Gratitude

This has been a challenging week on a number of levels. When things turn difficult, I try to be mindful of the good in my life. After all, negativity breeds more negativity and it’s easy to become so focused on the bad that you can see nothing else. Gratitude is a key to happiness.

Here are some things I’m grateful for today:

1. It’s Friday and it’s a long weekend for some of us here in the US.

2. I have plans to see my cousin this weekend. Before starting my No Spend Challenge, I decided to give myself a budget for a movie and lunch out because I have been that excited to see the new Tom Hanks movie. We will walk in the sunshine, see the movie and have a bite somewhere.

3. I’m reading a really good book right now. A Man Called Ove is actually the basis for the movie I’m going to see. The curmudgeonly hero is quite relatable.

4. I spent last night doing fun chores including some decluttering and styling shelves with things I already owned. Decluttering doesn’t equate drudgery and can actually be fun!

5. Season three of All Creatures Great and Small on PBS began Sunday night. It’s a short season of just seven episodes but for those seven weeks I have a reason to look forward to Sunday night. If you haven’t seen the show, I highly recommend starting with season one. It’s the best thing on tv right now.

6. I have a roof over my head and can afford to buy groceries. Many people are not so fortunate right now.

7. Adventure season is just around the corner and I think there will be some good ones this year.

8. Pictures are a return ticket to places and people we want to remember. The above picture is from a rainy Saturday in NYC. The below picture was sent to me by a cousin this week. That’s me with my parents in 1977. What an angry baby! Looks like I could have benefited from some gratitude way back then!

9. My cat likes me and has spent as much time with me as possible this week. He is a sweetheart.

This is not the full list but these are the highlights. What are you grateful for today?

Norman Rockwell’s Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving in America. This is meant to be a day of thanks for the blessings we’ve enjoyed for the last year but it’s more a day of food and football. Tomorrow, as folks will spend the day buying a bunch of stuff they probably don’t need and can’t afford.

A Norman Rockwell painting we are not.

This painting is called “Home For Thanksgiving.” It was featured on the November 24, 1945 cover of The Saturday Evening Post. That was 77 years ago today.

The young man and his mother were real people. He was freshly home from the war and helping his mother with chores he likely would have hated doing in the Army Air Corps. Kitchen Patrol or KP duty probably didn’t seem so bad in the warmth of his mama’s kitchen.

Rockwell paid them each $15 to sit for the portrait. I read once that they owned the local dairy in their Vermont small town and that the young man was Rockwell’s milkman.

This painting was donated to the Eugene M. Connor Post 193 of the American Legion in Massachusetts many years ago. But they didn’t know it was an original and left it hanging in a hallway for decades. When someone offered $500 for what the Legion thought was a print, they took it to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts for appraisal.

After learning they owned an American treasure, they loaned it to the museum for display and safekeeping.

Just last year, the Legion sold it at auction for $4.3 million. This hefty sum went into a trust and interest earned will help pay bills and fund future repairs for the Legion.

It’s a beautiful slice of Americana and I like how it illustrates a nation transitioning from wartime into peacetime. Something so everyday like peeling potatoes probably felt almost luxurious to the soldier and his mother who had suffered untold sleepless nights in his absence.

Her relief is palpable.

Gratitude would have been the only thing that mattered in many households across the nation that Thanksgiving. Our soldiers were headed home. Life was returning to a new normal. Life was good.

Wherever you are in this world today, I hope life is good. Happy Thanksgiving!

Health And Gratitude

This hasn’t been a banner week for me. I’m doing better (thanks to those of you who have expressed concern. I’ll live!) but I’m not up to par.

This week, I have worked and slept and haven’t done much else. There has been no exercise, no household chores, no projects, no blog posts.

While I feel a bit like a slug this week, I’m ok with it. We can’t be 100% everywhere all the time. My energy is mostly getting used up at the place that pays my bills and, for this week, that’s most important.

Something else that’s important is gratitude for good health. Feeling a little under the weather is a temporary problem but always a helpful reminder to be grateful for the days we are well.

A Good Day

Gallipolis in Lights, 2021.

A person stocking shelves in the grocery store recently asked me how I was doing. When I said I was doing well she remarked how nice it is to talk to someone having a good day.

My response to that was you can either have a good day or a bad one and a bad day isn’t fun at all. A nearby shopper chimed in that there is always something to be grateful for and a reason to smile.

It’s sometimes difficult to remember these lessons and life often throws us circumstances that make it hard to practice what I preach.

At least we can try.

The weatherman is calling for rain today and I’m using that as an excuse to stay in and rest. Later today I’ll bake cookies and have a Christmas movie marathon with my parents. We will eat too many cookies and watch movies we’ve seen thirty times but it’s exactly the kind of day I need.

Whatever you do, wherever you are, I hope you’ll try to have a good one. Remember, it’s a good day to have a good day.

Veterans Day

It’s hard for me to pass up vintage pictures. In fact, I have a small box of photos of strangers that I’ve picked up in antique stores and junk shops over the years.

I call them “the family.”

I mostly buy candid photos rather than portraits. Occasionally they are labeled but they typically have no names or years, no stories, and no way to identify the people in the photos.

Sometimes I buy them because the photos are cool and I simply like old photos. It also makes me sad to see them languishing in a box on the floor, unwanted and without anyone to remember them.

This 8×10 of a sailor was a dollar in Denver last year. He looks like just a kid and I’m sure he was. It’s not labeled. No name or year.

I wonder what ever happened to him. I hope he made it home. I wonder if there’s anyone left in his family to even know his name or wonder what he looked like or how smart he looked on his uniform.

Our history is teeming with stories of young men and women who joined up, generously signing that proverbial blank check to our nation. Far too many don’t ever make it home. Others do but leave a piece of themselves in far off lands, instead bringing home more trauma than anyone should have to endure.

On this Veterans Day, I hope we all will remember that.

Say thanks to a veteran in your life. Say thanks to a stranger. Be grateful to the kids like this one who you never knew. After all, they served for all of us even though they didn’t know us either.

It’s the least we can do.

No Spend Month Update

When you decide to do a No Spend Challenge, the first thing you’ll notice is that everyone is trying to sell you something.

There’s traditional advertising like tv, mail, Facebook and email. Then there’s the person you haven’t seen since high school trying to guilt you into buying bags and soap and plastic containers from multi billion dollar companies.

It’s kind of discouraging the first time you realize your value to the world is as a consumer and nothing more.

When I check email each day, I try to unsubscribe to as much as I can but there are some marketing emails that I find useful when I am spending and don’t want to part with in the future. I just delete these without reading them so I’m not tempted today but can still get the coupons later.

The next thing you’ll notice is how much marketing is designed to make you unhappy with your life. Women’s magazines are enemy number one. They are filled with stories that are glorified advertising telling you about the cream that will lift your eyes, the jacket that will make you look taller and thinner, and the new furniture line that will make your home feel like a spa.

How’s your relationship? Shouldn’t you lose weight? Here’s a complicated recipe to make you feel completely inadequate in the kitchen. Better yet, let’s talk about expensive meal subscription boxes to cater to your gluten free, vegan, paleo or fruititarian lifestyle!

For most, the goal of a no spend month is to save money. That’s a great reason to start. In fact, that’s why I started doing this a few years ago. However, I quickly realized that there is a greater purpose to the exercise.

As the days turn into weeks, I find myself growing more satisfied with what I have and even a little skeptical of most purchases.

THIS is why I do the no spend challenge now. The saved money is nice but the deep sense of satisfaction is the true reward. With satisfaction comes gratitude and a sense of peace that there’s not much you can buy that will make you happier than you are right now.

After all, will that expensive cream really make you look younger?

It’s ok to want things. I like my home to be cozy, neat and comfortable. I want it to look pretty. There are things that I would like to have but few things that will elevate my feelings of happiness beyond where I am now.

When I have a large chunk of time at home, I tend to put down my phone more and gravitate toward projects – cleaning out a drawer or closet can’t be done while reading news. You’re less apt to kill time on Facebook when you’re engaged with something that keeps your hands and mind busy.

I tend to cook more and to use up those odds and ends that somehow accumulate in the freezer and pantry. The creation above is basically my favorite meal of all time – a baked potato topped with scrambled eggs and leftover vegetables that are lightly sautéed. Hey! Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. It’s tasty and it uses up odds and ends.

But I digress. The point is that these changes in habits make an enormous difference and help you to appreciate that it is not just about the money.

In case you are wondering, it’s day thirteen and I have paid bills but have bought nothing else. I do need a new phone case but that is a necessity to protect my very expensive iPhone from – well, from me because I am clumsy. That needs to happen soon as this one is no longer water proof.

Are you doing a no spend month? Give me an update!