How the Smallest Things Can Change Your Soul

Turkey Happy Thnks FB timeline 2015

Thanksgiving we are reminded to count and cherish our blessings. Years ago, many people were starting to post about “Gratitude” and how the smallest things could completely change one’s inner soul and almost “attract” more blessings. I,for one felt that I was quite grateful and all this noise over being thankful for the smallest things, was way over done.

Many moments etched their memories on my soul over the years. As with any beautiful carving, it is usually through pain, sweat and perseverance that base materials become works of art. People have disappointed me, and I have experienced loss in many ways, most recently with my mom leaving this world. Someone told me once that if I wanted a better outlook (and not to let the darker, creepier moments fill my reality); I should make a list of all the things I am grateful for in my life. I thought this was nuts! I write down a few dumb words on paper and presto I am cured! (Really?)

Grattitude Changes Attitude2

I continually pushed the thought of a list of things as a fix for my saddened inner being, right out of my mind. Until one day, when I was particularly down, I thought I would give it a try. It seemed way too easy. The first words on the list were things like grateful for peace in my country and that I had I a job, and that my children had groceries. Then I thought maybe I was to look a little deeper. Nah, a quick list was supposed to fix everything, I tucked my notepad back into my night table and turned out my light.

Next morning, everything seemed the same. Except instead of trying to forget that list I kept thinking about what it really meant. Having a million things in my head (and being a little ADHD) the depth of the promised cure somehow eluded me. I was now fixated on “the list” and very discouraged that my dark, inner self, was still in full blossom.

Then I came across a quote on Facebook that read:

What if you woke up tomorrow with only what you had thanked God for today….?
(Author Unknown)

 

That hit me like a ton of bricks. Now I understood. I was taken everything I had for granted and whining and complaining about my life whenever I encountered some hurdles.

So I began another list that night, and it was at least a page long. I drifted off to sleep and then woke up again and added more. Before daylight, I had three whole pages as I pretended that if I had not noted a thanks for something, it would surely be missing from my life by sunrise. When I reread the pages, I kept remembering other things that should be grateful for as I did not want to lose any of those either.

The following night, I began my newly formed gratitude ritual with reading the pages that I was collecting in my night table drawer and then adding what I did not want to leave my life at sunrise the next morning. I was amazed how extremely blessed I am and continue to be.

So yes, that crazy list started something. It made me aware of what I take for granted all the time. The items I am grateful for is (beyond the huge blessing of nine, beautiful and healthy kids, family and friends) everyday type stuff are like being happy there is still enough hot water left for my bath, or a little bird sitting on my fence.

If one can focus on all that is good and is a blessing, regardless of how small or how previously it was taken for granted, then all the bumps in life are much easier. Thanksgiving is a day to reflect with deep gratitude for all the blessings I have in my life. Ones that I would dearly miss should I wake up tomorrow without them.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian followers!

GGG (Grateful Garden Goat)cdn happy thanksgiving NEW CORRECT1 FB

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Gratitude…self-measuring of one’s blessings

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” ~ G.K. ChestertonGG-Gratitude_IMG_1555-Copyright-2014

If one more person asks me how can I work a full-time job, look after 9 kids and still maintain and keep the house in check…I will have to resort to showing pictures of the zoo my house really is! Okay, I get that for the rank and file parent out there; just managing one or two kids is exhausting. Not to mention the kid’s stuff, a spouse (their stuff), work (lots of stuff) and a home (even more stuff) and then balancing schedules… plus laundry!

People meet me and after they pick their jaw up off the ground (after learning this goat has 9 kids)…the very next statement that rolls off their tongue is “Well…it is nice that you can afford them and don’t have to work!”

What?

Not sure why this is an automatic assumption on the part of the rest of the world …but so often it is. When I fill in the blanks… “No, not quite…I work full-time.” I often have to state that “work” is “outside” of running a household that size (which in itself is a full-time occupation)!” The reaction varies from “I do not know how you do it!” (Actually… neither do I), through “you are crazy!” (Ah…yes, tell me something I don’t already know) or “I guess you pay a cleaning lady!” (The short answer is NO!). The best one of all “Then surely you must drink” (okay…maybe I should?).

The reality is I do not try as hard as the rest of you do and that is where the difference resides. I lowered my standards eons ago. I just take care of the basics (for those of you that are worried …laundry and regular bathing are considered basics at my house).

kidsA key tip in managing a tribe of this size is never to visit Pinterest. Then I do not have to view the crafty, clever and creative solutions, better minds than mine devised to ensure one’s home looks like it came out of a magazine. Nor do I have to see the endless recipes and ideas for animal themed cupcakes and haute cuisine/couture for the kindergarten crowd. I am spared understanding that the furniture currently located in my living room is something neighborhood services would decline to sell in the local thrift store. Furthermore, I will be isolated from all the cute and clever toddler hairstyles that scream to the world “Mommy REALLY cares.”  Instead, I just do the basics.

I try to be sure the bills are all paid, there is good food, adequate clothing (sometime even “cool” stuff in my daughter’s own words) and that the house is well enough maintained that neither child services or public health has had to issue an edict against me (so far…so good)!

Along the way, there are some things that have slipped by the wayside.

Years ago, when I was a younger goat and only had 4 or 5 kids, I would do some of those AWESOME mom things like baking each child’s class their own gingerbread house, decorating it with tons of candy and personally delivering to each child’s classroom. (That would be when I wasn’t baking other treats for the school or writing I love you notes in my children’s lunches.)  I also used to publish a family newsletter every year detailing the each child’s adventures and exploits from the previous year and send this epistle out to the faithful. (At one point, complete strangers were asking to be included on the newsletter list as apparently it had HUGE entertainment value). I used to bake, knit sweaters, sew and draw while still working full-time. People always marveled at how I could balance all that I did while working for an external employer.  Those were the days. Then number “7”, “8” and “9” babies came along in tandem with advancing age forcing this goat to slow down a little more.

People always assume I am trying to be super mom. Nothing could be further than the truth. I am human (mostly) and any cape and tights I might lay claim to are likely to have been stolen by some kid as their Halloween costume.

The real issue is not how I handle anything, it is the preconceived notion that I have to get everything right or my child will turn out as a delinquent (at times each kid has had their moments). Perfectly wonderful human beings have been raised in less than ideal circumstances while convicted criminals have been known to come from well-kept homes, designed by Martha Stewart and raised in accordance with societal norms.

Lowering my standards means that when I sit in maple syrup at my house …and it is no longer still sticky…it is a good day (no kidding)!  Perhaps a better phrase than “lowering my standards” would be to say increasing my gratitude for everyday things.

These are the things that cannot be found on Pinterest, in magazines or in anyone’s well-kept house.

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My collection of “things” reside in my heart, captured forever in my memory, the everyday thrills of my adventure raising more kids than the average goat. These include all “I love you mom” whisperings in my ear, snuggles with the little folk at bedtime, random kisses & hugs.

Before anyone thinks this is a Hallmark greeting card (my life that is), my gratitude also extends to the lively debates (some heated) regularly held with the teenagers (with broken or ruined décor in the house to prove it). I have the same frustrations and stress on my path as the average parent. Sometimes sheer numbers makes it seem like much more (thankfully I do find comfort in one” mistake-eraser” I count on… my washing machine).

I choose to acknowledge with gratitude my place in life as I celebrate how truly blessed I am with the family I have, including all the ups and downs along this road called “life.” (There are some things I could live without…like having to flush toilets for teenagers who seem to be too busy for the basics in life.)

Today, as we celebrate the Canadian Thanksgiving I am reminded how grateful I am for all that happens in my life. It has made me who I am today and will shape who I am tomorrow.

I look at my family and realize that I am blessed beyond belief.

If my house looks like a tornado hit a trailer park, laundry is piled up (socks hanging from the chandeliers) and old pizza residing in the corners of the couch (what is left of it)… so be it. The fact that my interior decor is several shades of paint intermittently displaying early toddler scribbling (amongst the evidence of teenage angst) and there isn’t “Live! Love! Laugh! = FAMILY” in lettered wood cut-outs in the front hallway…it is still my home. It is the hub where my children lives are being lived and I am most grateful to have each of them in my life. (I am equally grateful that family services and public health in this area are understaffed!)

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I wish you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving Day celebrating with gratitude all the blessings family and friends bring into one’s life.

A Grateful Garden Goat!

 

A time for everything and everyone

I had another topic all picked out to rant on about and then “last week” occurred (just over ten days ago now). Those readers in Canada will realize that the week I speak of ended with a long weekend, Canadian Thanksgiving.  The week in question started off a little oddly as three people I knew quite well all passed away. Not that strange as that has happened before. However, two of these three people knew of each other and in some stroke of weird alignment, ALL…three funerals happened on the same day! I kid (no goat pun intended) NOT! Two were scheduled within an hour of each so that in the end I could only attend two of the three services.

This meant I had the opportunity within a 3 hour window to compare two eulogies detailing the high points of lives (lived in excess of 70 plus years) served on this planet. It is a very sobering experience to keep company with one’s self knowing that one has personally already lived more than half of the years in the lifetimes being celebrated and my dismissal from this earth is approaching. All sorts of thoughts swirled around in my head. What have I contributed to the earth (ya okay, beyond the nine offspring)? What if someone I knew should suddenly not be there tomorrow? Do my children KNOW how much I love them?  Are there people I want to make amends with before I go? Are there friends who mean a lot to me that perhaps are not aware of how highly they are regarded? Are there family members I want a closer bond with? Is there something extra I really want ( or need) to accomplish in this life? As I watched the immediate families and relatives at these services I gained a clearer perspective on what an impact the deceased has made (or not) on all the lives around them.

Gratitude changes what we have into enough

When things look like they are taking a turn for the worse or I get bad news I try to remember what I am truly grateful for.

One of the funeral cards reads with a message from the deceased. “I ask forgiveness of everyone I may have offended by my words, actions, negligence and ignorance. May it not be said that anyone be punished because of offences towards me, as it is my desire to completely forgive them now and forever.” I have been to many wakes and seen numerous funeral cards but never had I seen this. I was taken by both the courage this took to write (and admit offences) but also by the regret that must have been present in life by the writer.

Sometimes things in life do not go the way we hope, wanted or thought they would turn out. People sometimes take offence easily and I can often be “one of those.”  Life is too short for all of this. I wondered when I read the funeral card what might it have been like if some of these trespasses referred to had been forgiven in this person’s life and relationships restored while there was still time to enjoy the renewed relationship. Time stands still for no one.

On my way home from this funeral, I was in an accident (no…I am not making this up). I was turning left with the advance signal into blinding sunlight when my car and a cyclist collided. I cannot hope to ever explain how I felt. It was terrible. The cyclist was bruised and shaken but thankfully no lasting injury or broken bone. He was wearing a bike helmet (hope my kids do). He had seen my vehicle but thought he had time to continue and that when I saw him I would surely stop. He did not realize that I was totally blinded by the sun and could not have had a chance to see him. Later at the hospital I marveled at how he was basically fine after what could have been a total fatality. I told him he had an awesome guardian angel. He told me his grandmother had lived to over 100 years and the day of the accident was her birthday. I felt overwhelmed.

Fate had me at the hospital checking on this stranger’s condition at the same time understanding how really fortunate we both were. Neither of us sustained serious injuries. It was just not our time to be called from this earth.  I let the police take me home as I was too upset to want to move my car immediately. I was not charged by the police as the situation was ruled truly an unavoidable accident.

The eulogy in the second funeral quoted Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 “there is a time for everything” and I have always struggled with this passage as I never liked to have any of the good things come to an end. For example I like “there is a time for love” but when it is followed by “there is a time for hate”…not so much. Throughout the second eulogy I realized that things we think are important rarely are and things we think are not important most certainly are. In the end we are all going to exit this world. At that point many things we worry about and struggle with every day will no longer matter. What will matter is what eternity looks like and how did I use the gifts I have been given while here on earth.

Ephesians 3:1-8

I took from that a call to courage. Engage the person that will not speak to you, try to establish communication even if there has been a freeze out forever.  Basically really try to restore any fractured relationships while there is time to enjoy the mended connection. I know that it is hard but so well worth doing. Some people fade away and say they are “busy” others get left behind because I am sometimes “busy.” Others still feel offended or offend and then retreat. I found that funeral card very thought-provoking. I hope that I am able to restore any injured relationships and maintain same during my life as I move forward.

As of the writing of this we are already past Canadian Thanksgiving and almost a month before American Thanksgiving. I am reminded about how grateful I should be for the many blessings I have. I thought about how everyday life races past and each single day melts together forming weeks and then morphs again into years of memories. The time we are here is now. What counts is that the people in our lives know how much we do care while we are alive. I resolved to make time for those people who in the busyness of everyday life I have left behind as life races past.

When things look like they are taking a turn for the worse or I get bad news I try to remember what I am truly grateful for. Sometimes the things that are the smallest become the biggest. I have also realized the more often I stop to acknowledge gratitude in my life the more rewarding and meaningful my life becomes.

My list of what I am thankful for looks something like this:

  • That there was a guardian angel looking after both the cyclist and myself that fateful day and no serious injuries were sustained.
  • Nine beautiful and healthy kids (yes all little goats) regardless of the chores they have left unattended.
  • My husband (although if you were to ask him…there might be times where I seem somewhat unappreciative of the male gender in general).
  • My two-year-old telling me how much she missed me (and I only went to put the garbage out).
  • The smile from my granddaughter just because I came into her view.
  • Enough cream left in the fridge by the teenagers to actually have a cup of creamy caffeine without having to go out to buy more.
  • One clean towel left as I enter the shower (there are days where this level of gratitude is not possible as the last towel was taken by something I gave birth to that NEEDED to use several towels)
  • The neighborhood red-headed woodpecker allowing me to stalk him with my camera while he busily destroys the tree.
  • The knowledge at the start of each day that I have yet another chance to make a difference on this planet.
  • The awesome people I know as well as the ones I have known and have yet to meet.
  • Knowledge that God has a great plan for me and that I need not worry.
  • My sense of humour…without which I do not think I could ever manage!
Gratitude

I sincerely believe there is no such thing as “a time to NOT “be “grateful.”

When I finish looking at all that I do have… I feel very blessed and content. I am not saying that I do not have any worries (9 kids…that is a no-brainer) or things that I wish would change it just means that I try to focus on the positive more than the negative. I find that when I review what I am grateful for I end up much happier inside regardless of what else is going on around me or how people treat me.

Beside, things can change in an instant and sometimes not always for the better. So the in keeping with a time for everything it is always time to be grateful. Because by being grateful we change how we think and how well we spent what is left of our time on this planet. I sincerely believe there is no such thing as “a time to NOT “be “grateful.”

“Gratitude changes what we have into enough.” ~Melody Beattie~

I try to remember what I am truly grateful for!

A Grateful Goat