Tag Archives: gratitude

Looking Back at Missed Opportunities

At Mass today, I couldn’t help but notice her. She sat by herself, nicely coiffed, with her dark black curls fixed just so and her petite size 4 designer clothes immaculately pressed. Her posture reminded me of a ballerina, except that she had a humility that is hard to find in a dancer. I’m guessing that she is in her late 70s or early 80s.

The reason I couldn’t stop seeing her was because she was by herself. Many years ago, when my children were young and I was hopeful to attend daily Mass, she and her two sisters would always stop and talk with us. Over weeks and months, we got to know them better, and they each had their own sweet personalities. They had such a similar look and mannerism that my children may have thought they were triplets. It was like having three Grandmas cooing and adoring my passel of children. Even though they were not related to us, they knew how to love and my family basked in their warmth.

As life goes, we moved away and moved on. We haven’t seen these ladies in years. Today, we went back to celebrate Mass for Mother’s Day with my husband’s mom at her church. That’s why I saw her. So many questions I wanted to ask. Were her sisters still living? I hope they had just moved into a nursing home. Was she the youngest? Did any of them have children? What is life like when your best friends and also your sisters die before you?

As Mass ended, and we headed out the door, I turned to see if she was in the crowd. That’s when another friend and her family spied us and interrupted my thoughts. “Happy Mother’s Day,” she said and gave me a hug. I smiled and hugged her back. When I remembered to look back, my elderly friend was nowhere to be seen. I hope she has a lovely Mother’s Day and may the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.



Losing a Father, a Daughter and a Marriage

My oldest sister always says that bad news comes in threes. Today, my son’s teammate’s father died, a friend at church’s daughter in high school died suddenly, and prayers were requested for a couple in their 70’s who are on the brink of divorce because of much unforgiveness. By about 9 a.m. this morning, I no longer wanted to even check my email!

Maybe that’s why my day was just off kilter. I was moving a bedroom for my daughter while she was at a soccer tournament. Everywhere I turned, this small project grew. The bed I was planning to use needed a repair. I didn’t have the right tools, but decided to try anyway. Translation: this will take twice as long and most likely won’t turn out as well. Once I made that repair, I found another repair was needed. It kept going like this almost all day long.

When my husband called to see if I wanted to come see the soccer games, I was a bit curt on the phone. Of course, I want to see my daughter play soccer on a beautiful day, but unfortunately, I had a job to finish. The ridiculous part of it all is that the actual moving of the bedroom probably took only 1 hour. It was all the repairs and cleaning and reorganizing that consumed the rest of the day.

In general, I am not one to be in a foul mood. But I found myself caught in that trap today. Did I stop and turn it over to God and let Him take care of it? Oh no. Did I acknowledge that the news of death and divorce makes me sad? Nope. Did I remember to thank God for this day? Nope. Did I remember to thank God for my husband? Nope. Did I remember to thank God for my daughter? Nope.

So, basically, I failed drastically today. I let the emotional turmoil of harsh life realities bleed over into my own mood. I did not practice gratitude at a very fundamental level. The only thing I did accomplish was a bedroom put back together. Compared to these other things, that just doesn’t feel like much of an accomplishment.

I think I will spend this evening focused on gratitude. And I pray that tomorrow is a very different type of day.



How to Accept Gifts With Grace

Graciously accepting gifts is harder than it sounds. In my family, accepting a compliment was like bragging. If you were gifted in any way, that was obvious and so it didn’t need to be mentioned. Since I was raised in this type of environment, I didn’t even realize that I had a problem graciously accepting gifts, even as small as a compliment. So this post is for those of you out there like me, who need some ideas on how to be a gracious “receiver” of the gift.

First, let me help you identify if you have this problem. Here are some of the ways it might manifest in your life:

Situation #1:
A co-worker gives you a simple compliment such as, “I like your new haircut.” You immediately respond, “Oh, well, I think it’s too short for what I really wanted and I’m not sure I can even manage to style it right.” That is not the way to accept a compliment.

Instead, you should say, “Well, thanks!” It’s as simple as that. How I came to realize this is a co-worker told me that I would never accept her compliments and it bothered her. She gave me specific examples, and I realized she was right. I have learned to say, “Thank you,” although if feels like my mouth is full of rocks.

Situation #2:
While visiting a neighbor’s house, she offers you a bottled water or something to eat. You immediately say, “Oh, I’m fine.” And you may have just had lunch and are truly full. That is not the way to accept your hostess’ gift.

Try this instead: out of courtesy, accept the water or food. You do not have to finish it and that is not wasteful. Breaking bread together (or drinking water) is a simple way to show you are friends with someone.

Situation #3:
A  friend points out that you have a natural talent at (fill-in-the-blank). You laugh it off and say, “Oh, I am not really that good at (fill-in-the-blank). That is not the way to accept your God-given gifts. 

God does not make junk! You were given some amazing gifts that only you have. They are irreplaceable and there is no one on this planet who can come close to being you! I suggest you respond with, “Why, I never realized that before now. I am so glad you pointed that out because you are right, I am good at (fill-in-the-blank).” Then thank God the next time you pause in prayer!


Moving in with Grandma

About 8 years ago, my family uprooted and moved to a new city to care for my husband’s elderly mother. When my children found out that we were going to live with Grandma, they thought they had died and gone to heaven because Grandma pretty much kept a never-ending supply of ice cream and treats around the house. In kid world, this was definitely an upgrade situation.

But in reality, combining two households was challenging to say the least. Grandma had been living a solitary life by herself since my husband’s father’s death almost 4 years earlier. Meanwhile, we had rambunctious children ranging in age from 2 to 8 years old.  Also, Grandma had a very strong personality, plus liked to “favor” one of the children.  She didn’t seem to understand that when we were parenting our children, she couldn’t insert herself and have it work out very well.

Living with a octogenarian who has increasing dementia keeps life interesting. If you think toddlers are challenging, you are just beginning to understand what this is really like. Layer in a few of her adult children who are in denial about their parent’s condition, and who also conveniently live out-of-town, and you begin to get a picture of some of the fun we have experienced. Our family has definitely grown in many virtues because of choosing to serve Grandma.

Fast forward 8 years. We had to transition Grandma to a long-term care facility last year for a whole host of reasons. My family has been mourning the loss, even though she is only 1 mile away. We visit her often, but not many people seem to understand how it feels to embrace someone into your daily life like we did, then have to “let go.” I think that has been the hardest part of this transition. We love her dearly and she was part of our immediate lives for 8 years. She turned 90 years old last week, and we celebrated with her at the center. My children played piano and she sang along. We all ate way too much pie. Half the residents stayed and listened to the recital. One even claimed my children as her grandchildren, too. She also had a birthday next week. She thinks she is turning 92.

Grandma taught us many lessons which I want to share with you today. I hope you can learn as much as we did!

  1. A positive attitude is everything. Grandma lived through the Depression, WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, etc…She knew what it meant to face difficulties. Her approach was to always keep a positive outlook. When she went into the long-term care facility, she never looked back. She takes “the bus” on outings once a week. She doesn’t have any idea where she went, but she sure enjoys it. She cannot get over how lucky she is to have such a loving, caring staff who she works with! I see that her loving attitude attracts the loving, caring staff.
  2. A simple faith to know that God loves you. Grandma was blessed to have many holy people guide her throughout her life. Some of the people who she had for direction are now famous names. She could recall all kinds of examples of how God opened doors for her. I noticed that she was always willing to step through them.
  3. Never, never, never give up. Grandma is like the Energizer bunny–she keeps going and going and going. She has more energy in one day than I will probably have in a lifetime. She keeps active and is persistent in what she pursues. Although, sometimes that would mean finding her dangerously perched on top of the patio table trying to open the umbrella over her head. I see that she was simply overcoming any obstacle in her path, even to her own detriment.

Grandma taught us many, many more lessons. She continues to show us how to live with dignity. She shines brightly around all of her neighbors and the staff at the center. We sure love and miss her in our lives, although we still get to visit. Thank you, Grandma, for showing us how to live. Happy 90th Birthday!

You Will Win the Gratitude Game

Someone challenged me to write a “gratitude” journal for 30 days. I love challenges! So, I got out a super fancy, spiral-bound children’s grade school notebook and started my journal.  I decided that I had to fill an entire page for each day. I also decided that I couldn’t just repeat the same things over and over. I had to try and discover new things for which I was grateful each day. I made the rule that if I had already mentioned someone or something, I could mention them again if there was a new “outstanding” reason for thankfulness.  I challenge whoever is reading this to try this for 30 solid days. But before you do, take note of your level of “happiness” before you start, and then take note of your level of “happiness” when you finish. I think you will be surprised to discover just what gratitude brings to your life.

Here are my 100 things for which I am thankful today:

  1. A warm house
  2. Healthy children
  3. A devoted husband
  4. A break from  ice and snow on the ground
  5. Fresh baked cinnamon rolls
  6. Being able to wish my dad Happy Birthday this week
  7. Having a strong faith in God
  8. A sister who texts me just the right words of encouragement
  9. Another sister who listens to my heart
  10. Another sister who reminded me of how I helped her change and grow during childhood
  11. A friend who shows me how to love
  12. Three teens who understand their call to purity
  13. A dog who wants me to play fetch
  14. My eyesight
  15. A brain overflowing with ideas
  16. Forgiveness
  17. Adoration
  18. My spiritual director
  19. Sunshine
  20. Comfortable shoes
  21. A sister-in-law who offers support and understanding
  22. Discovering a frozen pizza hidden in the freezer
  23. Good neighbors
  24. A wacky back massage from my daughter
  25. Watching my daughter practice her ballet
  26. Reading my other daughter’s essay
  27. Laughing at my son’s funny antics
  28. The Winter Olympics
  29. Two working vehicles
  30. Room for guests
  31. Functional internet access
  32. Marketing ideas that just keep pouring into my brain
  33. A creative and fun and energetic peer who likes to work with me
  34. Fancy wedding gift ideas that I don’t have to think of
  35. Birthdays
  36. Baptism days
  37. All my nieces and nephews
  38. Finding my hairdresser
  39. Learning how to make laundry soap
  40. Having access to recipes online
  41. My apron
  42. Clever ideas for mud rooms I found on Pinterest
  43. Two working washing machines
  44. Two working dryers
  45. Polite children
  46. Hardworking children
  47. Peace in my family
  48. Friday rosary
  49. Friends who help remodel
  50. Friends who have cheap remodeling ideas
  51. Real estate investors and realtors who really want to help and have virtue
  52. A great accountant
  53. Wisdom
  54. Understanding
  55. Counsel
  56. Knowledge
  57. Piety
  58. Fear of the Lord
  59. Fortitude
  60. A great roofing company
  61. Fun paint colors
  62. My grandparents – may they rest in peace
  63. Fun crafts that keep kids busy
  64. Wild hairdos
  65. Funny jokes
  66. Bad jokes told by cute kids
  67. Honesty
  68. Understanding how God loves us
  69. Realizing how much I need to work on me
  70. Letting go of what’s not important
  71. Knowing who you can rely on
  72. A clean house
  73. A simple life
  74. An ordered life
  75. Trust
  76. Moving forward
  77. Meeting problems head on
  78. Giving a hand to others
  79. Apologizing when I am wrong
  80. Letting go of regret
  81. My fuzzy socks
  82. A pantry full of food
  83. A quiet night
  84. Greek yogurt
  85. Our piano teacher
  86. Our dance studio
  87. Good soccer coaches
  88. Resolution
  89. Learning Latin
  90. Understanding my call to holiness
  91. Diet Coke with Fresh Lime
  92. Chunky Monkey Ice Cream
  93. A surprise gift
  94. Relief
  95. Cell phones
  96. Staying centered on God
  97. Joy
  98. Baking soda
  99. Being able to drive
  100. Waking up this morning