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Living a life of gratitude

Yesterday afternoon the planets aligned. I was home early enough to pick Mythankfulboy up from school, there was no baseball, and it was a nice day. We went to the gym, he mowed and weed-whacked his batting cage and beyond, and I repaired his L screen (the screen from behind which someone can pitch balls to you), weaving it back together with rope. We got creative with leftovers for dinner, did a few chores, and both did some work on our computers.  It was chilly enough that I built a fire and sat in front of the woodstove to do my work.  Partway through the evening, B got news that his dad agreed to contribute to a new infielder’s glove, so he brought his laptop out to sit with me in front of the fire for help making the important decision about the glove’s color scheme (he always asks for my advice, but he always knows what he is going to choose before he asks, which makes me laugh).  Then for once, he got ready to head off to bed before me.

He stood over me and said, “So, I am thankful tonight that I’m getting a new glove, and I am thankful that you put my L-screen back together for me.”  He waited.

I said, “I’m thankful that you weed-whacked the whole yard, and that you’re living a life of gratitude”.  He reached down and picked up my hand and held it between his for a moment, the way a pastor might do for someone grieving.  We smiled at each other for that moment, and he said, “Me too.”

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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The importance of this ritual

I teach writing as part of my job, but we all know 1) it’s harder to teach your own kid and 2) the opportunities to teach your own kid, unless you’re homeschooling, can be catch-as-catch-can.  So, last night at 11:00, we were going over the reason that the word “both” requires a plural verb, the subtleties of satire and allegory, and the level of specificity required when writing because one’s reader is unlikely to be a mind-reader.  Mythankfulboy fought to keep his eyes open.  This was complicated by the fact that his paper is due on Monday and I left town today to return on Sunday.  At one point I gave him the lecture about not paying adequate attention to something that is critical to all the things in life I assume he wants – blah blah blah.  There may have been eye rolling.  Eventually, we got to the end of the document, and he headed off to shower and I to pack.

Smelling squeaky clean, he bounded into my room after his shower.  I had my back to my door, so when he dropped his big hands down on my shoulders I jumped.  He asked, “You always jump – don’t you hear me coming?”  I said I did, but I thought he was going to his room (next room) not mine.  He laughed and said, “Mom, I really need to get some sleep, so let’s do this chalice thing”.   Standing practically toe-to-toe, I said I was thankful for the opportunity to go to a conference.  He said he was thankful for my help on his paper.

Today I’m sitting in the back of the conference I’m attending (introvert), which is focused on positivity, grit, and gratitude.  Last night’s chalice-lighting ritual is such a good example of the research and teaching examples they are giving.  30 minutes before the chalice lighting B was rolling his eyes and I was lecturing about attitude.  We could have held onto that negativity and taken it to sleep with us.  Having the chalice lighting forced us to shift our thoughts and mindsets, and he, in particular, was able to turn a taxing event into a positive take-home within minutes.  The research shows that this skill is highly associated with happiness and health.  May it be so, Mythankfulboy.

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Appreciation

Yesterday was a weekday that felt more like a weekend.  Mythankfulboy had an orthodontist appointment (tighten those braces!), then back to school so he could catch the bus to the game with his team, then he left his baseball stuff in my car so I had to take that early to the game for pre-game practice, then he left his cleats back at school so I had to go get those, then back to the game, then to McDonald’s for a quick dinner between the game and practice for a different baseball team, then finally home to wash the uniform for tonight’s game and get some other work done.  As we circled the block leaving the field and heading to dinner, we were lucky enough to pass one of the MOOBs as she got out of her car, so we sweet-talked her into going with us, which was a treat. 

With all of this craziness, his exhaustion from baseball, and his teeth aching, B was quite ready to call it a night.  I stood beside his bed in the dark leaning over and laying my head on his comforter–covered shoulder, facing away from his face, but close enough to hear him breathe.   He said he was thankful for playing a good game (consistently good, with a double play from shortstop!), and I said I was thankful for my good camera.  I lingered a moment, then stood up, told him I loved him, and turned to go when he said, “Mom?”  I took a step closer and asked, “Yes?”   He started to speak, paused, then said, “I guess I just wanted to tell you I love you”.   There was appreciation in his voice.  I kissed his cheek, smoothed back his hair, and repeated, “I love you, too.”   With gratitude.

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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A weekend in a day

Today was an absolutely stunning day outside, and we went to the mall.  Well, first I took a walk and he hit some balls in the batting cage and I sat on the porch and worked a bit, but then we did go into the climate controlled craziness of a mall.  Mythankfulboy is as hot-natured as I am, and he is growin’ like a weed, so he needed shorts.  And a few tank tops.  It was fine.  We don’t live especially close to a mall, so there was a drive involved.  We listened to Prince and he commented that players in his current favorite Xbox game, Destiny, had all made their body armour purple in tribute.  Cool.

Watching as B carefully made choices about clothes to avoid asking for too much, I remembered something that he said recently that I wanted to be sure to get down in this diary about gratitude.  Another mom and I were talking in front of him about how the teen years are often filled with reactions of the eye-rolling and generally put-out sort.  He said he didn’t think he really did that, and I agreed, rubbing his head affectionately.  I’m forgetting exactly what he said next that was so perfectly happy, but he said something to the effect of, “I don’t really have anything to be upset about!”  Warms a momma’s heart.

In baseball news, B’s school ball team won their second game, this time only by one run – a much more satisfying win.  He had an awesome hit to right field that the outfielder watched sail right over his head.  B did make a big mistake at a different time when he was on first, though, which was kinda funny, because it was classic B.  The coach had told him to get himself into a “pickle” between 1st and 2nd bases (where you try to steal and get stuck between bases with the ball being thrown back and forth over you until someone can tag you) so that his teammate on 3rd could steal home without anyone noticing.  B headed into the steal and then forgot to turn and run back (to extend his time in the pickle), and, instead, barrelled into the second baseman.  Honestly, I can’t remember now if the guy on third made it home or not, and, at the time it just looked like B got a late start from first if he was trying to steal, which caused a grandparent of another player (sitting right next to me in the stands)  to comment angrily that B needed to learn how to steal a base if he was going to try at all.  I thought the whole thing seemed odd, but I didn’t know what had actually happened until B explained it to me in the car on the way home.  Oh well.  When he told me about it, he was over it, laughing a bit.

Tonight, B took a break from Destiny to do the chalice-lighting so that I could go on to bed while he stayed up.   I was thankful for beautiful weather.  He was thankful for “a good weekend”.  I reminded him it was only Saturday.  He said, “Oh yeah – it seemed like we got the whole weekend in just today!”

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Valentine’s Day breakthrough

Things I want to remember, and perhaps Mythankfulboy will want to someday know, about this week:

Planning: We more-or-less planned his 14th birthday party, which is coming up soon. He wants to do fondue, either Minute To Win It challenges or Who’s Line Is It Anyway party games, and a sleepover with his closest 8-10 friends. And parents are invited for everything but the sleepover. I love this kid.

Trouble: B’s middle school vice principal called to tell me B’s iPod had been confiscated for the day because he had it out in the hallway. B had already told me the story and that I would be getting a call, so I was, I guess, easygoing about the whole thing. I thanked him for letting me know. The man was practically apologetic.

Outing: We spent a day out, having lunch, buying mascara (for me), buying shoes (for him, which he can’t have until his birthday), eating Mexican restaurant white cheese dip, going to Gamestop for a new set of gaming headphones (paid for by him, for him), finishing at Target where he went in alone to buy Valentines for me and for his dad. I got the following texts that I didn’t hear over the car radio, so he was on his own (capitalization and punctuation all his):

I CAN’T FIND THE CARD AISLE

WHAT THE BAAAAALLS

found them! on to the candy…

would you want anything other than Russell stover?

my way to checkout

Gratitude: When we got home I went into the bathroom, and then came the inevitable, “Mom?”   I thought, “Of course, as soon as I go to the bathroom” and sighed in my head before I said, “Yes?” He was now standing outside the door, and he said, “Thanks for taking me out and spending the day with me.” Oh. Well, his timing wasn’t great, but what a sweet thing. I called, “Thanks for spending it with me. I had a great time.” He said, “Me too” and walked away. Then the dog started whining outside the door.

Breakthrough: B spent Friday night and Saturday morning at his dad’s (and going to dodgeball). When he got home he was a little frustrated with his dad because he had asked if they could go get me something for V-day and he either forgot or decided against it. I, of course, said no biggie. Then his dad’s wife texted B to tell him she hadn’t forgotten, and asking if she could come pick him up sometime that afternoon to go get me something. B read the text and turned to me in frustration that his dad hadn’t remembered. I didn’t say anything, but looked intently at him with a very slight smile.   We looked at each other a moment, after which he said, “It’s really nice of S, though.” He asked if it was okay with me and I said of course. A few hours later we left to have our day, so it didn’t happen, but when he was signing the card he got for his dad, I said “You know, you –“ at which point he interrupted me and said, “I know, I should write it to Dad and S.” And he did. Just like that.

Prayer:  I am thankful, thankful, thankful for the sweetness of this Valentine week in which fondue and vice principals intermingled, the words “balls” and “Russell Stover” happened in the same text series, and B held love for me and appreciation for his step-mother simultaneously in his heart.   Amen

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Wine glasses and Severus Snape

There is something that has been bugging me about our chalice–lighting. It began with Mythankfulboy’s decision not to sleep inside his covers, but on top of them with throw blankets as his cover.  He did this for two reasons: one, so that throw blankets were all he/we had to wash and he/we didn’t have to deal with fitted sheets (or “feta cheese”, if you believe speech–to–text), and two, so that he could move his head to the other end of the bed which was closer to all things technological.  This required his moving his fan to a stool next to the bed (near what would most people be considered the foot of the bed). This domino effect continued until there was no place for me to stand or sit anymore anywhere close to him, so I found myself pacing around uncomfortably while doing the chalice–lighting, while he was snug as a bug in a rug.  My discomfort was pushing me out the door before we really connected around the chalice.  Something had to change.

So, last night I called him into the living room to discuss a change of plan. I suggested that we re-route some of his cords and move his stuff (I believe I said “crap”) so that I could sit in the desk chair at the foot of his bed for the thankfulness ritual. I warned him this would mean I would probably reach out and stroke his hair affectionately from time to time.  He said this was all doable.

I am happy to report that the plan worked. He had so much to tell me about his day and his friends that I finally had to put my foot down and say we really needed to do the actual chalice.  He was grateful last night for wine glasses.  He had made me laugh earlier in the night by walking through the living room with apple juice in a wine glass held aloft with the wine glass stem tucked between his middle and ring finger and his hand cupping the bottom of the cup.  When I asked him what he was doing, he said he “needed a change of pace”.  I was thankful for Severus Snape and the brilliant man, Alan Rickman, who brought him to life off the pages of the Harry Potter book series.  A moment of silence fell, and, as I rose to go I told B I loved him.  He said, “Aren’t you going to stroke my hair?”

So I sat back down, with love and gratitude.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Putting the bae in Thanksgiving

For Thanksgiving we took our annual roadtrip to Baltimore to see J, M, & S – a lovely tradition for us.  We took the dog, and he and their dog had an electric time together (heaven help us, they like each other so much they have to occasionally be separated).  J smoked a marvelous turkey (the man is a genius with meat), and M did most everything else, cooking food for a bunch of us that she couldn’t eat herself due to non-frivolous dietary restrictions.  I chipped in here and there, but, mostly, B and I had a beautiful meal delivered to us (of which, I should note, B only ate mac n’ cheese, cornbread, and bacon, although he tried the turkey).  We looked around the table this year and said that we thought we did the best, yet, with not making too much food.  Still, there was an embarrassment of food and love.  This year I took with me Seth Godin’s The Thanksgiving Reader, which my friend KS shared on Facebook.  The Thanksgiving Reader is a short collection of poems, stories, and quotes about gratitude with a humanitarian, rather than a religious, bent.  It is available online for free as a PDF download.  We did a joint reading to get us started, then each read something from the collection, then closed with a joint reading.  It was simple and focused on the important stuff.  Then we ate and talked and enjoyed one another.

The next day, we spent time here and there, but together.  In the morning, M and I visited a friend of J & M’s who is in a rehab facility after an aneurism led to aphasia; we also spent time with her stalwart and faithful husband, who loves her and works so hard on her behalf.  Later we took the kids to lunch at an old-fashioned lunch counter (remember the “robbery scene” in the Christmas miniatures in the window?), and then for the ice cream for which they’d been begging.  We did a whirlwind stop at a very large mall on Black Friday, complete with 6 flights of stairs because of a broken elevator.  We laughed, as we always do together.  We had marvelous leftovers, I bored M with photos on my computer, and then we retired early.

Throughout this trip, I harped on mythankfulboy to step up and see what other people needed and to take care of others without being asked.  B is a very sweet, compliant, and helpful kid, but it has never been his strong suit to anticipate the needs of others.  Perhaps it seems picky to expect this of a 13-year old boy, but I think we’re in a serious teaching phase for this skill, and I don’t want to miss it and wonder why he doesn’t do it when he’s a grown man.  So I fussed when we both got fountain drinks from a drive-thru on the way to Baltimore and he got his own straw ready and took a big swig of his drink and I had to ask him to get a straw for me (I was driving).  When he was listless in that awkward downtime before the Thanksgiving meal, I told him to see if his “Uncle J” (chosen family, not blood) needed help out where he was working on attaching cedar shingles to an amazing shed/party house he has been building in the back yard.  At dinner, I asked B pointedly when he rose from the table and got something from the kitchen if he had asked anyone else at the table if they needed anything.  After dinner, while sharing media with M (akin, perhaps to the old boring showing of the vacation footage on reel-to-reel video), I shared a video of my nephew (blood kin) and his bride in a beautiful foot-washing ceremony at their wedding.  She and I talked about the ceremony’s Biblical roots, and how, in the ceremony, the preacher had said it was a reminder, in marriage, to always put one’s partner first.  I hadn’t consciously brought this up, but B was across the room, ostensibly watching tv, and was paying attention.

Relatedly, in the late afternoon, B perseverated on whether or not our Apple charger was (and mostly wasn’t) charging his iPod, and I finally told him I was really tired of hearing about it, at that he should find another way to entertain himself.  Lately, this has been a recurrent theme, I’m afraid.  He took himself off to the side and watched TV quietly for the rest of the evening.  When I started to put my things together to go off to bed, though, he looked up and quietly said, “Mom, you’re my real bae.”

If you are unfamiliar with teen-speak, “bae” is short for “before anyone else”, or for “babe”, or “baby”.  Teens use it to stand in for “girlfriend” or “boyfriend”.  B has not been so hot on the concept of significant-others lately – I think he’s in an in-between place where he likes girls, but he doesn’t like the prospect of their taking up all his time or interfering with his established guy friendships.  A friend of his just got his heart broken, which hasn’t furthered the cause.  So, I guess for now, it’s safe for him to give me the honor.  I felt the put-others-first lesson come together right then; being someone’s before-anyone-else means paying attention to them – putting them first.  I got the message.

And, of course, I’m sure he figured no one would ever know he said such a thing.  This is the part where I will put it down in text so I can remember it, and I will ask for forgiveness later, rather than for permission now…

When we got home today, B went straight to his dad’s house, giving me a chance to sit down in front of a fire and think about our weekend.  I come away from this weekend thankful for the fun and the hospitality, but also thankful for friends who show B what marriage should look like, for my whole chosen family (Baltimore and beyond) who show him what it means to put others first, and for the example our community models when it comes to finding joy in gratitude.

Happy Thanksgiving to us and to all of you.

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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