Published in the Rains County Leader on November 22, 2016:
I developed the habit of keeping a gratitude journal years ago when Mom and Dad lived with us. Caring for two people with Alzheimer’s, regardless of how much you love them, is enough to change the most positive person into a grouch. When I realized how negative I had become, I bought a small notebook and resolved to write down at least three things each day for which I was grateful. Finding three things proved to be more difficult on some days than others, but after months of practice and discipline, my attitude began to change. I learned to look for and appreciate the small joys and to overlook the less joyful moments.
I came to enjoy those times of focusing on the positive, and even after my role as a caregiver came to an end, I continued to keep a journal. Last summer I attended a retreat in South Texas with a group of ladies I had met the summer before. Several of them brought small gifts they had made for the rest of us. One was a small note pad with the word Gratitude lettered on it in gold ink. The one I chose was hot pink with white polka dots, and each page was bordered with hot pink dots. It was inspirational, and I filled it in only ten weeks.
As we enter Thanksgiving week, I decided to read back through it to see what I was thankful for back in July. Many entries were pretty standard: family, friends, health, food, shelter. Others, though, were more unusual. Here are a few of my favorites:
Plenty of hoses to water. My garden wasn’t anything to brag about this year, but I did plant a few rows of tomatoes, okra, cucumbers, squash, and peppers. The season started with a generous amount of rain – and then it just stopped, and I had to pull out the sprinklers. In prior years, this meant stretching the hoses to their maximum length and then adjusting and readjusting the sprinklers to find the angle that would cover at least most of the garden. This year I was grateful that we had a new hose that allowed me to place the sprinklers anywhere I wanted. It didn’t keep the garden from burning up in the triple digit temperatures, but I enjoyed it anyway.
Ground was broken. This entry was made when work began on the new educational building at our church. A day or two later, I wrote I am grateful that my work was done before the line was cut. It seems that an over-enthusiastic bull dozer operator cut a line that took out the phones and the internet at the church. This happened on a Thursday, the day when I post weekly updates and reminders on Facebook and send the same information out by email. I also update the slide show that that runs before the worship service to highlight coming events. This job sometimes involves an Internet search for images and other information. I was grateful that those jobs were done before we lost our connection to the outside world.
That Charles got his car out without injury. Charles and Connie, our across the street neighbors, used to park their car under a big tree close to their house to take advantage of the cooling shade. I say used to, because one day in early August, that tree fell. Their car was under it at the time. Friends and family alike encouraged Charles to hire a professional to remove the huge limbs that covered their SUV, but he’s a do-it-yourself kind of guy. Working slowly, cutting one branch at a time, sometimes standing on some rather precarious perches, he freed the vehicle and, thankfully, he was not hurt. Amazingly, the car suffered a broken headlight and a few scratches, but they are grateful that it is still driveable.
For Christian’s opportunity to go to Jordan: During this time, I learned that my son, along with a number of other social media writers and journalists, had been invited on a nine-day all-expenses-paid tour of Jordan. It was an event sponsored by the Kingdom of Jordan Tourism Bureau aimed at increasing the interest of possible visitors. I was grateful for his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but I have to admit that I was more than a little jealous.
I probably won’t share any of these examples of gratitude with my family over the dinner table on Thursday. Not that they wouldn’t appreciate them, but I will be too busy letting them know how grateful I am for each of them. I am also grateful for each reader who stops and spends a few minutes with me from time to time. May God richly bless you with many reasons to be grateful.
A LONG AND WINDING ROAD: A Caregiver’s Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos