Being thankful for: a nudge in the right direction

This week’s challenge (week #8) is to thank someone who noticed or encouraged a talent or ability. I’m struggling with this one. I think mainly because I don’t feel that I have some sort of exceptional talent or ability that could be noticed or encouraged. Then again, the challenge doesn’t say “exceptional” – it just says talent or ability.

So I did what I often do when I have a challenging question in mind. I took it with me on a run. When have I felt encouraged? When has someone pointed out an ability of mine and told me to do something with it? I got home with a few random fragments of ideas… the 10th grade English teacher who encouraged me to keep writing because I had good things to say. The business management professor who told me my analytic skills were strong. My first real boss who hired me just because he felt like I had the right qualities to get things done – and then he made up a job for me to do so. The freelancer that I worked with often who told me that if I ever wanted to go out on my own, I could put her out of business.

None of those rises to the top for me as a “big deal.” Maybe I’m putting too much weight on the question. After all, each of those minor nudges or comments put me on a path. Maybe this question is meant to help me recognize the seemingly minor interactions that changed the course of my life. That’s an interesting thought. Like my own personal butterfly effect.

And so I thank all of those people mentioned above: Mrs. Walker, Prof. Miller, Tim, Nancy. And I remind myself to be more liberal with those comments myself. When I see someone doing something well, I should tell them. After all, who knows when one small comment might inspire big change.

15 weeks, 15 letters, 15 minutes. To kick off 2015. Read about the gratitude challenge here.

Being thankful for: my faith

Week #7 of the 15-week gratitude challenge and the topic is thanking someone who helped you find God. I grew up going to Catholic school. As a young child I seem to remember that our Mass attendance was a given. As a teen we didn’t go to church as a family and I know I didn’t go on a regular basis. As a college student I found myself going fairly regularly on my own. Once I was married we had a routine of going to Mass on Saturday night and then going out to dinner. I started to become active in our church as a young, married adult.

I grew up with God as a part of my life, and can certainly thank my parents for that, but I can’t think of an epiphany where someone “helped me find God.” However, I can think of someone who modeled a family life of faith that I knew I wanted for my family someday. A life that I work hard to instill in the lives of my children…

Who helped me find my faith?

My godmother.

My Aunt Mary Lou is the mother of four children. If there was one impression I had of their lives when we were all growing up it was “they do a lot of church.” They went to Mass every week even when they were visiting for the summer. Mass on vacation just didn’t make sense at all to me at the time – though when we went to visit them, I remember going to church with them. All of my cousins were altar servers and active in their church. I barely volunteered at church and remember sketchily attending any sort of church functions. Even though I went to Catholic school, just like they did, they seemed much more closely tied to their church community.

I don’t remember making a conscious decision to model my family’s faith life after my Aunt’s family, but I can see now that her influence is strong. Going to Mass isn’t a question of “if” around here, it’s “when.” We go to Mass on vacation, even when I’m on a vacation with just my husband, we always find a church and go to Mass. My children are all active in our church. The rule in our house is that your church gives you a lot, you have to find at least one way to give back to your church. Our church community knows each of us by name and we know a lot of people in our church community. We pray as a family and I’ve worked hard to instill faith traditions into our lives outside of Mass.

Looking at my family I realize… we do a lot of church. It is a foundation of faith that I wanted to give my children. I have my Aunt to thank for that.

Thank you, Aunt Mary Lou for giving me a model of faith to follow.

15 weeks, 15 letters, 15 minutes. To kick off 2015. Read about the gratitude challenge here.

My last year of valentines

I am not a Pinterest person and I’m not excessively crafty. However, for some reason I’ve always insisted the kids make their own valentines. Over the years we’ve collected a nice assortment of pink and red card stock, a variety of heart stickers, glitter and valentine stamps. I keep the stash away from the normal craft supplies and each February I drag it out and we make class valentines.

The past few years J has not been very enthused about the project. Instead of making glittery creations he and I look for printable valentines. I print them on that valentine card stock (seriously I think I bought a stash of 300 pieces 8 years ago and we’re still using it) and he cuts them out… sometimes colors them himself. So yesterday I found a few sites with printables that weren’t remotely mushy. When he came home from school I told him that we needed to save some time to make this year’s valentines. Here’s how the conversation went:

J: Do I have to make valentines?
Me: No, you don’t.
J: Really???
Me: Really. If you don’t want to hand out valentines at the party it’s okay. Just know that you’ll probably be the only one not handing out a valentine. If that doesn’t bother you, it’s okay not to do it.

We went through the rest of our evening. Complained about homework… ate a good dinner… complained about homework some more… Before he got ready for bed I asked him one more time: “You’re sure you don’t want to hand out valentines? There’s still time for me to print some if you’ve changed your mind.”
J: Okay I’ve been thinking and there’s something I want to ask you about that. Do you mean to tell me that for all of my life valentines have not been mandatory??
Me: Valentines are never mandatory buddy.
J: You’re sure I’m not going to get in trouble with the teacher? Because I’m pretty sure that every year they are MANDATORY.
Me: How will you get in trouble? There’s no grade for valentines. She’s not going to make you miss part of recess. What could possibly happen? IF she asks where your valentines are. Tell her the truth – you didn’t want to hand them out.
J: Okay then. That’s what I’m going to do.

It’s 7am and I haven’t asked that one last time. I could still scramble and print some if needed. There’s no candy to go along with them but we don’t hand out candy every year anyway (the amount of candy that gets distributed at an elementary valentines party astonishes me). We’ll see if he has a last minute change of heart.

I have helped kids make valentines for 12 years… I should probably be sad that this phase is over. Instead, I’m just wondering what to do with this stack of pink and red card stock.

Being thankful for: children

This week’s challenge (week #6) is to take time to be grateful for someone under the age of 18. I like that this challenge is helping me to reflect on things that I don’t always think about. Let’s be honest I think about people under the age of 18 all the time – constantly. People under the age of 18 dictate the schedule of my days. I worry about them. I pray for them. I nag them. I cook and clean and do laundry for them. I laugh with them. I hug them. I read to them. I tell them I love them. I don’t, however, take time very often to be grateful for them.

How am I grateful for children?

I am grateful for my oldest because she was the one who taught me that I could be patient. I am grateful for her sense of humor and for her ability to weed out the fluff and focus on the right things.

I am grateful for my second child because she was the one who taught me that it’s good to be sensitive to the world. I am grateful for her creativity and for her ability to see the world in a different light.

I am grateful for my youngest because he was the one who taught me to be flexible. I am grateful for his strong sense of responsibility and for his ability to notice things that others don’t.

Thank you to my very own children. Thank you for teaching my heart how to expand with love, for reminding me how fun it is to play and learn, for bringing your unique personalities and talents into my life.

15 weeks, 15 letters, 15 minutes. To kick off 2015. Read about the gratitude challenge here.

Being thankful for: curiosity

I’m on week #4 of the gratitude challenge and I can already tell that these questions are going to indeed be challenging. This one in particular is asking me a question that I’ve never really asked before. I’m a very curious person but I feel like some people are just born that way. If you’re not curious, there’s no amount of influencing that can force you to become curious. However, I do think that curiosity can be fostered, encouraged and nurtured. Just like it can be squashed and diminished if no one teaches you how to satisfy that inquisitive nature.

Who taught you to be curious?

The first person who comes to mind is my dad. (And coincidentally it’s his birthday today.)

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There’s my dad with his eldest grandkids.

 

I don’t think my dad *taught* me to be curious but he certainly encouraged my curiosity and helped me find ways to satisfy it. My dad was always the one to say “That’s a good question, let’s go find the answer.” He was the one who bought a set of encyclopedias (which I might have read cover to cover). He was the one who made sure the dictionary was always readily available. He was the one who would turn to the library because surely there is a book on that topic.

I’m still a very curious person and I’ve taken the example of my dad to heart with my kids. Whenever they ask a question, I gladly pull up Google, take them to the library, read a book, find a museum… When my son was curious about sharks, I learned more about sharks than ever before. When my daughter was curious about the revolutionary war, we read every book possible and started visiting battlefields and museums.

Feeding curiosity is one of my favorite things about being a parent. I don’t know that I’m teaching my kids to be curious but I know I’m encouraging curiosity. And I really hope I’m teaching them to question things.

Thanks Dad, for fostering my curiosity and showing me how to encourage it in my kids.

15 weeks, 15 letters, 15 minutes. To kick off 2015. Read about the gratitude challenge here.