Tag Archives: Gratitude

February 6 – A Mystical Birthday Gift

by Mary Jo Doig

butterfly1

In the early morning hours of my birth day, yesterday, I woke embraced in total darkness and thought of my mother exactly 74 years earlier. I knew her labor was quite prolonged and so I knew now, at 3am, she and I still had seven hours and 21 minutes ahead in the birthing task before us. As in that time nearly three-quarters of a century ago, I was surrounded by this same total darkness within her body. In addition, I would have been moist, too, enclosed in a water environment much like all my swims later in life in the ocean, the bay, and the sound off the shores of Long Island.

An unexpected fact rose into my thoughts: I’ve always been a rather fearful swimmer and in this moment of astonishing, fragile connection between two worlds seventy-four years apart, I question: was I fearful then? Of course, an instant response said silently, you must have felt terrified by being slowly pushed and squeezed forward into an unknown world ahead. Had some of that fear translated into the fearful child I had become? It could be so. Or not. The answer did not arrive; perhaps it was not even important.

My thoughts returned to the wonder of the moment, an experience unlike any I’d ever experienced. Gratitude to my mom for giving me life rose within and gently filled all the spaces of my heart. I thought of all her labor: my birth, and all the tasks that followed in raising her first child. I was not an easy child to raise; our relationship wasn’t always smooth although, eventually, we did work through many of our conflicts toward the end of her 89 years with us. Yet, when she died, although I’d worked before and in years after to remove it, sadly one relentlessly immovable brick remained in the inner wall I had carried through the years.
Nevertheless, in the still-dark and mystical early morning of my birth day, I knew that my 74th birthday had opened with a profound gift of grace. At the end of the day I knew that grace had filled each moment of the day.

~~~

Today, as I write about those mysterious moments, I find the gratitude that filled and softened my heart yesterday morning remains. Then it occurs to me to search for that final stubborn, persistent brick that weighed me down for decades. Today, though, I discover with joy that I cannot find it; it has disappeared forever, I hope.

I am intensely humbled and at peace with the gracious gifts I received yesterday. My favorite word, shalom, slides into my thoughts, filling them with each of the rich, diverse affirmations it gives: peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, and tranquility. I wish each of you, dear reader, an abundance of these same gifts.

Mary Jo Doig, a Story Circle Network member for fifteen years, is an avid reader, writer, quilter, knitter, gardener, cook, editor, and blogger. She lives in a small, eclectic town in Albemarle County, Virginia where she has an exquisite mountain view from her writing room window.

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December 21 – Giving Thanks

by Doris Jean Shaw

So Thanksgiving is over and you think the season for giving thanks is over.
Wrong, it has only begun.

Each morning, I thank the Lord that I can get out of bed. Every night, I thank the Lord that He helped me through the day. I try to remember to thank God for all the blessings He sends my way.

When my grandchildren do something cute I thank God that they are part of my life. As my two celebrate an accomplishment or pass a milestone I give thanks for the guidance that has gotten them this far.

In Hebrew, there is no word that means “to thank”. The closest is one that means “public acknowledgement”.

Give thanks to the Lord. I know you have something in your life to give thanks for but do you remember to do it?

Doris Jean Shaw
Doris Jean Shaw is a Life Coach, retired educator, and author. She loves to write about her travels, along with children’s stories and devotionals.

December 14 – Emergency Turkey

by Kayann Short

Kayann Turkey

The day before Thanksgiving, I finished setting the table in our farm’s community room for the next day’s feast. On the way back to the house, I stopped in the barn to check on the 30-pound turkey in the barn fridge, the only cold place large enough to hold it. Truthfully, we didn’t need a 30-pound turkey, but somehow my order ended up in the “extra large” category. I wasn’t even sure it would fit in our oven, not to mention having to get up an hour earlier to give those extra five pounds time to roast.

I opened the barn fridge door, expecting the top shelf to be full of turkey. The shelf was empty. The second and third shelves (too small for the turkey anyway) were empty. I even looked in all the fridge drawers and door shelves where a 30-lb turkey obviously could not hide. I looked all over the barn, thinking John had left the turkey out accidentally. I even looked back in the fridge again to be sure I wasn’t overlooking something. Still no turkey.

What to do but go ask John if he’d brought the turkey in the house. No. So where’s the turkey? Then I remembered it was Wednesday, the day the food pantry people come for the veggies we donate to community families every week. Every Tuesday, I send an email to the friend who picks up our veggies to tell her what we have. I looked back at that week’s email and saw that I had mentioned the turkey on the top shelf because I needed to let her know the veggies were on the second shelf this week. Re-reading the note, I realized that she must have sent someone else for the pick-up. Even though the turkey part of the message was vague, I knew she would never have interpreted it to mean “take the turkey.” On the other hand, someone less familiar with our arrangement certainly could think a turkey donation accompanied the vegetables.

Since the pantry was closed for the day, I tried to contact my friend but couldn’t reach her. Now the need for logistics took hold. It wasn’t that we minded the turkey having gone to the pantry, but we still needed a turkey—and it was 4 PM the day before Thanksgiving. Would we really be able to find an organic turkey at this late hour?

John jumped in the truck while I called a local store to reserve a turkey—hopefully. Yes, they had an organic turkey—21 pounds, which was plenty—and they’d hold it for him. When John got home, he said everyone in the meat department had a good laugh about our “donation.”

I was glad, in fact, not to cook that big turkey. We had plenty at our Thanksgiving meal, with most of it—potatoes, leeks, squash, onions, carrots, beets, herbs—grown on our own farm. Seated by the wood stove as the snow fell gently outside, we thought about all the Thanksgiving dinners including something from Stonebridge, from vegetables on the table to the wine we’ve grown and vinted—to the turkey in the barn fridge. We laughed at the gift of a good story with which to remember this very Thanksgiving, a reminder of gratitude for all we have and can share. For this and so much more, we are thankful.

Kayann Author Photo

Kayann Short is an SCN Star Blogger and the author of A Bushel’s Worth: An Ecobiography (Torrey House Press), an award-winning memoir of reunion with her family’s farming past and call to action for farmland preservation today. See kayannshort.com for more on her writing workshops and retreats at Stonebridge Farm and follow her at pearlmoonplenty.wordpress.com.

book cover

August 6 – Retreat

by Linda Hoye

Canning Soup

Once a year my husband goes on a salmon fishing trip with a few of his friends. It’s as much of a pleasure for me as it is for him. While he looks forward to fishing and fellowship, and anticipates the salmon, halibut, and crab he’ll bring home, I look forward to time at home replenishing my soul with silence, simplicity, and solitude.

In recent weeks I’ve been planning how I wanted to spend these precious days. I decided that this year I would have a writing retreat and get back to a piece of work I started on last year. I’ve been rereading my outline, making notes, thinking about the premise of the story, and planning where I wanted to take it. I felt inspired and eager to spend a few days with no commitment but to write.

I’m the type of person who likes to make a plan and follow through with it. No one could accuse me of being carefree and spontaneous on a regular basis. So, it was with mixed feelings when I decided to buy fifty pounds of tomatoes, twenty-five pounds of peaches, and twenty-five pounds of pickling cucumbers yesterday–the day before Gerry was leaving, the day before my personal writing retreat was scheduled to begin.

As Gerry hefted the large boxes of produce onto my kitchen counter so I could survey the bounty and snap a photograph I understood that I would spend the next few days, not working on my novel, but in the kitchen canning fruit and vegetables. I realized that I would fall into bed at the end of the days bone weary, with sore feet and a sore back, and that I would sleep well. I knew that I would spend my time creating canned goods instead of chapters.

In reality my plans changed as soon as I saw the flyer showing the produce on sale at the green grocer.  Perhaps it was because the course change was my own doing; or maybe it was because I might be as passionate about canning as I am about writing; whatever the reason I was out of bed before dawn this morning bidding farewell to my husband and chopping tomatoes, eager for my counter-tops to begin filling up with jars full of canned soup. The change of plans didn’t bother me in the least.

As I write this I’m tired and my feet are sore. Maya, my Yorkie, looks at me from her bed across the room with a look that seems to ask why we didn’t get to spend much time outside today. Ah, but there are eighteen quarts and thirteen pints of tomato soup on my kitchen counter, I’m thinking ahead to tomorrow’s canning plans. And I am writing.

It seems I will be able to have both–a writing retreat and a canning retreat—after all. Bliss.

meLinda Hoye is a writer, editor, adoptee, and somewhat-fanatical grandma who recently retired from a twenty-five-year corporate career. She lives in British Columbia, Canada with her husband and their doted-upon Yorkshire Terrier and finds contentment in her kitchen, at her writing desk, behind her camera, and in her garden. She is the author of Two Hearts: An Adoptee’s Journey Through Grief to Gratitude and blogs at A Slice of Life.

May 31 – Morning Moments

by Linda Hoye

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One of the great gifts of retirement is the opportunity to wake naturally in the morning when my body is ready. After so many years being jarred awake by the clamour of an alarm–too often after a mostly sleepless night and with my mind in go mode before my feet even hit the floor–to wake according to the rhythm of my body is a precious luxury.

These days I wake gently, often with the dawn in these late spring months. With the windows open, morning air fresh in the room, and the sound of birdsong filling the room, I surface slowly to a wakeful state. I stretch, perhaps holding lightly to the remnants of a dream, and listen to the calm cadence of my Yorkie Maya’s snoring and the peaceful resonance of Gerry’s breathing. The day stretches in front of me rich with possibility.

I take time to pray for those who are on my heart. I think about the day ahead–not in the hurried stomach-churning way I once did—instead making plans with gratitude and anticipation. There is work to be done: gardening, things around the house, and errands to run; there are also creative pursuits like photography prompts, writing projects, and even some quilting projects I’ve been thinking of getting back to.

There is satisfaction in knowing I have the gift of time and I can choose which activities to focus my attention on that day. I find deep satisfaction in living, not according to unrealistic deadlines and unrelenting demands all too common in the corporate world, but instead moving to the ebb and flow of this simple life we have chosen.

The June garden calls to me like a siren and, on those days when I can tell from the early morning air that it’s going to be a hot one, I make plans to head out early to work. On other days I consider the harvest that is already beginning: the canning, freezing, and dehydrating projects that are ahead of me; and I plan how I’ll fill the pantry this year. There is always something to think about; something to work on. I am busy according to my own schedule and pursuing passions that fulfill.

There are still challenges in this life: concerns about situations that cause angst; circumstances I can’t control; burdens that, at times, feel too heavy; but in these early morning hours when I linger in bed listening to the sweet melody of the finches waiting for the first rays of sun to come through the window, I am at peace and filled with gratitude.

These still morning moments strengthen me. I am blessed.

meLinda Hoye is a writer, editor, adoptee, and somewhat-fanatical grandma who recently retired from a twenty-five-year corporate career. She lives in British Columbia, Canada with her husband and their doted-upon Yorkshire Terrier and finds contentment in her kitchen, at her writing desk, behind her camera, and in her garden.

She is the author of Two Hearts: An Adoptee’s Journey Through Grief to Gratitude and blogs at A Slice of Life.

January 15 – iPad Blunder

by Fran Simone

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.”
– Neil Gaiman

trunk

I’m out-of-town visiting my friend, Ted, at a skilled nursing facility. He sleeps. I read a book on my iPad. Hours pass. Ted’s daughter arrives. I wait for her in the lobby where I place my coat and Baggallini tote on a chair. I love that bag. It’s lightweight with multiple compartments, including an iPad slot. Susan joins me and we head out for dinner.

After dinner, I drive to Comfort Inn and grab my suitcase from the car trunk. My bag isn’t there. I search inside the car. No bag. Not a problem. Probably left it in the lobby. I settle in and call the nursing facility, confident it’s there. No bag. Still not a problem. I call the restaurant. No bag. Maybe it fell in the parking lot.

I call Ted’s sitter. “Please double-check the lobby and if my bag isn’t there, then look in the parking lot.” No bag.

Now a problem.

The next morning, I check housekeeping at the nursing facility. No bag. I call customer service at Apple to report a lost or stolen iPad. I learn that I need my Apple ID and password or serial number.

“Well, what if I don’t have either one?”

“Then call the place where you purchased your device for serial number.”

Who carries around the serial number or memorizes their ID and passwords?

I call Best Buy back home to track the serial number. No dice. I need my credit card number.

My iPad was a gift to myself when I retired in 2011. Since then, Bank of America issued me a new credit card, one with a chip.

I call my daughter.

“Calm down, mom, we’ll figure it out.”

She calls back. “Mom, check your Amazon account which lists old credit card numbers.”

I track it down.

Back to Best Buy. They find the purchase order, but don’t keep track of serial numbers.

My daughter calls again. “Mom, I located the serial number.”

I don’t ask how.

Back to Apple.

“We can now resolve your problem but not over the phone. You have to report the loss in the cloud.”

What’s the cloud?

It’s late and I have a six-hour drive ahead of me. Although exhausted when I return home, I locate iCloud and report the loss. My iPad’s locked and can be located. Triumphant I fall into bed.

Next day while unpacking the car, I push aside a blanket in the trunk and uncover my tote bag. I am elated. My iPad is located at my home address. I am embarrassed.

During that frenzied day, I learned to keep track of serial numbers and passwords. More importantly, I learned that loss of an iPad  is small potatoes compared to Ted languishing in a nursing facility. Mistakes happen. No doubt I will make many more this year.

Fran Simone is a Professor Emeritus at Marshall University, South Charleston, WV, campus. She directed the West Virginia Writing Project and taught classes and conducted workshops in personal narrative, memoir and creative non-fiction. Her memoir, Dark Wine Waters: a Husband of a Thousand Joys and Sorrows was published last year.

August 28 – Floodables

by Kayann Short

floodables1

A week after the flood, I woke early. My first thought: Are they gone? We’d heard rumors the day before that the barricade behind which our farm was corralled would be moved further west on Highway 66. The barrier had been hastily assembled to protect our nearby town of Lyons, Colorado, until its evacuated residents could return. Because our farm borders the highway over which the floodwaters rushed, we were caught within the restricted zone, even though we’d had no flood damage and no reason to leave.

I dressed quickly and walked down our driveway toward 66. No traffic on the normally busy highway suggested the barricade remained. We’d been to the checkpoint many times to negotiate with guards as we tried to conduct normal farm business. Officials weren’t happy we’d remained, despite crops and animals that kept us in place.

Now I turned onto the highway and looked to the rising sun.

The road was empty as far as I could see. No gates, no guards, no guns. During the night, they’d disappeared. Nothing remained but grey concrete vanishing into the horizon.

“Whoohoo! They’re gone!” I yelled, pumping my fist into the air that 66 would be open to our farm again. Then I glanced around. The road was clear of trucks and equipment. I was glad no one had seen me celebrating in the midst of our town’s devastation.

floodables2

But the highway wasn’t completely bare. In the middle of the road sat a brown paper sack. I’d seen workers handed a similar lunch each morning. Figuring no one would return once the day’s work of rock and rubble began, I took the bag back to the kitchen without looking inside and forgot about it until John came in at noon. “What’s this?” he asked. Curious what some agency had packed for a laborer’s lunch, we found a tuna kit; small bags of treats; pita bread, a pear; and a Twix bar.

As organic farmers, John and I don’t each much packaged food, especially of the plastic cubicle variety. Still, someone’s hands had prepared this meal and some worker would go without. It didn’t seem right to waste food in these post-flood days when thrift seemed a virtue and feeding people was on our minds. Food seemed a gift, whether from the soil or a brown paper bag.

John ate the peanuts; I ate the pita, craisins, and Twix bar. The chickens loved the pretzels. Later, we told friends we’d composted the pear because it wasn’t organic. “Like the Twix bar was!” they teased. We’ve still got the tuna kit. It’s our take-away that life can change instantly, leaving you choices you’d never considered.

When disaster hits, people have little time to grab what’s most important. Loved ones–human and animal–come first; computers, photos, and family heirlooms next to preserve our lives before. But if memories were objects, which would you take as you rushed out the door? I’d take that morning’s call to an empty highway, “The barricade’s gone–and we’re still here.”

OWD_KayannShortKayann Short is a writer, farmer, teacher, and activist at Stonebridge Farm in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies. She is the author of A Bushel’s Worth: An Ecobiography (Torrey House Press), a memoir of reunion with her grandmothers’ farming past and a call to action for local farmland preservation today.