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This morning, I reached for some clothes to put on and must’ve inadvertently grabbed my cranky pants. Before I knew it, I was grumbling about things that aren’t really problems at all. 

As I started to make breakfast, I thought, Oh great, I’ll make breakfast and then I’ll have to wash the dishes right away so they don’t pile up. It was a problem with a built-in solution. Don’t let them pile up! Wash as you go. It might take longer to make breakfast this way, but I’ll end up in a better frame of mind.

Then I thought, It takes forever for the water to warm up in the morning so I can wash the dishes! But actually, it gave me a moment to adjust the thermostat. It’s chilly today, and I thought, It takes so long for the house to heat up in the morning! But actually, it gave me an excuse to stealthily sneak into my son’s room and abscond with the warm, cozy scarf I knitted “for his birthday,” fully intending to use it for most of the day when he’s at work or school! Please don’t tell.😇

These small annoyances are blessings in disguise. They give us moments to reflect on the things we take for granted. Being able to count on food on the table. Heat in the winter. Hot and cold running water. They’re tiny reminders to reflect on the sustenance and providence we’re blessed to receive every day.

Kind people, I don’t wish you hardships. If anything, I wish you only softships. Luxury liners, even! 🚢 And, on the road of life, if you stumble here and there, I hope you’ll always have a soft place to land.

But you know as well as I do that hardships are life lessons. It really is where the rubber meets the road. Your “wherewithal escrow” increases during those times you have to take the long way and come up with creative solutions.

“Discontent is the first necessity of progress.” This nugget of wisdom was on a strip of paper inside a fortune cookie.🥠 When you realize a situation isn’t working, that’s the nudge from your soul to make changes.

The opposite of “hardship” isn’t life on Easy Street. It’s purpose. Community. Working toward a goal. Self-acceptance. Contentment. Kindred spirits. Partnering with Providence.

It’d be great to be able to get ahead of the bills, but you and I both know that if we got more money, we’d spend more money 💰 and we’d just end up with new bills.

All right, so you don’t own a yacht. If you’re lucky enough to have a roof over your head, food on the table and loved ones in your life, you could just fill up your bathtub with water, put a rubber ducky 🦆 in it and call it your houseboat. If you have a place to call home 🏡 and hope for the future, you know as well as I do, you’re truly blessed indeed.

Last week when we had our first choir rehearsal of the season, as usual I sat in the back of the room.  No, the back row isn’t trouble makers. That’s the Soprano section.  Yes, I’m in that too.  I’m in the back row with the tall people.

But in the back, I can see everyone react when we open with our prayer requests.  The energy level in the room was high and then one person after another made their request.  Prayers for the family of a college friend who had died.  Prayers for a mother-in-law who lost her sister.  Cancer. Surgery.  Injuries.

With each request, the energy in the room dropped.  Shoulders sagged.

My hand shot up.  “I’ve got a  prayer of thanksgiving.”  I went on to thank everyone for my many prayer requests over the summer.  Yes, my friend still faces a masectomy BUT they have now found chemo she isn’t allergic to.  My niece hasn’t had another blood clot.  And my brother-in-law is not only walking, he is back at work with the city parks department in a very physical job.

The hard things in life need our attention in prayer but it will also weigh you down.  Be sure to offer up gratitude for the good.  You may have to look for it but it will raise your energy level and your spirit.

Me?  I thank God for helping me find this community, for the women writers at WOW, for my son and husband and the opportunities I have to work from home.  What are you thankful for?

–SueBE

This past weekend I had my 35th high school reunion.

I had completely forgotten how many people called me Beth.  How do you get Beth from Sue?  You don’t.  Beth, Marini and I ran around together.  We had gone to gradeschool together.   Beth and I were both quiet strawberry-blondes with fair skin.

I quickly learned that the sun is not your friend.  My husband jokingly calls my sunscreen SPF 2000.

But I was standing talking to two women and one of them patted my arm.  “Your skin is so nice.  Isn’t her skin nice?”

Um, thank you?

Taking a compliment has never been my strength.  Instead of just accepting it, I want to downplay it.  Freckles, ugh!

But these women were being genuinely sweet.  They wanted to say something nice and all I had to do to make them feel appreciated was say thank you.  Sure it had taken them a moment to realize that I’m still not Beth . . . oh, we should have switched name tags!  That would have been so funny . . .

–SueBE

 

Well, I’m at that age where I’m looking for magic potions to smooth out my skin. When I was younger, I always said, “Why can’t people just grow old gracefully?” It’s not until you’re older that you realize no one grows old gracefully. They get old and look old, unless they get plastic surgery.

So I bought some anti-aging skin cream, and on the front of the package, it said that “97% of the people who used this cream saw results in two weeks.” Oh, I saw results all right.

Results:

  • I realized I’d just thrown away twelve bucks for no reason.
  • I realized I’d spent five minutes each night faithfully applying glop to my face for no reason.
  • I realized that the sample size of those who had used this cream and seen positive results was exactly three (3) people, all of whom were related to the manufacturer. Joe Wrinklecream’s mother and two sisters said it works like a charm.

Over-Hyped and Under-Performing Broken Promise Potion would be the new name I’d give to that product. But then, does anything live up to its claims these days? Did I really expect a miracle in a jar I got on Amazon?

The true life lesson is that “aging gracefully” is another way of saying “living gratefully.” I’m glad I’m still here. I appreciate my blessings. There’s still much to look forward to, wrinkles, stray greys and all. Living in the present and an attitude of gratitude? That’s what works like a charm.

Every other article you see on the web offers information in the form of a list. Top ten ways to clean out your closet. Five things I’ve learned from going on a cruise. So annoying!

Then again, lists have their good qualities as well. Here are a few:

  • Lists are neat
  • They’re usually short
  • Ideas might be helpful
  • Good for those with short attention spans

Oh look! My favorite show is on now. Be right back.

As I was saying, on the other hand, lists can:

  • Give short shrift to important topics
  • Have unreliable sources
  • Make you believe any random broad from New Jersey (Yo.) is an expert on everything

Lists can be useful as a means of encouraging yourself. 

Today, I felt gratitude for so many things:

  • My humble home
  • My wonderful son, who’s my heart, walking
  • My smart phone, which I got reluctantly at 50 and became a true believer

And for minor miracles:

  • Second chances
  • “Coincidences” (AKA colliding with Providence) that work in your favor
  • Detours that lead to the right road after all

Not to mention all the creature comforts that add to my quality of life:

  • Light cream for my coffee
  • Leftovers (especially if it’s pizza) and of course
  • Lists

What are you grateful for today? Write it all down in the form of a list and life will look a whole lot brighter.

Started out the day with cereal, a cup of coffee and a knot in my stomach.

My feet hurt. The fence needs fixing. How will I….? What do I do if….?

Paused.

Had to take a moment just to be in the blessings I already have.

You can’t come at troubles with a troubled mind and make them better.

Not to be redundant, or repetitive, or say the same thing in different ways, 🙂 but, looking at a problem through a problematic mindset won’t solve the problem.

If your mind is churning, unsettled, anxious, that’s problem number one to address. Calm your mind. Leave the room where you sat, wringing your hands. Go into a room you designate as your peace room. For me it’s my sunroom, but it can be any room you choose. Breathe deeply. In through the nose, out through the mouth.

Be where you are right now. Not in the fearful future yet to happen. Get to the place inside where you know all is well. That’s not to minimize the issues you need to address. But you can only do that when you’re in the state of knowing the world hasn’t ended. Gravity still works. So does grace. Your feet are still on the ground. The sun is still shining.

In that peaceful place, an idea may come to you. If not a solution, a stopgap measure. Be still in your blessings and listen for an answer. Some way will find its way to you.

It’s easy to be grateful for the good things in life.

Today I wondered: Should we also thank God for the bad things?

So you’ve got bills. That means you’ve got services. PS Like a computer or phone to read this post.

So you’ve got a spare tire around the middle. That means you’ve eaten a nice meal in your time. PS If you’re eating right now, please clear the crumbs. I’ve got a thing. Ta.

So you’ve got worries about the future. That means for today at least, you’ve got what you need. PS Or else you’d be worrying in the present tense.

So you’ve got pain from the past. That means you’ve got things to blog about, or make a song about, or sketch about. PS And you’ve learned a few things going forward.

So you’ve got nobody to count on. That means you’ll look back on this time and realize how much it meant, since you made it there on your own. PS Time to put the effort into knowing where “there” is.

So you’ve got aching feet. That means you’ll finally realize that high heels are actually high hells (excusez mon français), and ditch them once and for all! 🙂 PS Never wear shoes that slow you down in the event of a zombie apocalypse.

That last one is just a pet peeve. I always think back to the years that I staggered about in heels, thinking it made me look nicer to others. I’m convinced it’s a conspiracy to distract women from what they’re really capable of. PS I’ve also long believed zombies are just misunderstood.

Which brings me to…

So you’ve got pet peeves. That must mean your basic needs are being met. You’ve got free time to chat about life lessons, zombies, and conspiracies. That’s a lot to be thankful for!

Note: I know there are many people out there truly suffering this Thanksgiving — this post is not for you. A change of perspective won’t mitigate your very real grief. Please know that the prayers and empathy of many, many people are with you this holiday season. Take care of yourselves!

Blessing myopia: The inability to see all the marvelous gifts in our lives because we are too focused on negative things that occlude our vision. I’ve certainly been guilty of this lack of awareness. Maybe you have, too? This Thanksgiving, let’s shift our focus a bit.

There’s lint in my pockets
but no holes, and my boots
(battered, worn) will last
another season. If I cut the frayed bits
off my jacket, no one will be the wiser.
I am fed, filled. I sink into bed
(the mattress little more than
dust mites tightly holding tentacles)
and sleep warm and well.
When I am cold, the cat comes
to sit; no blanket could be better.
There is sun somewhere,
even if I can’t see it.
It will rise and set predictably.
The clock of my life will tick.
The sound will fill the hollow places,
joy will change the plain days
into something rather lovely.
Ordinary life will stop my breath
with surprise, and daily my heart
will croon.

“Have a lovely Thanksgiving.”

I laughed out loud when I read that note from my editor.  We are not lovely Thanksgiving people.  We are more like the Griswold Family and I do mean both sides of the family.

My sister has to do everything with perfection.  No seriously.  She makes Martha Stewart look slapdash.  She is also a vegetarian as is my niece.  Dad, who has dementia, will insist on telling her all about my son’s foray into the woods deer hunting.  The teen knows better but my Dad?  Try to stop him.  And he won’t try to talk to anyone else about it so I know it isn’t entirely accidental. Dad thinks he’s funny.

My sister-in-law?  Also heavily into perfection but there are so many people on that side of the family.  We have engineers, IT people, hipsters, and young professionals.  Then there’s my kid – red neck libertarian?  Yeah, that’s a description he’s appreciate.  It will be loud, it will be rambunctious and something will go slightly askew.

Lovely?  No.  Fun, humorous and full of loud love.  Anyone who goes looking for lovely will be frustrated beyond belief.  But those of us who jump into it will come out the other side grate-filled for the family with which God blessed us.

–SueBE

 

 

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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