Extra Gratitude for Thanksgiving

One of the recurring themes in this blog is gratitude. I write about this topic so often because I genuinely believe that attitude is everything. I think that even in our darkest hours, there are things to appreciate if you look hard enough. Even bitter lessons are worthy of gratitude because they help you grow and survive.

There is so much in this world that we take for granted. Sometimes it’s worth stopping and taking a breath and appreciating the sun on your face and the wind in the trees. It’s such a gift to be alive and able to think and reason and exercise free will and create beauty and give and receive love.

I think the unhappiest people are those who focus on the negative in their lives. They may be unhappy because of their negative focus, or negative experiences may have made them unhappy, but either way, until that cycle is broken, nothing will change. It makes me sad to see people trapped in that way.

I’m not saying we should all wander around like Stepford Wives. And yes, bad things happen to us all. It’s just that the way you frame things matters. It takes practice. Some days will be a lot harder than others. But there’s good out there, if you only look.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and it’s fast approaching. I wish we didn’t need a holiday to remember to give thanks. I think gratitude should be part of our daily lives.

I feel so strongly about this topic that I published an anthology of my essays on gratitude. It’s called A Bridgetender’s View: Notes on Gratitude. I’m really proud of it. I think it would make a great Thanksgiving gift, or, for that matter, a gift any time of the year for a loved one who could use a little positivity. And can’t we all use some of that? Think about it.

As always, I’m grateful that you take the time to read my blog. As a little bonus, below is one of the short and to the point essays that you can find in the book. This one was originally posted on this blog on November 29, 2015.

Gratitude

Ever since I moved to Seattle, I’ve sort of felt as if my heart has come to reside outside of my rib cage. Vulnerable. Exposed. Sensitive. It’s kind of a crazy feeling. I need to develop a thicker skin.

I’ve just been through so much in the past couple years. I’ve given up so much, sacrificed so much. I’ve taken some insane risks, some of which have paid off, and some of which have blown up in my face.

But on a positive note, this has caused me to appreciate all the good in life so much more deeply. When I think of my friends and loved ones, near and far and old and new, I often well up with tears of joy. A good sunrise can take my breath away. I can be walking down the street and suddenly it hits me how lucky I am to be where I am, and I have to stop dead in my tracks for a second and gather myself.

In essence, I’ve become a sentimental old fool. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Musings on Gratitude

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. It’s my favorite holiday. No gift buying. Just good food and good people. It’s a time when we all focus on what we are thankful for. What’s not to love about that?

I have long maintained that an attitude of gratitude is what we need to get along, And I think that attitude should be maintained all year round, not just on Thanksgiving day. There’s much in this life that we can be thankful for.

I’ve written a great deal about gratitude. So much, in fact, that I’ve published an anthology entitled, A Bridgetender’s View: Notes on Gratitude. It’s available on Amazon, and I guarantee you that I’ll be grateful if you purchase it! It would make a great gift for the ones you are most grateful for. (Especially if you do want to give someone a gift for cooking all that great food for you on the big day.)

Having said that, check out one of my favorite posts from the book, entitled Congratulations, You’re Alive! and know that I’m grateful for you, dear reader, every single day.

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Gratitude Alarm

I don’t have a smart phone. In fact, my phone is just about as stupid as they come in this modern world. But hey, it only costs me about 5 bucks a month, so as far as I’m concerned, that makes me pretty darned smart.

Living in this state of self-imposed technological deprivation, I know nothing about apps. There may already be an app for this, but if not, there really should be. I would call this app the “gratitude alarm”. It would instruct your phone to set off a gentle alarm at random, completely unanticipated times throughout your day. The alarm would remind you to stop what you’re doing and look about you, and really appreciate your place in the now.

Too often, we forget to do this. Sometimes you need to just enjoy the sensation of the sun on your face. Don’t take your current experience for granted. Be grateful for the people you are having lunch with, and for the food on your plate. Embrace the experience of that crowded subway, as it’s taking you where you want to go. Appreciate the fact that you have a job when so many others do not. Admire that flowering “weed” that you might have otherwise overlooked.

I suspect that if people were to use this app for just a few weeks, they’d see a shift in their attitude for the better. After a while, the app would no longer be needed. An attitude of gratitude can become a delightful habit if you let it.

For now, pretend this blog post is your alarm. Stop right now. Look around. Be grateful.

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Perspective

This country is going to hell in a handbasket. I’m not getting any younger. I’ll never be able to afford to retire or own a home again. And I’ve pretty much given up on romance.

If you’re looking, it’s usually not hard to find things to be discouraged about. In fact, it’s pretty easy. It’s also a really bad habit to fall into.

What good does it do you, driving 90 mph down a dead end road? Where does it get you? Nowhere.

That’s why I was really grateful to see the following meme pop up on my Facebook feed the other day.

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Whoa. Perspective. By this yardstick, I’m doing really well. I have what I need. Everything is going to be all right.

It’s a sad state of affairs that so many people on this planet do not have all ten of these things. It’s even more distressing to contemplate the fact that it’s those of us who are this lucky who get so worked up when those of us who are less fortunate try to join our exclusive little club. Why are we so threatened by other people’s prosperity?

For example, I’ve heard people say that fast food workers should not be allowed to make 15 dollars an hour because they themselves make 15 dollars an hour, and had to get a college degree to get there. How does the fact that the girl at the drive through window is now making a living wage harm you in any way? Isn’t making her wear a hair net punishment enough? How about saying, “Welcome aboard. And yes, I will have fries with that. Thanks.”

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Portable gratitude. Inspiring pictures. Claim your copy of my first collection of favorite posts! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

It’s the Readers Who Make the Magic

If you have somehow managed to escape all my shameless self-promotion in recent months, here’s what you need to know: I wrote a book! A Bridgetender’s View: Notes on Gratitude is available on Amazon.com in paperback form, and soon it will also be available as an e-book for Kindle, and Amy Sassenberg’s photos will be in color in that version! This is all very exciting for me. If you had asked me a year ago if this was to be in my future, I’d have laughed.

I have learned a lot from this experience. The biggest lesson is that it’s the readers who create the magic. I used to think authors were conjuring up amazing reading experiences, and because of that, I was in awe. But I was so incredibly wrong.

Yes, the writers do the writing, and the publishers do the publishing, but their work is lifeless and inanimate if there is no one out there to read it. A book without a reader may as well be a brick that one uses to prop open a door. An unread book gathers dust.

I am lucky in that I came to this avocation at a time in our history when reader’s feedback is easy and instantaneous. People e-mail me. They contact me on this blog. They comment in my Facebook group. They also leave much needed (and strongly encouraged) reviews on my Amazon page.

What this means is that I get to share in the magic that you, dear reader, make. I get to experience your reactions. I learn how you feel when you read the book. I discover that each reader has a different encounter with it, quite often one that I hadn’t anticipated. That’s because you are bringing your unique insights to the reading experience. That’s the ingredient that only you can provide.

I can never seem to adequately express just what that means to me. I read your reviews and your comments and I get all choked up. I get tears in my eyes. My heart feels like it swells. What a gift you have given me! Thank you so much!

This first book was about gratitude, but I had no idea just how grateful I would be for you. Thank you for giving my book life. Thank you for making my words have meaning.

Without further ado, I’ll leave you with some excerpts from my Amazon reviews, so you can see why this whole process has made me so emotional. Imagine getting compliments like these! I hope you’ll consider adding your review to their number!

“Barb is ALWAYS entertaining, and whether you agree with her or not, you will likely learn something every time you read her. She will inform, annoy, and inspire you. As a dedicated reader of her blog from the beginning, I have seen many sides of her, and watched her through grief and growth. This is her best, will make you a fan, lift your spirits, cause you to recognize things in yourself you could not articulate. She is real, she is smart, she is funny. You WILL laugh out loud at some point. You will learn SEVERAL interesting things that you did not know. And you will PONDER more than one entry for longer than you expected.” –Amazon Customer

“What a wonderful book. I keep it by my bedside so I can read a chapter before I go to bed. Since the focus of this volume is on gratitude, it’s the perfect way to get your head in the right space to go to sleep focusing on the good there is in this world. Barb is a gifted writer with keen insight into the world around her. This is a book you will keep for years. Timeless thoughts about things that matter – sometimes in big ways, sometimes subtly. It’s crazy. She makes me want to be a better person just by what she shares in her posts. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll marvel at her candor. And you’ll be really glad you bought this book.” – K. Reviews

“A wonderful read. I feel like I’m looking over Barb’s shoulder as her journey through life unfolds. Her take on situations we all encounter, often unconsciously, every day, took me from laughing to reflecting on how I might deal with the same situation. How hard it must have been to pull up roots and move 3100 miles to a place where you know no one? I’m not sure I could. I grew up on the wit and humor of Erma Bombeck and some of the posts in the book remind me of reading Erma’s wonderful writings.” –Firewalker

“This is just an introduction to the refreshingly honest world of a brave woman. As she takes you along on her journey of introspection, observation and acceptance, she challenges and inspires you to open your heart and mind. Whether you agree and identify with her insights and beliefs, or not, you can’t help but be uplifted by her commitment to them. She’s an open book worth reading and based on her prolific blog entries she has a lot more to gift us. Looking forward to see where else her journey will take us.” – Lyn

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Thank You for My Life

The other day I saw the movie Sully. I knew before I gazed up at the screen that it would be good. I absolutely love Tom Hanks, and when I heard about Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landing his US Airways plane in the Hudson River and saving everyone on board back in 2009, I was absolutely stunned. So any movie that combined that story with that actor was bound to be excellent. And I was right. I highly recommend it.

But it really got me pondering the impact of saving multiple lives. Think about it. If your heroics mean that 155 people still roam the planet and they wouldn’t have otherwise, then every good thing they do moving forward is thanks to you. And every child they have after that is because of you. In a few short generations, you are responsible for the existence of at least a thousand people. That’s an incredible impact. It must be awfully hard to wrap your head around that.

If I had been on that flight, every year on the anniversary of the crash I’d write a letter to Mr. Sullenberger, and the first line would be, “Hello again, and thank you for my life.” Then I’d go on to tell him all the good things I had done or had tried to do in the past year. And then I would say that the only reason those things were possible was that he was the man piloting that plane on that day, and that I’d never forget what a gift my life is.

I wonder if anyone does that for him. I hope they do. He deserves it.

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The Beauty of Collaboration

Currently I’m working on an anthology that will be entitled A Bridgetender’s View: An Anthology on Gratitude. But there’s no way I could do it alone. Anthologies are a lot more work than I realized! Many dear friends are taking part. Deborah Drake is my catalyst, my publisher, my editor, my web designer, my coordinator, and so many other things I could go on forever. Amy Sassenberg is doing the photography. Bronte Polette is creating the cover and making all the photos format friendly. Vicky Cabe Autry did the separator graphics which I’ll also be using on the website and my business cards. Amelia Torres wrote the foreword.

I just love collaborations. When you create something together, it becomes even better than the sum of its parts. It’s kind of like preferring a savory stew over a raw potato and a couple of carrots. And it’s fun because as everyone contributes ideas, it inspires even more ideas within you.

This is not the first time I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with someone. I also create fractal art under the name Serenity Questi. (You can see some of my work here.) In the virtual world of Second Life, I met a wonderful artist who goes by the name of Treacle Darlandes, who runs the St@rt gallery, and she has for many years taken my fractals and worked her magic on them, making vases, sculptures, and art in motion among many other things. If you are familiar with navigating Second Life, you can check out her virtual gallery here.

In the meantime, here are some pictures of our collaborations. These photos don’t really do them justice without the movement and the three dimensional feel, but it will give you some idea of the amazing things that can come out of collaborating.

So relax your grip on your creativity. Let others take ownership of a portion of the final product. You’ll be amazed at the results. Give it a try!