Thanksgiving Week Gratitude List

Over the course of this month, I've noticed that my Facebook wall has been filled with daily expressions of gratitude from my friends and family, sort of Advent Calendar like, but for Thanksgiving.

If you're not familiar with this Thanksgiving month tradition on Facebook (I can't believe I'm saying there are "traditions" on Facebook), each day of the month, people with post something they're grateful for that day. For example:

Day 5: Today I'm grateful for the lessons I've learned this year. They've helped me grow and become a better person.

I think it's a charming tradition and one that helps us all focus on what's good in our lives rather than what's going wrong at the moment or what we don't have and wish we did. It reminds me that simply by being on Facebook, my life is overflowing with abundance in ways that millions and millions of people around the world can't even imagine because of the abject poverty they live in daily.

I'm not sure why, but to date, I have chosen to sit out the daily posting of gratitude. It's not that I'm not grateful. I am and I count my blessings every single day. Often multiple times each day. So tonight I'm going to play catch up right here.

  1. My family. Cliché I suppose, but it's the truth. I don't have the perfect family, but it's mine and I'm grateful for each and every member of it. I know that I can reach out to anyone in my immediate family and some members of my extended family and they'll be there for me. any time.
  2. Sammy and Zoey. Sure, I could classify them under "family," but they deserve their own shout out. They insist on snuggling nightly and greet me at the front door most nights. Yes, they do annoying things like eat my laptop power cord, but that's to be expected from kittens.
  3. My friends. I think of friends as the family I get to choose. I'm incredibly fortunate because most of my closest friends have been in my life for almost a quarter of a century. They are my touchstones. I've also developed quite a few new friends this year and that excites me because they help me stretch outside my comfort zone.
  4. Facebook and Social Media, in general. Through social media, I've reconnected with childhood friends I'd lost contact with, become closer with cousins and aunts and uncles separated by hundreds or thousands of miles (including one living in South Africa!), and gotten to know co-workers outside of the office. I've also made new friends, a number of whom have become "real life" friends, meaning we've met in-person and hang out beyond just trading tweets or Facebook messages.
  5. Synthroid. I've talked about this before on LMS 1.0, but I can't imagine my life without this incredible drug that makes my thyroid work after it had stopped working on its own. I love feeling like me again and having the energy to do what I want rather than always feeling sluggish.
  6. My job. I'm grateful for all the incredible alumni I work with daily and whose stories I've gotten to know over the past three years. I also work with some pretty cool folks and that makes going to the office daily much more fun.
  7. 100 New Experiences. I'm grateful for each of the experiences I've had so far this year. I have challenged myself to step outside my comfort zone and become adventurous again. I've had to face some fears and question a few of my assumptions about myself. It's been exhilarating and I'm excited to have followed through with this year-long challenge rather than let myself off the hook when it got tough.
  8. This line from Three Fallen Women by Amy Güth. "As living grows on you, the voids fill, one by one, until one day you realize you are whole and pure and have only the lethal illness to thank." When I first read those words, my entire body shook and my eyes filled with tears. To be clear, it was a good "shook." Amy's words spoke to me in a way none had in longer than I can remember. They perfectly described how I have felt about the last year or so of my life. Thank you, Amy, for putting words to wordless emotions for me.
  9. Little Merry Sunshine 1.0 and 2.0. I'm grateful that I took a risk on myself almost seven years ago when I thought about writing in a public way. LMS has been incredibly cheap therapy. And I'm incredibly touched by all the readers and subscribers to LMS, who have been with me since the beginning or close to it. You've all lifted me up when I needed it and celebrated with me during the good times. I often go back and read comments you left years ago.
  10. My ability to laugh at the absurdities of life. Some days all I can do is laugh.
  11. The mentors I've had in life. We all have mentors. Some of them teach us how to be better and some of them show us who we don't want to become. I'm grateful for all the mentors I've had and I've learned much from all of them. I like to think that I am who I am because of them and that I carry a little piece of each of them with me daily.
  12. The sunrise and sunset I can see from my condo each day. They remind me that change is constant and to look for the beauty in the simple things.
  13. My heated mattress pad. I honestly believe this is the greatest invention known to man. I can turn the heat down in my condo at night, but always get into a toasty bed. My toes are never cold.
  14. Everyday kindnesses. Every day I look for people being kind to each other and I'm never disappointed. Sometimes it's a neighbor holding the heavy garage door open for another neighbor or a co-worker going the extra mile or a driver not flipping out when another driver cuts them off. Kindness is all around us and the more we look for it, the more it grows.
  15. My education. I know that no matter what happens in life, thanks to my education, I have the skills to reinvent myself and that never go out of style with employers.
  16. The times I've been hurt in life. Not physically hurt, but emotionally hurt. Each of those hurts has given me an important lesson that helped me grow and prepare for a new chapter.
  17. The beach. I live just a couple of miles from Lake Michigan and often go to the beach to relax. There's just something about the sound of the waves and the feel of sand between my toes that makes all of life's stresses disappear.
  18. Good financial management skills. I'm not perfect, but I live within my means and put money into my 401k, savings account, and HSA automatically each pay period. Because it's automatically done I don't miss the money and I know that I'm taking care of my needs today and well into the future.
  19. High quality health insurance. I remember what it was like to be uninsured and worry about what I'd do if I needed to go to the doctor. It's a kind of stress no one should have to experience. I'm fortunate that I have really good health care that doesn't cost me a fortune and takes care of my needs.
  20. The trip I took to Springfield, IL with my mom this weekend. I'll write more about the trip later this week, but I really enjoyed spending three days with my mom. Although she's young (65) and the women in our family have a history of very long lives, there's no guarantee of that for any of us. I'm grateful that we're finding ways to make these memories together.
  21. Motivational quotes.
  22. My own voice. I don't mean the sound of it. I mean that I have finally learned how to speak my truths and be my own advocate. I've also learned that sometimes it's enough to simply speak my truth. Whether someone hears me or not often matters little.
  23. Cooking. I love to cook. It relaxes me and is a primary way I express creativity.
  24. Yoga and mindfulness. Through the practice of both yoga and mindfulness, sometimes separately and sometimes together, I have become better able to handle stress and take care of me.
  25. Food in my cabinets. It breaks my heart when I see people without the ability to take care of one of our most fundamental human needs. I'm grateful that I've never experienced food insecurity. I try to pass my abundance on to those less fortunate by regularly donating to my local food pantry.
  26. The roof over my head. As we were driving to and from Springfield, we drove down 55 and saw areas severely damaged by last Sunday's tornadoes. When I was 10 our house caught fire and we lost a lot, but we lost nothing in comparison to what the families in central Illinois lost and we didn't have to deal with FEMA and an insurance company trying to process hundreds (thousands?) of other catastrophic claims simultaneously.

What are you grateful for?

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    Jessica Gardner

    A native of Chicago's Northwest Suburbs and resident of the North Shore, Little Merry Sunshine comes by her name honestly. The story goes that as a child, she was always so happy that she even slept with a smile on her face. Her mom nicknamed her Little Merry Sunshine. It stuck, along with her insatiable desire to focus on the good in the world and to leave it a little better than she found it. She does this by sharing her passions and dreams, what inspires her, and maybe you too, and furthering the discussion about how we can listen to our better angels. You can reach her at LittleMerrySunshineCN[at]WowWay[dot]com.

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