An Abundant Life, A Grateful Heart


“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. . . .
O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches.
No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.”
Henry David Thoreau

In the past year I have tried–really, I have–to live a more conscious, joyful and grateful life. It really shouldn’t be that hard to do, especially now that I’m retired and have all the time in the world to gaze, to ponder and to celebrate. I have tried to take more notice of all the beautiful, little things that color my world–sunrises and sunsets sinking into the horizon, wildflowers dancing in the breeze, wind chimes tinkling ever-so-lightly on the back deck, deer leaping in the mist. And I have tried to be more attentive to the people in my world as well–friends and family, near and far–and to express my appreciation for all the big and little ways they enhance my life.

And I have tried harder to share my joy–sometimes through my written words, sometimes through my photos and sometimes simply through my smiles and hugs and heart-felt thank yous.

I have tried . . . but I haven’t always succeeded. In fact, sometimes I have failed miserably, letting those nasty monsters Pain and Heartache and Negativity rule my day. My body hurt, and I let entire days slip away while I moaned on the couch–when I could have ventured into the sunshine and felt better for it. Someone uttered an unkind word, and I let it destroy me–when I could have simply smiled, considered the source and carried on. Someone else puttered along ten miles below the speed limit in front of me, and I let rage consume me–when I could have settled back and enjoyed the scenery. And when my internet went down for two days and I couldn’t check my email, do research for a blog or get a head start on my online Christmas shopping, I let tears of frustration muddle my pitiful, pitiful little life–when I could have used the time to tackle a few hundred chores that I never seem to have the time (or interest) to put behind me.

But am I really that different from anyone else? I mean, I think most of us try to focus on the goodness in our lives and to be grateful for it, and most of the time we are successful. And while some of you are good at expressing that gratitude on a daily basis, the rest of us need an occasional reminder–or an entire holiday–that forces us to stop, contemplate and praise.

So, while the pumpkin pie is cooling on the counter (minus one very large piece) and the turkey is roasting in the oven, I’m pausing for a few moments to reflect on a few of the blessings I appreciate in this abundant life:

  • I am thankful for teachers and administrators and counselors, secretaries and janitors and lunch ladies, librarians and aides and bus drivers–all those people in a school system who have the ability and desire to be a positive influence in the life of a child.
  • I am thankful for talented, creative people who inspire me with their music, their art, their photography, and their words.
  • I am thankful for the service men and women who protect my freedoms and the families who sacrifice and struggle in their absence. And I am thankful for all those individuals who donate their energy and efforts to make our troops’ lives better when they are overseas and also when those troops are back home recovering from their experiences.
  • I am thankful for restaurant, grocery store and convenience store workers who clock in on holidays. Many complaints have been voiced in the past few weeks about all the department stores opening their doors on Thanksgiving and pulling employees away from their families–but why has there never been a mass uproar over all the restaurant workers who for years have been feeding those who don’t feel like cooking, the grocery store workers who are making sure those who are cooking can run in for the last-minute ingredients they forgot, or the convenience store workers who are guaranteeing travelers can fill their tanks and their go-cups on the way to grandma’s house?
  • I am thankful for relief workers who leave the safety and convenience of their own homes to travel the world over helping the victims of tragedy. Some day I hope to join their ranks.
  • I am thankful for acupuncture needles, back rubs, whirlpool tubs and Epsom salts.
  • I am thankful for my family–for loving me when I’m unlovable, for making me laugh when I’m grumpy, for influencing me (and sometimes forcing me) to be better, stronger, bolder when I am weak.
  • I am thankful for all the kind friends who have purchased my book, for all the wonderful people who read my blog, and for all the others who read my newspaper column. Yesterday two complete strangers stopped me in the grocery store to tell me how much they enjoy reading my “day tripping” column, and their thoughtful words absolutely made my day.
  • I am thankful for sweatshirts and blue jeans, flannel pajamas and cotton socks, warm tights and leather boots.
  • I am thankful for second chances (and third and fourth ones, too).
  • I am thankful for the people who go out of their way to help others, the people who always try to put a positive spin on life’s little annoyances, and especially the people who don’t mind being silly if it will make others laugh.
  • I am thankful for those increasingly rare nights of blissful, uninterrupted sleep.
  • I am thankful for my mom’s dressing and my mother-in-law’s cranberry salad. Even though both special ladies have been gone for years now, their memories still live in my heart–and their recipes guarantee they will always be present at my Thanksgiving table.
  • And not just today but every day, I am thankful for the abundance of food on my table. After spending three days cooking the meal that will stuff six people into lethargy and fill a refrigerator with a week’s worth of leftovers, I am reminded that almost 790 million people in the world are chronically undernourished–and that 22,000 children die every day because they don’t have enough food to keep them alive.
  • I am thankful for the warm bed I crawl into each night. In the United States alone, between 2.3 to 2.5 million people are homeless (with over a million of those being children). As I lay my head on my goose down pillows and burrow beneath my grandmother’s quilts–and then kick them off ten minutes later when I’m suddenly smothering–how many poor souls are shivering in doorways with nothing but cardboard boxes and newspapers to shield them from the cold?
  • I am thankful for the electricity that powers all the luxuries and “necessities” in my home (namely, the hair dryer, the hot water heater and the computer). Winter ice storms, summer heat waves and kamikaze squirrels frying on transformers occasionally cause that power to go out (and then I’m very thankful for the linemen who work to restore it), but that’s such a minor inconvenience when I consider that 1.6 billion people (a quarter of the world’s population) live without any electricity at all.
  • I am thankful for the education that allows me to read extensively, to write expressively, to think critically (and, according to my husband, to ask way too many questions). It’s hard for me to comprehend that almost a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read or write–or that millions of children around the world are unable to attend school, with a disproportionate number of those children being girls who are forbidden.
  • I am thankful for my health. Although this ol’ body is starting to show a “little” wear and tear, it’s disease-free (crossing my fingers on that one), it’s still in relatively good shape and it has served me well. I may never win any races (“you can’t win if you don’t enter”) or kick my addictions to chocolate and caffeine, but I am a bike-riding, hula-hooping, trail-hiking machine.
  • And most of all, I am thankful for this moment, this day, this life. How did I get so incredibly lucky?

I hope you are one of the lucky ones, too–and I hope you never forget it. I hope you are spending this day embraced by the warmth of friends and family, and I hope today and every day is filled with peace and satisfaction, love and laughter–and at least a moment or two of downright silliness. Be conscious, be joyful, be grateful–and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

(Statistics cited above are from “Poverty Facts and Stats” by Anup Shah on the website Global Issues: Social, Political, Economic and Environmental Issues That Affect Us All, http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats. It’s an interesting read.)

boysThree of my greatest blessings …

37

Sunrise … 

87

Desert rose …

5

Another sunrise …

53And one lucky girl.

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About icedteawithlemon

I have recently retired from a 30-year career in education in one of the best school districts in the world. I hope to spend my second life reading, writing, photographing, traveling, biking, cheering on my favorite baseball team (the St. Louis Cardinals), and soaking up glorious sunshine. In my spare time I enjoy playing with my pet tarantulas, trying out new flavors of chewing gum, and knitting socks for prison inmates. I'm almost positive that in a past life I was one of the Seven Dwarfs (most likely "Grumpy"), and in my next life I'm going to be either a taste tester for Hershey's or a model for Victoria's Secret's new line, "Bloomers for Boomers." I want to travel country back roads, singing Vanilla Ice songs at every karaoke bar and rating bathroom cleanliness at every truckstop. And someday I plan to own a private beach where skinny girls aren't allowed. I want to be a writer when I grow up. "Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake."--Henry David Thoreau
This entry was posted in Gratitude, Photography, Simple Pleasures and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to An Abundant Life, A Grateful Heart

  1. Debbie Davenport says:

    What a wonderful reminder of the positively abundant lives we live! Your writing inspires me to be a better person; to try harder, to be more thankful, to love more deeply, to show more kindness and patience. Thank you, always a pleasure to read your blog! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  2. Hey Karen….loved this blog. As I do all of them. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. You are a blessing to all of us….flaws(which I truly don’t see, I am being honest here) and all.

    • Thank you so much, Jane. I hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving–and I hope you can spend at least part of this crisp day relaxing on your front porch and enjoying all the beauty that surrounds you.

  3. Jim says:

    Loved this blog. I always enjoy reading your musings. You have been able to voice what many of our vintage realize – that we are so very fortunate, in so many ways. Keep up the great writing!

    • Thank you, Jim! I’m so glad you’re enjoying my “musings.” I’m glad I’m at a point in my life when I have time to pause and reflect on my many blessings (obviously something I should have been doing all along, but well, you know, sometimes chasing rambunctious little boys takes precedence).

  4. Janet Taber says:

    Beautifully said. Even though I didn’t get to read this on Thanksgiving Day, it is a blessing to me today to read your expressions of thankfulness as I am preparing to head to church, for another opportunity to be thankful to the One who made it all possible.

  5. Sue says:

    Thank you, Karen, for reminding us all that no matter how dark our days feel, there is sunshine if we just look for it in every day. We are so blessed. As always, your blog warms my heart & reminds me of the joys in our lives.

    • Thank you, Sue, for your kind words and continued support. As I’m writing this response, I’m also watching the extended weather forecast–and we may need to look very hard that sunshine later this week! I suppose then I will be grateful for scarves and mittens, hot cocoa, central heating and (hopefully) photo opportunities!

  6. Wonderful post, Karen. Cranberry salad, eh? Sounds delicious. I hope and trust you and your clan had a wonderful American Thanksgiving. Our Canadian Thanksgiving falls in early October.
    So…been there, carved the turkey! 😉 Gorgeous photo of your sons, and you, me dear, look positively radiant.

    This may sound a tad odd, but seeing that I’m an odd duck, well, I’m most grateful and thankful for the acutely painful and challenging times that have occurred during the course of my life. Without these “negative” cycles spinning their wheels within my sphere of existence, I would not learn much needed, valued lessons, nor would I grow as a person. True, the insight and knowledge I gain do often occur shortly or, in some cases, long after these storm clouds have passed – I cannot see the forest for the trees at the time these dark scenes are written into my life’s script (ah, that Poe!). True, whilst in the midst of these storms I clench my fists, kick furniture, and wail to the gods, not understanding how or why a certain setback, dilemma or loss/losses is/are happening…yet once the storm clouds move on, and a high pressure zone moves in over my head, then I reflect and I ponder…and I realize that I just grew another figurative inch or two.

    A fair is foul and foul is not fair low pressure zone has recently moved into my sphere – If that hipster dude, Shakespeare, the Bard of Avon calling, is one of the authors of my life’s script, he just inserted me into Macbeth. “By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes.” “Double, double, toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble!”

    Alas this too shall pass, and I shall be the better for it.

    Wow, excuse the segway. I’m also grateful for online shopping…no stuffy malls or stress over parking.

    That is all. Carry on living, girl.

    Tiger Lil

    • By the way, your stunning photo, “Another Sunrise”, jumped out at me. The hammock and the two posts in silhouette in the foreground reminds me so much of a Japanese arch! Beautiful!

    • We all have those negative cycles–and while some learn and grow from them, others never do. (I, myself, should be ten feet tall from all the learning and growing I’ve done.) Macbeth, by the way, is my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays, but Good Lord, I would not want to be inserted into the script! I hope whatever “low pressure zone” has recently moved into your sphere quickly moves on.

      And I love that online shopping, too–especially when free shipping is involved!

      • …and image one’s book(s) ordered through Amazon being delivered on one’s front lawn by…a DRONE!? Lordy, I groan over the drone. Then again, I’ll gladly purchase my books “on location” if a pizza joint drone can deliver my pepperoni, goat cheese, mushroom, black olive large pizza lickity split! The low pressure zone has moved on, thankfully.

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