December 2010


2010 is drawing to a close and the promise of the New Year stretches out before us. Tantalizing, intoxicating in its newness.

It’s the perfect time to reflect on where you are and where you want to be. In the New Year I will turn 45. Forty-five!!! So to say that I have been reflecting, pondering, thinking, ruminating, and “dream bubbling” (a term my BFF and I coined to describe our larger than life wishes), is an understatement.

I can list without hesitation all the tangible things I want, but there was something else, something intangible, that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

Then I ran across a blog post by Gretchen Rubin of http://www.happiness-project.com challenging her readers to find one word to set the tone for the New Year. One word to sum up your entire theme, everything you wanted to achieve for an entire year. I was intrigued!

Then I was stumped.

I thought and thought and thought. And then I thought some more. (Picture the Grinch trying to understand why the Whos in Whoville were singing on Christmas morning after he stole all their stuff, and you’ll come close to imagining my stumped-ness.)

Finally after still more thinking, and some mindless swimming around the bottomless ocean that is the Internet, a vague idea began to form. Then it became clearer. Then it became…a word.

Better!

What I want for 2011 is for everything to be a bit better. Overall my life is pretty good and I am extremely grateful for that. However, there is always room for improvement – my house could be cleaner, I could be more organized (like I used to be pre-baby), I could be healthier, I could work harder at my relationships, hobbies and projects, I could be a better parent/spouse, I could be early more often, eat better, exercise more, remember to take my medicine and vitamins everyday. The list goes on and on. In short, every area of my life could be better – some a little, some a lot.

So my theme for 2011 is BETTER, and my goal is to work everyday to make my life a little better than it was the day before.

With that vision in mind I no longer look nervously at 45, but welcome it and better version of me it will bring.

Recently I was thumbing through an issue of Good Housekeeping Magazine and ran across an article where various authors, celebrities, and readers expressed their reasons for gratitude. Some were interesting, some thought provoking, some of the oh, please variety, but one stood out from the rest. It was written by Maya Angelou, and I quote it here in its entirety:

There was a time when I was in a state of utter despair, immersed in guilt over promises made on which I had not delivered. I went to my vocal coach, Fred Wilkerson, weeping copiously. He asked what was the matter. I responded, “I’m going crazy. I am almost at the brink of suicide.” He offered me a legal-size, lined yellow pad and a pen. He said, “Write down your blessings!” Furious that he didn’t understand my condition, I shouted, “Don’t talk nonsense, I’m telling you I am going crazy.” He said, “Write down that you could hear me say ‘write down’ and think of the millions who cannot hear the cries of their babies, or the sweet words of their beloveds, or the alarm that could help them seek safety. Write down that you can see this yellow pad and think of the millions on this planet who cannot see the smiles of their growing children or the delight in the faces of their beloveds, or the colors of the sunrise and the softness of the twilight. Write down that you know how to write. Write down that you know how to read.” Wilkie, as he was known, gave me that lesson in 1955. Fifty-five years later, I have written 31 books, essays, plays, and lyrics for songs — all on yellow pads. I remain in an attitude of gratitude.

Maya Angelou performer, poet, and author of Great Food, All Day Long  

Even though I consider myself to be very grateful for my life overall, there are times when I get caught up in busyness, frustrations, and the daily grind, and forgot how to express my gratitude.

I found Ms. Angelou’s quote particularly inspiring because it reminds me that even people as talented as she is have dark days, can admit to them, and sometimes require help to get out of them. It’s a lesson to us all that there is always something to be grateful for even when we feel we – or life – is at its worst. 

Some of the many things I am grateful for today:

My husband, my daughter, and my wonderfully large, extended family

Old friends and new acquaintances

A pleasant conversation when and where you least expect it

Resiliency

Freedom

A curious mind

Warm clothing on a cold day

Access to books, movies, music, magazines, the Internet

Cookies, brownies, chocolate

An abundance of good, healthy food to eat

The ability to cook

The ability to read and write

Glasses and contacts that correct my vision deficit

Modern medicine that saves my life on a daily basis

The sun when it shines bright and warm

Nature’s endless variety

The chance of snow

Tomatoes straight from the vine

Love, smiles, and kisses

Laughter

Clean drinking water

A tiny candy cane

Help from someone just when I needed it most

A message from a loved one that says: “I love you,”  “I miss you,” or  “thank you”

Memories

Cindy Bogard did a great guest post over at www.365lesssthings.com on Day 340 about what the “experts” say – via Real Simple Magazine – that we should save for our children.

My thought on the subject is that we should take our cues from our children – find out what they enjoy/value about us, or what holds special memories of us for them, and save those objects.

As I ruminated more on this subject, I couldn’t help but think about my parents and grandparents, and what objects that I would want to have of theirs as a personal memento. Some are still possible others are not. These items stretch beyond photographs or personal papers, which for the budding genealogist in me, goes without saying as desired items.

Here are just a few examples of things I’d love to have…

From my maternal grandfather – he died suddenly in July 1991 of a massive heart attack. I still remember getting the call from my Mom like it was yesterday. Grandpa was a quiet, to himself kind of man, but he always made me feel like I was completely adored. I would love to have any one of the worn Louie L’amour books that he was always reading, or anything from his World War II service. Mostly though, I would love to have the inexpensive little candy dish that was always stocked with Hershey Kisses (my grandparents called them Silver Tips). Whenever I came to visit, he would always open the candy dish and offer them to me by saying, “Sweets for the sweet?” I could recreate this on my own, but it wouldn’t be the same.

From my maternal grandmother – my grandma died in the spring of 1998. When I was a little kid I went every summer and stayed one week with my grandparents. It was a mini vacation from home life for me, and an extra pair of hands around the house for them since my grandparents both still worked full-time in those days. Over the years my grandma did many things for me, but every summer I did one thing for her that is now permanently associated with those summers in my memory. I rolled her change. (This was decades before CoinStar, debit cards, and mindless spending with credit cards, when cash was king and change was still considered spendable money by most people.)  

Grandma kept her change in a giant, plastic peanut and would collect it year round. When I came to visit, I’d dump that peanut out on the bed and would count and roll until I had orderly little stacks of rolled pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. It was one less chore for my hard-working grandma, and looking back, probably soothed my budding obsession with order and organization. Now, all these years later, I want that plastic peanut.

Sidebar: My paternal grandfather was a peanut farmer, so that plastic peanut is meaningful on a variety of levels.

From my Dad – I’m positive that there are a gazillion objects that my Dad owns that would remind me of different aspects of my Dad, his life and personality. But one object that forever shapes my memories of him from when I was a child, and my knowledge of his life throughout the years, and our relationship, has sat in his garage collecting dust since 1978. It is a blue, soft-top, 1968 Super Sport Camaro with white interior. I lust after that car in a way you can’t imagine, and I’ve told my Dad more than once that I would love to have it. His answer has always been, “I’ve got two boys that would probably love to have it too.” Yeah, but I’m the only one old enough to remember riding in it.

From my Mom – Mom has a lot of wonderful things, but the most sentimental of them to me would be her recipe collection – handwritten in little notebooks. My Mom is an incredible cook, from a long line of incredible cooks and those books would be an irreplaceable item of my heritage, our shared love of good food, and a pathway through her life.

There you have it, four eclectic but meaningful objects that remind me of dearly loved individuals and time spent with them. Now there are my paternal grandparents, my step-parents, my siblings, and countless aunts and uncles still to think of…