In Appreciation: Gratitude Discussions Inspired Joyous Living

An Exercise in Discussing Gratitude

Gratitude discussions are one way to reflect on an event and see the often invisible work that went into making that event special for you and your child.

As spring kicks into high gear, and my husband and I begin our warm weather ritual of shuttling our family around on weekends to outdoor events and festivals, I really want to teach them, and remind myself, of the gift we are being given by others. From a school carnival to a community music festival, there are no small parts when it comes to making an activity or event come together. However, sometimes when in the midst of experiencing these moments, we can get stuck in focusing on whatever doesn’t work perfectly, especially nowadays when we can so easily use social media to amplify our annoyances and get a lot of blue thumbs in agreement.

Fostering something called “gratitude discussions” with our children is one way to keep the emphasis on being appreciative of the work that went into any event or experience, and away from the small guffaws or moments that didn’t go perfectly.  Read the rest of this entry »

In Appreciation: Mindfulness in Action

When Life Gives You Lemons, Be Mindful of Them

Sometimes the greatest mindfulness lesson you can give your children is the one you teach yourself. That’s what happened for me when I finally chose to pay attention to my clumsy struggle to adapt to plans that go awry.

This was going to be a post about basic exercises to teach mindfulness with your children. Then I had a little lesson in mindfulness myself, and decided to write about that instead—because teaching your children about mindfulness sometimes means taking a big dose of your own mindful medicine.

Despite the existential dilemma of it all, I am a big fan of plans. Now plans are fine, but not if they create issues for you whenever things don’t go as planned (and with kids that means plans often don’t go as planned). Other people are able to seamlessly turn the lemons of thwarted plans into lemonade. But me? Not so much.  Read the rest of this entry »

In Appreciation: Reclaiming Rituals of Politeness

Rethinking the Thank You Card

The traditional thank you card can easily feel more like a teeth-grinding practice in proper etiquette rather than a chance to offer true gratitude. How can we reclaim the ritual of a written thank you to make it truly resonate?

I’ll admit it. I kind of hate thank you cards. The traditional event-where-gift-was-given thank you card has always left me a little cold. They feel too perfunctory to me, a practice more in proper etiquette than actual thanks. And they are nerve-wracking to do. I got married over ten years ago and I still worry that I inadvertently missed a thank you card, and that somewhere, someone is seething in anger because I skipped them on the list. In short, the thank you card used to seriously stress me out.

Then last year, a class at the college where I worked did a collaborative gratitude project. Part of the project was to write a note to every staff person on campus and thank them for their efforts. One day in the mail I received an envelope containing a thin yellow slip of paper from a student I had never met thanking me for my hard work. I was moved, even though my job title was so vague that this student likely had no concept of what my work actually entailed. But he had taken a moment and thought of me and my small role in his education. It felt really good. I asked myself, what could I learn about saying thank you from this stranger’s note? Turns out, quite a bit.  Read the rest of this entry »

In Appreciation: Giving Thanks at the ‘Gratitude Table’

Giving Thanks at the ‘Gratitude Table’

Finding time to reflect and give thanks for our daily joys is no easy task in the midst of the hectic churn of day-to-day reality. But as my family and I discovered, taking a break at the “gratitude table’ is a simple, fun way to slow down and not just smell the flowers, but thank them too.

This fall was grueling for my family. My job suddenly became much more demanding and my hours increased. Both our kids had major transitions, with my 5-year-old starting a new school and my 3-year-old a new classroom. My husband had a significant injury which sidelined him for over a month, and we had just gotten a puppy because sometimes we like to punch ourselves in the face for fun.

None of these events were a tragedy in and of themselves, but I noticed in my own day-to-day talking that I was focusing my thoughts too often on the negatives these changes were bringing. The kids were reflecting that in small ways too. We had so much to be thankful for everyday. I knew that. I was just doing a poor job being mindful of it in between the busyness of daily life.

I am a big fan of giving thanks. In fact, the daily act of reflecting on what we have to be grateful for is a superfood for our emotional and physical well being, with benefits ranging from sleeping better and being less stressed to being more empathetic and less likely to act aggressively (University of Kentucky, 2012). I’d read about gratitude journals as a practice—basically you write down what you are grateful for everyday—and liked the concept. But journals (and every other paper product) in our house often end up covered in stickers and Hello, Kitty! doodles. And while a journal is a great individual practice, I didn’t want to just recalibrate myself. I wanted to do it as a family. However, a group journaling project sounded like a recipe for epic Pinterest-esque failure, and I try to avoid those. So instead, we created our own practice. My 5-year-old later dubbed it “the gratitude table.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Boxing Day: Extending Festive Generosity

Boxing Day: A Day of Gratitude

Drawing inspiration from the holiday’s roots, use the day after Christmas to show some appreciation for those in service positions who you see regularly. Kids can make thank you cards for the workers who stock shelves and bag your groceries at the local co-op, bake and deliver cookies to the farmers at a local CSA, or make prayer flags covered with messages of thanks and gratitude for the doctors and nurses working at a local community health center.

Boxing Day, St. Stephen’s Day, Day of the Wren, Second Christmas Day, Day of Goodwill – known by many names in countries around the world, December 26th brings a second day of celebration. Following the traditional Christmas Day, the holiday most commonly known as Boxing Day is a bank holiday – a day when banks and other similar service-based industries are closed, allowing workers an extra day off. Though the holiday has evolved over time, its roots are quite similar to its modern manifestation. Boxing Day gets its name from the practice of giving Christmas boxes filled with food and gifts to servants and tradesmen – something that took place after the members of the upper class had enjoyed a day filled with celebrations (during which many of the service workers hadn’t had a day off)…

Read the rest of this entry »

New Year’s Resolution… To Enjoy Life!

New Year Memory Bank

This New Year, rather than making a resolution to change something, why not make a commitment to find deeper appreciation for wonderful moments and shared time with friends and family? Throughout the year, write little notes of appreciation and deposit them into a memory bank to open up next year on New Year’s Day.

Along with the first of the year comes the annual onslaught of New Year’s resolutions – pledges to ourselves to be more organized, read to our children more often, spend more time outside, and eat more healthy food. In theory, the resolutions are meant to help us change ourselves for the better and become more satisfied with our lives. However, resolutions can also be challenging, especially for families. Often, we set our sights on doing more, more, more – which is challenging and may not always be realistic.

Instead of requiring ourselves to change the way that we live every time the calendar changes, perhaps we can make a conscious effort to shift our focus and perspective instead. This year, don’t resolve to make changes – choose only one thing to have more of. As a family, challenge yourselves to enjoy more. Rather than resolving to take a family walk twice a week and becoming frustrated when you aren’t able to, resolve to enjoy and savor the family walks that you do get to take, no matter how often they are. Instead of putting lots of effort on creating changes, spend more time enjoying the things that you wish that you could do more often… Read the rest of this entry »

Boxing Day: A Day of Gratitude

Boxing Day: A Yuletide Tip

Drawing inspiration from the holiday’s roots, use the day after Christmas to show some appreciation for those in service positions who you see regularly. Kids can make thank you cards for the workers who stock shelves and bag your groceries at the local co-op, bake and deliver cookies to the farmers at a local CSA, or make prayer flags covered with messages of thanks and gratitude for the doctors and nurses working at a local community health center.

Boxing Day, St. Stephen’s Day, Day of the Wren, Second Christmas Day, Day of Goodwill – known by many names in countries around the world, December 26th brings a second day of celebration. Following the traditional Christmas Day, the holiday most commonly known as Boxing Day is a bank holiday – a day when banks and other similar service-based industries are closed, allowing workers an extra day off. Though the holiday has evolved over time, its roots are quite similar to its modern manifestation. Boxing Day gets its name from the practice of giving Christmas boxes filled with food and gifts to servants and tradesmen – something that took place after the members of the upper class had enjoyed a day filled with celebrations (during which many of the service workers hadn’t had a day off)…

Read the rest of this entry »

Gratitudes and Graces: Book of Poetry, Prayers, & Songs of Thanks

Oprn Drdsmr: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

New Book Serves Up Gratitudes and Graces

Master Eckhart, who died almost seven hundred years ago said, “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is ‘thank you,’ it will be enough.” – From Giving Thanks: Poems, Prayers, and Praise Songs of Thanksgiving

Giving Thanks: Poems, Prayers, and Praise Songs of Thanksgiving is the newest collaboration between Katherine Paterson and Pamela Dalton. Paterson, a Newberry Medalist and author of some of the most beloved children’s books, including Bridge to Terabithia and Jacob Have I Loved, selected over 50 poems, prayers, and praise songs that reflect on the act of giving thanks.

The book is divided into four sections – “Gather Round The Table,” “A Celebration of Life,” “The Spirit Within,” and “Circle of Community” – and each section begins with Paterson’s personal reflections on being thankful. Universal principles of gratitude and joy are served up from across cultural and religious traditions, pulled from songs and spirituals, and echoed in the voices of people through the ages. A Vietnamese farmers’ prayer, an ancient haiku, a Shaker song, a Pueblo blessing, poems from Emily Dickinson and Wendell Berry, the words of Hildegard of Bingen and Martin Luther King Jr., are just some of the nuggets Paterson offers… Read the rest of this entry »

HFVS Thanksgiving Episode with Guest DJ, Charity Kahn (Radio Show/Podcast)

Listen to Podcast:

Thanksgiving Episode
with Guest DJ, Charity Kahn

This special Thanksgiving episode by Charity Kahn from Charity and the JAMband explores, through music and story, some of the many, many things we have to be grateful for in our lives — like the sun, rain, friends and family – – culminating in a vision for world peace where everyone finally has enough food, shelter, community and love. Incorporating songs by Snatam Kaur, Los Lobos, the Moody Blues, the Rolling Stones, and Nat King Cole, among others, the music and commentary weave a gentle yet thought-provoking meditation on gratitude, generosity, love and compassion to inspire folks of all ages this holiday season.

Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am
Nov 23rd & 24th, 2013
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA

Featured video: Charity has a great song, “Loving Kindness.” She writes, “Love shouldn’t cost anything. This song emanated from the Buddhist practice of Loving Kindness (also called Metta), whereby you send wishes of health, happiness, safety and peace of mind to yourself and others.”  In this video she shows you the movements to the song so you can show your preK kids how to dance along! Download the song for free here. – www.jamjamjam.com


 Archived Podcasts Radio  Facebook Twitter

PLAYLIST

  • Rolling Stones – “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” [Let It Bleed]
  • Beatles “Dear Prudence” [White Album]
  • Charity and the JAMband – “Grateful” [Family Values]
  • Snatam Kaur – “Long Time Sun” [Sacred Chants for Healing]
  • Gene Kelley – “Singing in the Rain” [Best of Gene Kelley]
  • Charity and the JAMband – “Green Beans Everywhere” [Family Values]
  • Nat King Cole – “Frim Fram Sauce” [The King Cole Trio]
  • William Steig – Sylvester and the Magic Pebble [Read by Charity Kahn]
  • Moody Blues – “Lovely To See You” [On the Threshold of a Dream]
  • Charity and the JAMband – “Love Is Herel” [Family Values]
  • Johnny Nash – “I Can See Clearly Now” [single]
  • Los Lobos – “Peace” [Kiko]
  • Charity and the JAMband – “We Are the Ones” [Family Values]

Hindsight Parenting: Lessons in Gratitude

The Attitude of Gratitude

When I need to rid myself of the bitter curmudgeon, when Eeyore sidles up to me wanting to bring me down (‘Oh bother…doesn’t matter anyway…’), lately when I take a moment to practice gratitude, it is my daughter’s capability to be thankful that comes to mind.

I have seen lots and lots of “November is a month for Giving Thanks” on Facebook lately. Heck, I was doing the same thing LAST November. For me, doing that; posting something that you are grateful for even on the worst of days where there seemed to be slim pickin’s in the happy department was a fruitful and enlightening exercise for me. On those seemingly desert dry days of thankfulness, I somehow found something small, a three year olds giggle, a warm bed, a glass of wine, a light bulb moment from one of my students. Those little things truly reminded me on those days of drudgery or misery that life wasn’t all bad. Of course always on the lookout for Hindsight lessons, I began to realize that this attitude of gratefulness was not an easy one for me. It was not natural. It was way too easy to focus on all that was going wrong (which was plenty a year ago)… Read the rest of this entry »

Just My Type: Counting Blessings Instead of Burdens

Thankful for Her Smile

Three years ago, I wrote a column for the weekly newspaper I was working for called “Thankful for her smile.” It was six weeks after my daughter Noelle’s type 1 diabetes diagnosis, and I chose to share the news with my readers in a pre-Thanksgiving column that tried to be positive, focusing on what I was thankful for instead of what I was angry about.

As this pre-Thanksgiving column was percolating in my head over the last couple of weeks, I had decided to revisit the idea of counting my blessings instead of my burdens. As life seems to enjoy throwing curveballs at me, however, that idea was almost derailed this week with yet another devastating health issue…  Read the rest of this entry »

Serving up Gratitude & Kindness for Thanksgiving

The Good Life: A Year of Thoughtful Seasons by Sarah Mattison Buhl

Growing Beyond Thankful

Expressions of gratitude often happen as a result of some small gesture of kindness… By offering our best, kindest selves, the people we encounter will find themselves profoundly grateful, though it is unlikely we will ever fully realize the power of our gestures…

This Thanksgiving, like many other families, we will travel to spend time with close family. We’ll load the van too full, then ease southward toward the Hudson River Valley to gather at my husband’s childhood home. It is lovely there. The fireplaces are inviting, the beds are generous, and the company is good. I am thankful for so much comfort and good fortune, but beyond that, I am grateful for the enduring love and generosity of this family.

On the surface, thankfulness and gratitude seem interchangeable, but the more I think about the words, the more sure I am that there is a difference between them. Thankfulness is cool, polite and controlled. Many of us celebrate Thanksgiving in the tradition of our New England founding fathers and mothers. They were Puritans. They were polite…and controlled. Gratitude is different. It is bigger. Gratitude is deep, abiding, personal, and emotional. Gratitude is lasting and humbling…

Read the rest of this entry »

HFVS Thanksgiving Episode with Guest DJ, Charity Kahn (Radio Show/Podcast)

Listen to Podcast:

Thanksgiving Episode
with Guest DJ, Charity Kahn

This special Thanksgiving episode by Charity Kahn from Charity and the JAMband explores, through music and story, some of the many, many things we have to be grateful for in our lives — like the sun, rain, friends and family – – culminating in a vision for world peace where everyone finally has enough food, shelter, community and love. Incorporating songs by Snatam Kaur, Los Lobos, the Moody Blues, the Rolling Stones, and Nat King Cole, among others, the music and commentary weave a gentle yet thought-provoking meditation on gratitude, generosity, love and compassion to inspire folks of all ages this holiday season.

Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am
Nov 24th & 25th, 2012
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA

Featured video: Charity has a great song, “Loving Kindness.” She writes, “Love shouldn’t cost anything. This song emanated from the Buddhist practice of Loving Kindness (also called Metta), whereby you send wishes of health, happiness, safety and peace of mind to yourself and others.”  In this video she shows you the movements to the song so you can show your preK kids how to dance along! Download the song for free here. – www.jamjamjam.com


 Archived Podcasts Radio  Facebook Twitter

PLAYLIST

  • Rolling Stones – “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” [Let It Bleed]
  • Beatles “Dear Prudence” [White Album]
  • Charity and the JAMband – “Grateful” [Family Values]
  • Snatam Kaur – “Long Time Sun” [Sacred Chants for Healing]
  • Gene Kelley – “Singing in the Rain” [Best of Gene Kelley]
  • Charity and the JAMband – “Green Beans Everywhere” [Family Values]
  • Nat King Cole – “Frim Fram Sauce” [The King Cole Trio]
  • William Steig – Sylvester and the Magic Pebble [Read by Charity Kahn]
  • Moody Blues – “Lovely To See You” [On the Threshold of a Dream]
  • Charity and the JAMband – “Love Is Herel” [Family Values]
  • Johnny Nash – “I Can See Clearly Now” [single]
  • Los Lobos – “Peace” [Kiko]
  • Charity and the JAMband – “We Are the Ones” [Family Values]

Q&A: Getting Kids to Write Thank You Cards

QUESTION AND ANSWERS


Does anyone have any age appropriate recommendations on how to get children to write thank-you notes for gifts received this holiday season?

  • Pauline Delton suggests, “I had my (5yo) son just say something to me about his gifts for his birthday (I gave him ideas of what thank you cards might say), and I wrote his words down in a card without changing them much, and then he signed his name. So, for one thing he said something like, “I want to see what bones there are!” and I added “(he means in the excavation kit)”. And then I just let people know ahead of time how we did it so they wouldn’t be confused. –  Another thing would be to call people and thank them, thank them individually at the party if there is one (some cultures don’t send thank you notes; they consider the at-party thank you to be appropriate), or take a pic when the item is worn/used and send that.”
  • Audrey Nystrom Anderson suggests, “For my 3 year old- I have him color in the cards and I write a quick note of thanks (not everyone can decipher scribble ).”
  • Michael Rongner suggests, “Stickers.”
  • Sara Barry suggests, “My daughter is 3 and has recently started to like using the phone. She’s asked to call people and tell them that she likes or was using something they gave her, so that’s mostly what we are doing now. I’ll probably work on thank you notes with her in the future, but for this year, we’ll stick with calls and thank you in person.”
  • Susan Lillie Robert suggests, “I think if parents sit down and lead by example…set a night that is to write thank you notes and everyone joins in.”
  • Rebecca Dejnak suggests, “My oldest is 5 so I have her write at least her name on the thank you I wrote, often it’s what she tells me. When she was younger and for my 2 yr old, coloring on the non-written side of the card included them in the process.”
  • Lisa Osman suggests, “My child is to young (19 months old) to write, but I am thinking when she is old enough perhaps she can make her own thank you cards and it can be a drawing and I could give it to the person who gave the gift. It may not be in the words “thank you,” but its from their heart!”
  • Amanda Saklad suggests, “As soon as my kids knew how to make their letters, I had them copy a simple THANK YOU letter (one sentence). Before that, I had them dictate a letter while I wrote it and they drew a ‘thank you’ picture. The older ones (9 and 12) write their own and it has to have at least three sentences and be specific about WHAT they are thanking.”
  • Barbara Dunn suggests, “Take a photo of the child with the gift or take a photo of the child holding a hand colored THANK YOU poster. Depending on age and skill set, have them sign their name, copy “Thank you”, then work on sentences.”
  • Sally Yates suggests, “Tell them to. Whose the parent?”
  • Rhonda Anderson suggests, “I have my child make the Thank You card, from which I make copies to send out. Up to now I have been the stenographer taking dictation- she is able to do her own this year. It is important that YOU the parent are also doing Thank You cards- as a parent you are setting the example- and showing how important it is to take the time to Thank- Not to mention spending time with your child. – It should be a fun activity, not a chore…”
  • Rebecca Racz suggests, “Exactly, just make it a fun activity. Depending on the skills level… just a drawing with a little “thank you for the gift!” written by a parent, or a simple sentence and signature by the child is enough. Creating the “card” or other artwork is key, (and the fun part) I think. I have received plenty of cute little scribbles from kids that get the point across just fine!”
  • Megan Banta suggests, “My mom wouldn’t let me play with the toy, wear the clothes, or deposit or spend the money until after the thank you was written – made me write those notes fast!!”
  • Amita Guha suggests, “My mom used to sort of hover over me in the kitchen while I did them in the dining room. Sadly, this made them a hated chore, but I did get them done, and I still do them to this day.”
  • Karen Palmer suggests, “I’ve taught my daughter to truly appreciate any gift she receives and though she may not care for it she understands the importance of being thankful for what she has … and has given.”

[Image credit: (ccl) woodleywonderworks]

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