Lately I’ve been having a hard time with a few things. It’s been a challenging year so far and there are a lot of moments when it’s easy to slide into a funk. A BIG ONE. The kind you can’t slip out of easily.
When everything black and white that was pink, or red or blue yesterday is now grey and grossly misshapen. Parenting teenagers is NO fun some days. Sometimes they suck the air out of a room with borrowed drama, angst and mood swings. Occasionally you look at them and wonder where the cute kid went. There are days when you struggle to see the baby that slept on your chest that time they couldn’t breathe with their first or second cold. Days when you cannot locate a hint of the sweet little toddler who held your hand all the way to the library for Tales for Tots.
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This month, when I felt that way and was completely drowning in angry I -cannot – stand – this – stage – of – parenting thoughts, I closed my eyes, took a breath, and tried to conjure up a few memories of previous positive interactions with my kids. What’s the opposite of anger? Well, I have decided that it’s practicing gratitude and finding something positive inside that dark feeling.
Treasuring the Happy Moments
Here’s what I came up with…
The time my oldest kissed me when I was reading her Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born. That was the moment she first kissed me, ever. So sweet! That April afternoon when my youngest jumped into a hot tub at Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter Resort, thinking it was a small swimming pool. The panicked look on her face was priceless as I reached in and plucked her out of the pool, eyes bugging out. Or how kind she is with seniors.
How we used to put our snow pants on and in the middle of February in the dark, after dinner we’d all slide down the climber in the yard.
Five Positive Things
So I’ve started making some lists of the things that make me happy. Or moments that have been spectacular, if fleeting. Sometimes I tell the kids, when they are feeling down, to state five positive things they like about themselves to stop the negative cycle. I think sometimes that creates a shift.
These days, when I find the grey crowding all the happy out, when I look in the mirror and see too many frown lines I force myself to take a breath and list some positive things that bring me happiness. Practicing gratitude.
85 Things I am Grateful for Today
The World Around Us
- Gold finches – because after the winter when I spied one outside the window at the Y today that little slip of colour was a breath of spring. Also my oldest when she was small would call them gold flinches. LOL.
- Forget Me Nots that are blooming at the side of my house. I didn’t plant them, but they grow there every spring and I think that they are poetic.
- Tulips because they were a gift to Canada and sometimes they sprout in places you never even planted them, because squirrels are quirky.
- Practicing gratitude seems to have a lot to do with flowers and I actually didn’t realize how much joy flowers bring me until I started writing this post. Planting your own food and growing it and eating it. That’s gold. Doesn’t even matter what the food is necessarily, but having a garden is enjoyable, especially when it provides you with fresh tomatoes, lettuce, carrots or zucchini.
- Cats that wander through the neighbourhood but don’t poop in my yard. Let’s face it, most of them poop in the garden when they want to because cats are cats.
- One of my neighbours has the most adorable dog named Mindy and she is the tiniest little toy something or other and every time they walk past my office window my heart melts a tiny bit.
- The maple tree outside my office window because… the fall. It is so very Canadian and incredible in the fall months. The red and purples and oranges are everything warm and majestic about Canada in the fall.
- Spying a rainbow out of the blue after a rain shower, but only with my daughters because that always feels to us like a message from my Mom and we all stop every time and reflect on that and simply pause to appreciate a world that is so incredible that it spontaneously produces rainbows.
- Finding parks you didn’t know were there when you are out walking.
- A bouquet of red roses.
- Lizards, just going about their business in warm areas of the world. Everything about them is exotic to me.
- Daffodils. They remind me of my mom.
- Seeing animals in their natural habitat from a respectful distance, like watching via zoom lens on my camera, as zebras and elephants grazed in Zambia.
- Pansies, with their happy little faces.
- Lilacs, because they are so fragrant.
All the Kindness
- A compliment out of the blue when you didn’t expect one.
- Giving someone else, a random stranger, a compliment in person, or by email. Kind words never fall on deaf ears and they always catch people by surprise.
- Even better than all of that is when my kids do something so unexpectedly kind I could never have predicted their response. Two instances I can think of right now. One – last week my youngest stated that someone blurted: “Go back to your country” to a student in the hallway at her school. The student is originally from Mexico. My daughter came to a full stop in the hall and asked that young man if he needed a hug and then gave him one. I hate that we live in a world where someone would blurt that to another student. I love her heart. In the summer, a homeless person was outside Covent Garden Market. My kids both saw him and were worried about him because he clearly had open foot sores and had removed his socks and shoes and was sitting on the cement. Where I might have been nervous or worried they did this: first they bought him food and gave it to him, and then they went inside and asked an adult working there to get him help. An ambulance arrived as I was picking them up. This is what hope looks like.
Pop Culture and Humour
- Friends on Netflix – The entire ten seasons. Let’s face it, the writing was hysterical and the characters were rich. The cast had great chemistry – the entire package. How You Doin?
- Jodi Picoult novels. All of them. Last year I read this one. Small Great Things This year I read this one – > A Spark of Light
- Seeing a Marvel movie with my whole family.
- Also on Netflix Grace and Frankie with Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda – so very funny and two older female lead actors is my favourite thing about this concept. Kudos.
- Quebec. All of it. A province with so much raw natural beauty it takes me aback every time we visit. I am of course referring to the natural physical terrain and the variety of regions, not the politics. You can hike and go cross country or downhill skiing, or do the Via Ferrata, or go whale watching. Everything is here.
- Fresh snow. Not just the first snow either, every single fresh snowfall gives me hope for ski season. Plus aren’t we lucky to live in Canada where snow is a possibility?
- Seasons – especially winter and summer. Fall has its merits too, but winter for skiing and summer for swimming and I am a happy camper.
- I need to add here that I am always ever grateful for my travel life Staying overnight at Hôtel de Glace and waking up knowing we made it though the night as a family.
- Taking off in a plane when your stomach does that little flip and you think now I am on my way towards something new. Let this adventure begin.
- Airplanes. Period. That someone figured out flight and how to make that happen, opening the world up to me and millions of other people. That is some immense leap of faith and hard work coupled with a feat of engineering and science and humanity.
- Vermont. If I lived in the US ever and could afford the lifestyle south of the Canadian border I would choose Vermont.
- The trip we took to Mexico and the moment when my tiny 5-year-old girl belted a baseball so far down the beach and the older boys she was playing with said: “Man, that little girl can hit!”
- On the same trip to Mexico when my oldest girl, 8 at the time, was at kid’s club teaching other kids how to speak French.
- Zambia. That trip and fellowship was a once in a lifetime event.
- The sail away party on a cruise ship. It’s one of my favourite parts of the trip because I know my holidays have started.
- Camping in the Fall for the first time ever with an RV as a family. That was spectacular and RV camping was so much fun.
- Non slip coil hair elastics, where have you been all my life?
- A brand new fiction novel.
- Words. They can be anything, right? That’s the charm of words for me. Schadenfreude. Onomatopoeia, Love. Holiday. Trip, travel, flight, mom, Payton, Ainsley, Jim, Friends, whale watching, cliff diving, daring, adventuresome. My currency and one of the first building blocks for all gratitude.
- People who slow down and drive properly on residential streets. There aren’t enough of those.
- Even better, people who remember your name and call you by it regularly. That is a skill I am working on.
- Enjoying a frozen Palm Bay cooler while swimming on a July or August afternoon.
- A good hair day.
- Pedicures at the kind of spa where you soak your feet in warm water.
- Seeing my byline in print on a story I have written, especially when it’s a market I have not yet been published in previously.
- The colour coral especially in women’s clothing and beauty products.
- A deep red lipstick, but only one that looks fantastic with my skin tone.
- People who genuinely and authentically listen to what you have to say. This actually is a specific skillset many people lack.
Future and Hope and All That Jazz
It’s easy to get caught up worrying about the future when kids have special needs. Parenting kids with special needs is draining in so many ways and it is rewarding too. But most of the parents I know in this situation worry often about who will care for their kids when they are gone. Also, how will they manage? Will they thrive? Will they be able to live independently?
- Knowing I still have more than a few firsts left. If I could learn to ski when I was in my forties and grow to love it, then zip line through the trees in half a dozen different places despite a fear of heights, then I still have a few great firsts to see and do.
- My husband’s laughter. I still love the way his eyes crinkle shut when he laughs hard.
- My husband’s jokes too. His Dad jokes make me laugh, even though they are ridiculous.
- Unexpected deliveries to my house and the surprise reveal of what’s inside.
Practising Gratitude is Like Exercise
- Centergy – it’s the class I do at the YMCA as many times a week as I am capable of doing so. It gives me energy and strength and flexibility and calm.
- Walking by myself, and sometimes, walking with my kids too.
- Skiing. All of it. Every last thing about skiing makes me happy. All of it…from gearing up to the crash at the end of the day from hard work and the burn in your legs.
- Swimming on a July afternoon without a cloud in the sky. Or that first swim in May when the pool opens.
Practising Gratitude is a Memory
- Remembering my Mom’s face and her voice and her tone too that time she told a nurse: “This is my daughter Paula. God sure knew what he was doing when he gave me her.”
- Riding the chairlift with my older daughter because she can be hysterical. Her sense of humour is razor sharp some days.
- My Mom. I am grateful for my Mom always. She passed away five years ago and I get sad at this time of year thinking about how much I miss her, but I am also always deeply grateful we had her for so long.
- My brother, my nieces and nephews.
Foods I am Deeply Grateful For Today and Always
- Homemade Italian Wedding Soup that I make with one of my daughters.
- Sour candies.
- International Delight coffee creamer. My coffee demands it.
- Seafood, because I love it, but only when it is real and fresh and cooked to perfection.
- Taco Tuesdays because tacos are magical, mouthwatering and easy to make on nights when you have zero energy and too many places to be.
- Baking cookies and the smell they fill the house up with for hours after they are done.
- The first barbecue of the season. Is there any food yummier than barbecue?
- Rosé wine.
- Creme Brûlée, a perfect combination of creamy and crunchy.
- Excellent thin crêpes, like the ones you can always order at Cora’s, and the ones they make in Quebec, especially the ones that are smothered in maple. TO DIE FOR. Today I am practicing gratitude for the amazing breakfast buffet at Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello.
- Smoked salmon.
- A chai latte or any latte actually.
- Jelly Belly jelly beans or any other jelly beans for that matter.
- A tumbler with bourbon in it and that first sip.
- Authentic sushi
- Mastering a brand new recipe that everyone likes!!
- Really great cheese. Gouda, Edam, Swiss or Applewood even. I’m not that fussy, but I know good cheese and there’s way too much bad cheese out there.
- Discovering a new meal, flavour or spice profile I didn’t know I could tolerate or liked at all. Really great red wine is like that. I thought I hated red wine and then I tried a great red wine last year and now I truly enjoy a good red.
- Sleeping on a cruise, with the waves lulling you into a peaceful slumber.
- The scent of vanilla or coconut products.
- Flying down a tubing hill with my family. We did that twice last year at Valcartier near Quebec City and also when we were ice fishing at the Briars Resort Terrifying and fast and so much fun.
Technology and Science
- When you set up new technology and it actually works and you made that happen and the technology itself makes your life better.
A Few More Things I Enjoy
- FREE things. Samples. Things that you did not expect but are sent via mail sometimes and they are completely free.
The Final Couple of Things I am Grateful For – Practicing Gratitude
- A really great French accent, especially when one of my kids speaks French. My oldest is bilingual now.
- Word of mouth. When clients or colleagues share their satisfaction or opinion about my work at Thrifty Mom Media consulting and I end up with new clients. That is satisfying.
Making lists is actually potentially number 86. LOL. I do like lists. They keep me organized. What are you grateful for today? Are you regularly practicing gratitude? Or do you take stock occasionally to find the positive?
Happier Days Ahead
Are you parenting teens? Either way I wish you happy days ahead and all the sunshine you can handle.