Sunday, June 29, 2014

I don't know what day it is, I'm just grateful.

"The more grateful you are, the more you get to be grateful about. It's that simple." - Louise Hay
Peaceful weekend photo
"Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day." - Henri Nouwen

I got to see more thistles this weekend. You know how much I love them!!
Beautiful weekend. I have been gone the past two weekends in a row. When my coworker, Stacy, said that she was taking a staycation weekend, a weekend to just stay home with her husband and not make plans, I was jealous. That wasn't in the cards for me this weekend, but the things I chose to do were very good. I spent a few hours of Saturday with my mom and aunt, which was so lovely. I got a massage. (Mmmmm) I ate some delicious chocolate. I passed a few hours with my dear friend Karen. She is so cool and so real. I like hanging out with her. 

Caleb and I went to this magical place on Friday
Today, I got to spend the whole day with my sweet husband. We did yoga in the park, had a lunch date and took a nap. Everyone - go take a nap. Well, actually, go to bed cause it's night, but next weekend - NAP. Then we just dwelled in our home. He cooked, I - ... Well, I don't really know what I did, but it was great. Sometimes, being home is the best thing.  
It's good to be home. Even when your bedroom looks like this.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Gratitude Day 17: THISTLES: just do it.

A thistle I picked the first year Caleb and I were dating
 Have you ever wanted to do something, but then you put it off, and then when you wanted to do it later, it was too late?

Oops. I should have rephrased that. Ahem. You know those times when you want to do something, but then you put it off, and when you go to do it later, it's too late?

Maybe it's buying tickets, or needing to tell a friend something, or giving a gift. For me, one of those things that happens every year is picking thistles.

Caleb, picking me a thistle year two of dating
Thistles are my favorite flower. They are like little tufts where I would like to sleep. And they are prickly on the stems and leaves, so be careful. And they only grow in ditches or along the highway, or in unwanted places. I actually potted some from my parents' yard this year - to GUARANTEE that I would have some. 

It's interesting - something about their wildness makes me want them more. Trying to contain them in pots somehow felt a little wrong. 

On Tuesday, I went for a walk during my afternoon break with my friend Anne. She's getting ready to leave us at work and bike from Vancouver to L.A. Yeah. She's that cool. We saw some thistles and I thought, "I will come back and pick these." Guess what? They were gone today.

Thistles Caleb picked for me last year. See the theme of who puts it off?
BUT. I have good news. Last night, I was driving home from a farewell party for Anne. And I decided to pull my car over and DO SOMETHING. I picked thistles and it gave me so much joy. I could have stayed there all night, up to my knees in itchy grass, picking wild beauty and letting it prick my fingers, burying my nose in the fluffy firework blooms. Pure joy.
One of my thistles this year. 


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Gratitude Days 13, 14, 15, 16: Downward Dog, Kids, & Omaha

... I know I'm a leeetle behind on this.

BUT.

Sometimes the fullness of life means that I don't have time to be online. Also, I had a MARVELOUS weekend in Omaha learning from many wise women (and two men). I learned that sometimes after a powerful experience, our minds are racing and processing everything we've learned and it takes our bodies a while to catch up. This may result in forgetting your words or accidentally walking into things. This has been happening to me - which made it hard to imagine writing a blog.
Without further ado, here are some things I am very grateful for from the past few days...

13 (Saturday) - SO MANY THINGS. I got to see my cousin Amelia and her sweet baby Graham. I did some serious (playful) yoga. I got to be alone for several hours (introverts unite! separately. in your own rooms) in the evening thanks to my dear friends Steph and Eric who lent me their house.



14 (Sunday) - I am in the midst of a yoga teacher training program. Sunday, I was so grateful for my teachers, both in Omaha and at home, and for new-found strength. I actually have gotten less flexible (in the legs) since I started regularly practicing yoga, but it's been worth it for the strength. I've also learned to listen to my body and know when I am overstretching. I did lots and lots of yoga on Sunday and am not taking this for granted, thanks to one of my teachers.

15 (Monday) - I was so happy to be reunited with Caleb on Sunday night. He's so great. I was grateful for him all day Monday, especially when he and Jen recommended a small but revolutionary change to the way I do downward dog in yoga.

16 (Tuesday) - Today I got to tutor my two favorite kiddos after work. They are so cool. I hadn't seen them in several weeks. due to schedules and car problems. We went to the library and had a blast. I gave them nicknames - Isa and Forfe. (Use your best Spanish pronunciation!) I spent a long time chatting with their momma and holding their one year old sister. I love them.

I am endlessly grateful for the time and inspiration to write on this blog. See you all tomorrow lovelies! 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Gratitude Day 12: Road trip!

Today, I am grateful for long drives on open highways, friends with the gift of hospitality, time spent learning from wise teachers, and rain falling as I drift off to sleep... which may be happening now...
I am also grateful that there are no tornadoes. During the final part of yoga (savasana) tonight, the teacher's phone started going off with the weather alarm. She let us all know that we were under a flash flood warning, which I will gratefully take ANY day over a tornado...


With the summer sounds of rain and thunder, I bid you all goodnight (or good morning).

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Gratitude Day 11: my job

For some reason, I thought this was day 12. And I was all ready to tell you, "On the twelfth day of gratitude, my true love gave to me: new windshield wipers and a cookie. (cha, cha, cha)"

He didn't actually give me a cookie, but it had to rhyme...

Today, I am deeply grateful for my job.

Here's a reason my job is awesome. This is my cubicle on my birthday. I worked in there for almost two days.
I got up early today and hopped on my computer at 7 am for a webinar - an online conference with our colleagues all over the African continent. At work, I learned some new skills and got to attend a beautiful Mass. We prayed for some of the things that matter greatly to me - comprehensive immigration reform, that we around the world who have plenty would walk with those who have nothing, creative ways for women to be more involved in the (Catholic) church.** To finish, I got to make calls to our sponsors, which I love.

The homily at our Mass was about prayer and the myriad of ways we can pray without speaking. I have become more convicted that expressing gratitude is essential to life. We heard the story of Don Jairo* in Guatemala who thanks God for life by standing in his doorway and spreading his arms toward the mountains each morning. As he lights the fire, he expresses gratitude to the earth. As he shares a breakfast of tortillas, sometimes with eggs, sometimes with only salt, with his family, his eyes move around the circle, person by person. "I am grateful for you," he says. "You make my life more complete."

This story humbles me. It compels me. It gives me goosebumps.

This is why I am writing these blog posts. This is why I humbly try to reframe each day in gratitude, rather than let arbitrary memories color my unconscious reflections. I posed this question to you yesterday, but today is a new day. What are you grateful for?

All my love,

ellen

* I can't remember his name. He was certainly "Don", a title more respectful than "Señor", but we'll go with Jairo for right now.
** I want to say that every day I become more aware of how diverse my friends and blog readers are. I feel pretty passionately about being able to have conversations without judging. It's really hard, but I've been working on it little by little. So it's okay if you don't agree with me.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Gratitude Days 9-10: Amanda, Amelia, Carolyn

I had a bit of a struggle initially to think of something to be grateful for initially. But only for a split second, because even though some not great things happened, they do not outweigh the good. This is what I am noticing the more days I do this gratitude thing. 

You may not know this about me, but I do not like driving 90% of the time. (I am grateful I work with my husband and we can carpool most days.) Yesterday, I was driving Caleb's car and it died on the center lane on the highway during rush hour. Today, I was driving my car and got rear-ended. I am fine, the rear-ending was at a very slow speed and my car has no damages (to my untrained eye). I have never been in a car accident before, so I am thankful that this one was not terrible, but it still made me want to give up driving. 

I am grateful for these women:
Carolyn, Amelia, Amanda

Amanda and Carolyn are two of the awesomest friends anyone could ever wish for. 

Amanda is a storyteller and spends a lot of time weaving words together to tell about beauty and hard things. You want to visit that link and read her blog. She also asks really good questions. I have experienced this with her in person and on the phone for many years. We actually used to celebrate our friendiversary (that's like how couples celebrate how long they've been together, except we celebrate our platonic relationship). Our friendiversary is sometime in January 2008. 

Carolyn was my roommate until Caleb became my roommate and I cannot sum up how awesome she is. She is a great listener and problem solver. Also, she helps me be stylish and not look like a hippie all the time. She is fluent in español, and she loves to teach middle schoolers. [Caro, eres la leche.] Also, she is adorable and looks like a model. 

Amanda picked me up after my car mishap yesterday and took me to Carolyn's house, where we ate, swapped clothes, and went for a walk. They made my day so much better, it was hard not to feel anything but grateful for an evening with them. 

Amelia is my cousin and therefore holds the title of my oldest friendship. We played and imagined together for many years and now we're all grown up and she has two beautiful babies. (AND I GET TO MEET THE NEWEST ONE ON SATURDAY!!... not that I'm excited or anything.) 

I remember when I was growing up, if Amelia was not going to be at a family gathering, I was certain I would be bored out of my mind. Did you have relatives like this? She loved all the coolest things: dolls, Barbies, catching frogs, turtles and baby mice, swimming, reading, cooking, dressing up, and convincing our parents to walk out to the pond and protect us from... well, I'm not quite sure what they were protecting us from, but we were not allowed to climb over the fence by ourselves. Also, we were the only two people who didn't like softball or baseball, which gave us an extra special bond. 

So, as you can see, I have a lot to be thankful for today and yesterday. What are you thankful for?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Gratitude Day 8: The little things

Today, I am grateful for some simple things.

1. A free evening at home after being away
2. My bed and the weight of my blankets
3. Living in a country where I can assume that the law and my social circle will protect me. I have been reading this book and realizing what a small percentage of the world has both of these protections. Definitely food for thought at work and hopefully a catalyst for change in the world.
4. Realizing that we live in one of the only integrated neighborhoods in our city. Profound gratitude for our neighbors, even if they can be a little on the noisy side. :)


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Gratitude Day 7: Perspective

Perspective

Today, on the eve of returning to work, I am grateful for the perspective that stepping back gives. 

This vacation was especially a good time to explore the effect of a lot of BIG changes at work. I knew I needed a break, and it was even better than I could have imagined. Not that it always turns out that way, but this time it did, so I am full of gratitude and relief. 

I am grateful for hard conversations with friends. Sometimes, in order to not grow apart, you have to carefully have hard conversations, and the mess of it all can be overwhelmingly beautiful. Perspective. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Gratitude Days 5 & 6

I realize that it seems a leeetle like the easy way out to start my gratitude practice on a week when I am going on vacation.... but maybe it was a wise way to start a new habit. Either way, here are yesterday's and today's:
Yesterday: I am grateful for playing on a beach all day with these lovelies plus our two (non-pictured) men.


Today: I am unendingly thankful for water.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Gratitude Day 4

Today, I am grateful for time spent reading with friends, napping, and starting to relax.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Gratitude Day 3

Today, I am grateful for Caleb, who remains very calm while I stress out about packing for our vacation.
See? Look how calm he is.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Gratitude Day 2

Today, I am grateful for an evening with no plans... For the first time in too long, we slowed down, caught up, slow-danced in our living room. Eating on the front porch, and a hot shower. And now, on to packing!

Tomorrow, the promise of sunshine and vacation...


Monday, June 9, 2014

Gratitude Day 1

Today, I am grateful for slow, sleepy rain that falls gently for hours, soaking the earth with life.


More tomorrow...

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Words for a Saturday

After a very busy past two weeks that have really been the culmination of the past month and a half, I am spending today taking comfort in these words from Bishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador:


It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
in realizing that. This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well. It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
Amen.