never-ending To Do list.
Right now is an especially busy time for me and I’ve been getting overwhelmed kind of easily. It’s like my back is always packed full and anything can be that one last piece of straw to break it.
I’m not sure if mothers have some sort of built in radar for noticing this, but my step-mom seems to always know when I need a little pick me up.
This week I went to the mail box for another dreaded chore. Yes, sometimes getting the mail can be tougher than a root canal. At least, for me.
Well, this time there was something special in the mail. An envelope that was too big to be just a letter, and I recognized the handwriting. It was just like when I went away to camp as a kid and I knew she would send me something that made me feel special. Loved. Missed.
Inside was a card with the perfect message on the front: What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail? -Unknown. It was exactly what I needed to hear. And what I need to look at everyday when I sit at my desk.
I don’t know how she knew, but she always does.
In with the card was a little black and white bag. I opened it and out slid a small pair of earrings. Eiffel Tower earrings.
I have been obsessed with Paris for about as long as I can remember. And my step-mom and I have been planning a trip for some unknown time in the future.
We love to talk about the girls’ trip we are going to take. The museums we’ll visit, the shopping we’ll do, and all the sipping coffee and eating cheese at sidewalk cafes.
Even though we don’t know when it will happen, talking about it always makes us smile.
So she sent me a reminder of Paris that I can wear whenever I want.
I put them on the next day, and just wearing them made me happy. I couldn’t help but smile. When I was in the middle of annoying paperwork or rushing to eat my lunch and have time to go to the bathroom, I’d feel the little Eiffel Towers hanging from my lobes and smile.
Just wearing them makes me happy.
Such a little thing, those earrings. But they make a big difference in the way I feel.
Who knows, maybe I’ll wear them everyday.
What makes you happy? Are there any small things you can do that will make a big difference? What ordinary things make you smile?
I’ve been a big fan of the CW network for years, but I’ve always felt a secret shame for watching. Last week I admitted to a friend that I was watching Gossip Girl, but only because I was researching New York.
I couldn’t just admit to liking a TV show set in high school. There had to be an excuse.
I’m an adult. I felt the pressure to be into adult shows. You know, the ones about people with jobs and “real” problems. I worried that it is immature to watch teen dramas, and even worse to admit it.
When the guilt starts to bog me down, I turn to some of the grown up shows I do watch, like Castle or White Collar.
But it’s the summer and most of TV is just re-runs. And when I searched Netflix, it was the teen shows I wanted to watch.
I decided to go with it and watch what I want.
And that got me thinking about why I like the teen shows.
I don’t miss high school, and there’s nothing that would make me want to return or do it over again. Yes, college was some of the best years of my life. But, high school? No, thanks.
Yes, I love the fashion. Especially since most of the actors are actually adults, wearing adult clothes. They just get to be more creative because they are supposed to be teens. But that isn’t reason enough to watch a show. I can’t even sit through an entire episode of Project Runway.
What I love about the teen shows is the safety. Sounds weird, but it’s true.
I like that I can watch a dramatic show full of fights, betrayl, and solving mysteries, and know it’s all going to turn out ok in the end. There are limits and boundaries set on the violence and gore. And if someone does die, it isn’t necesarily permanent.
I would love to watch a show like Criminal Minds and help solve the mystery of who done it. But just a commercial can have me up all night, too scared to close my eyes.
Thank goodness for Pretty Little Liars. I get all the fun and mystery of solving the murder, but I can still sleep through the night.
And we always know how the series is going to end. They all go off to college and make their dreams come true. Then we flash forward a few years to the wedding scene with the main characters. Happily Ever After.
I like that predictability, that safety. Real life is scary enough.
I love knowing that I can explore and take the risks with the knowledge that it will all be ok in the end. And there is no shame in that.
Are there any TV shows or movies you watch that make you feel a little guilty? How do you feel about watching teen shows versus adult dramas? Do you like the gore and violence, or are you a happily ever after person like me?
I know I am a routine person. I like things done in a certain way. I could eat pretty much the same thing every day and be happy. I’m an adult and I have a bed time.
Having a routine keeps me productive. Working full time, going to school full time, and trying to have any sort of a life makes it necessary to schedule. It would be hard to get everything done in a day without a plan.
I’ve never thought of it as good or bad. It’s just the way it is.
Then a friend made a comment about how I can’t stand anyone to “move my cheese.” I know it is from a book about dealing with change. And I understood that my friend was saying I am too scheduled. That I need to be looser, freer, and stop being a stick-in-the-mud.
I don’t want to be boring, stubborn, or put myself in a rut. I took her comment to heart and tried to do things differently.
I didn’t plan out my meals, I stayed up a few minutes later, and I fit in doing laundry whenever I had free time.
And I was miserable.
I was hungry, I was tired, and I often didn’t have clean clothes to wear.
That’s when I realized that having a routine isn’t a bad thing and it doesn’t make me a stick-in-the-mud. It makes me happy.
During the week, I need to know what I am doing and when. I need to have my food packed and clothes clean. It’s not just how I get things done, it’s how I relax because I know I can.
I understand that doesn’t work for everyone. Everyone is not the same.
The key is to find out what works for each of us, and be ok with that.
I’m not wrong for having a routine and you’re not wrong for flying by the seat of your pants. We’d be wrong if we forced ourselves to do something that doesn’t work for us because someone or some book said we should.
I don’t want to move my cheese, and I don’t have to. It works exactly where it is.
Are you a routine person or a free-bird? Do you ever hear that the way you are doing things is wrong? What do you say to people who question your routines?
I am not really a patient person. I want what I want, when I want it. And I don’t think I’m alone in that.
When we come up with our goals and dreams, we picture ourselves with them now. Not in six months, a year, or a few years. Right now.
Normally, I hate every moment in between where I am and where I want to be. I am so focused on the future that I don’t think about the present. At all.
But right now, everything in my life is an in-between.
My job is on a terminating contract, with nothing set in stone. I got into the MFA program of my dreams, but it doesn’t start until June. I live in the cheap apartment I could afford before I had a job. I finished another book and haven’t found an agent. And since I’ve been working out consistently, my body is literally between sizes.
I could either spend a lot of time upset or figure out how to enjoy where I am now.
I love my job, so focusing on the here and now there wasn’t tough. I told my boss how much I want to stay there, and then I started updating my resume, just in case.
June isn’t really that far away. And the truth is, once I start school I will basically have three jobs. And no spare time. So, I decided to relax and have fun with all my free time now. I have been reading more, hanging out more, and painting my nails. It’s been good.
And then I looked at my closet.
I realized that I had been not fitting into my own clothes for a while. And I could have fun re-discovering my own wardrobe. I bought a few belts, and I’ve been making a game of it. It really is fun to see what new outfits I can come up with from the same old clothes.
Closet creativity at its finest.
When it comes to writing, I’m learning to slow down the last part of the process. I’m taking the time to research agents I really want, not just making a list of everyone. I love my book and I want it to end up with an agent who will love it, too. And my next book, whatever that turns out to be.
I guess it really is true what they say. It is all about the journey. We learn and grow so much from the steps in the middle. The end is just the cherry on top.
And if we slow down and look around, we can enjoy the process as much as the end result. The in-between can be fun. All we need is a new perspective, and maybe a new belt or two.
How do you feel about being in the in-between? Do you focus on the future, or are you good at living in the present? Is the journey just as important as the goal?
We can all get a little too serious at times. Most of us are serious about our jobs, our families, working out, and all the endless things on our to-do lists.
I try to think of myself as a fun, light hearted person. But I am also very much in my head. I like to have a plan and I over-think everything. Really, sandals or ballet flats shouldn’t be that big of a decision. But, I’m serious about my shoes.
When it comes to working out, I try to find that nice balance of having fun and working hard. I am usually the least serious one at the gym. Yes, I realize it is strange be more serious about footwear than working out, but that is who I am.
So, I didn’t even think twice about the crazy workout I saw posted on Monday, April First.
It was: 100 burpees, an 800 meter run, then 100 more burpees.
Anyone who hasn’t heard of burpees should first consider themselves lucky. It’s basically getting down to the ground and then back up again, with a little jump in the air, as fast as you can.
I can do about 10 before my lungs feel like they are going to burst out through my chest. I wasn’t sure if I could actually do 200.
But I also knew I couldn’t back out or skip the workout. I knew it was my fault in the first place.
You see, one of my friends had been talking about how to get in some workouts while on vacation. The head coach/owner of the gym suggested she do 100 burpees for time. I, of course, made some sort of horrified sound and asked why anyone in their right mind would want to do 100 burpees.
Apparently, I said it twice.
My friend shook her head at me and said, “Great, now he’s going to make us do 100 burpees.”
So when I saw the workout, I was feeling so guilty I didn’t even think about the calendar.
It didn’t help that the coach pointed at me and told the class the workout was because of me. I was just thankful he didn’t post that online. I wouldn’t want a bunch of tough CrossFitters to be mad at me.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it, but I knew I had no choice. Even if I collapsed into a pile of my own sweat at the end, I was going to finish.
Then 8 burpees in, he stopped us. He got a giant smile on his face and said, “April Fool’s!”
He laughed and then we all started laughing, too. He had gotten us good.
The real workout was tough, but nowhere near 200 burpees. And I was still giggling to myself after it was over.
I couldn’t believe I fell for it, on April Fool’s Day no less.
Yes, we can put some seriousness in our workouts and our work. But, we also need to leave room and time for fun. There is time to smile and time to laugh. And nothing feels quite as good as laughing at ourselves in a room full of people, all laughing at themselves, too.
Except maybe being the one who thought of the joke.
Have you ever fallen for a good joke? Any on April Fool’s Day? Can you easily laugh at yourself? Or do you take things seriously?
*Epilogue: We had to do the workout last night, for real. So the joke really was on us.
I went shopping with my BFF recently because she needed a new pair of boots and an excuse to get out of the house. You know that feeling after too many days inside, when you just have to do something.
So we went to one of my favorite places, DSW. I happen to love shoes, and I hold a special place in my heart for boots. I love tall boots, short boots, ankle booties, and even riding boots, it turns out. The only thing I don’t like are Uggs, because they are actually slippers and shouldn’t be worn out of the house, and rain boots- because that would mean there is rain. I don’t like rain.
Shopping is fun and something I’m actually good at. I am the personal shopper/stylist to my parents, and even my little brother will now ask my advice on clothing. I love helping people find things that look good on them and make them feel good.
But my bestie had no idea what she wanted. Boots. That’s all she knew.
Me, I know what I like. It’s all about the heels and toes for me. Boots need to have some sort of heel, even if it’s just a slight wedge. And the toes can’t be too round or too square. I guess I’m a little Goldilocks about it.
We walked up and down the aisles, picking out boots she liked and boots I thought would look good on her. She wanted something knee-high, but kept complaining that they were too saggy at the ankle. She thought maybe the leather needed to be thicker to stand up straight all the way up her leg.
That’s just not the way our bodies work. Knee high boots have to at least crease at the ankle. It’s kind of what allows us to walk in the them. Our ankles do have to bend.
She was about to give up on knee high boots and go back to the mid-calf kind she is comfortable with when I made her try on one more pair. I thought, maybe, a buckle at the ankle could distract the eye from the slouching leather.
And I was right. She loved them.
She learned a valuable lesson that day. She likes knee-high boots with some sort of detail at the ankle. That’s what makes the difference for her.
We left the store and went on with our shopping, but that experience made me think.
Maybe figuring out the one important thing we like can help us make all kinds of decisions. It could change the way we look at a lot of things.
So, I set off to try it out.
I had been wanting to read short stories for awhile, but never got into them the way I did with novels. But, I was determined to keep trying.
I bought a couple of those “Best Short Stories of the year” books and started reading. Once I gave myself permission to skip the stories I wasn’t into, I was able to figure out what I liked and didn’t like in a short story.
It turns out my taste in stories in similar to my taste in life: I like contemporary, urban stories that deal with relationships. Country stories, historical stories, or the “man versus nature” thing just don’t do it for me.
Since I discovered that, I’ve been reading more short stories. And enjoying them.
And since I’ve discovered the key to happiness, I’ve been using it in more areas of my life like my job, healthy eating, and exercise.
Once we know our deal-breakers and deal-makers we can find our way to happiness in most of everything that we do.
And we deserve to be happy. Even with something as simple as the boots on our feet.
What are the keys to your happiness? Do you know what you like in most of the important areas of your life? Most of us know our deal-breakers, but do you know what your deal-makers are? How do you figure out what makes you happy?
We all have habits and patterns we’ve built over the years. And we all have a style that fits us best. It sounds so boring and un-romantic, but the same is true for sleep.
During the workweek I go to bed early and get up early. When I was in college I started getting up early to workout. Now, it’ writing that gets me out of bed first thing.
But the truth is, I always thought of myself as a night owl and someone who liked to sleep in. I thought my job was forcing me to change something natural in myself. So since I have a month off, I decided to break out of my routine.
Staying up late always seemed exciting. Something I wasn’t allowed to do. Probably the way sixteen year olds look at drinking beer. And like that sixteen year old who takes a big swig of Bud Light at a party, I’m learning my lesson. Things are never as cool as they seem from afar.
Yes, I could stay up late. If you consider 11:00 late, that is. But those extra few hours weren’t exactly exciting. I sat there, watching TV or having drinks with friends, thinking about how tired I was. Sometimes I actually daydreamed about my pillow. I couldn’t enjoy the time because I was too tired and I didn’t really want to be there.
The same thing happened in the morning. No matter how late I am up at night, I can’t sleep past seven in the morning. I use an alarm to get up at four every workday, but my natural clock wakes me at 7:00. And there’s nothing I can do to change that.
I can try to sleep in. Which really just means lying in bed, awake, thinking about all the things I could do if I just got up. Not the relaxing picture I had in my mind. Although, if I lay for just a few minutes I do get some pretty great ideas for writing. But, more than those few first waking up moments, and it’s a little painful. Like I’m stopping myself from doing all the things I want to do, just to prove that I can sleep in.
When, actually, I can’t.
And that’s OK. Sometimes on Saturday mornings all I want to do is relax on the couch with a cup of coffee and watch the previous night’s episode of Fashion Police on my DVR. That is so worth getting up for.
It’s a strange thing to be at a party or dance club and be wishing you were at home, asleep. There really is a reason that I like happy hour so much. And I prefer a dance party at home, or at someone else’s house.
Sure, I want to go out dancing every few months or so. But, the next day I am useless. All I can do is sit on the couch and drool.
And a full day of shopping and hanging out with friends, followed be a late night? Forget about it. I only made it up til 9:30.
But I’ve finally come to realize that is OK. It’s who I am and how I am, and there isn’t a reason to try and change it. I get quiet time to myself in the morning and there’s plenty of fun to be had in the middle of the day.
It’s just one more way of accepting ourselves as we are, even the “boring” parts.
So, who’s ready for an afternoon dance party?
Are you a night owl or an early bird? Have you always been happy with the way you are? Are there things you wish you could change about your patterns?