What happened to being Thankful?

Today I stopped into Starbucks with a  few co-workers. I don’t drink coffee but always enjoy a midday walk to break up the day and re-focus myself. Trips to this particular Starbucks are great people watching opportunities too. Unfortunately my desire to chat and people watch was overruled. Starbucks, you see, took Halloween as a sign that it was already the Christmas season. Complete with advent calendars and Merry Christmas signs. I wish I was kidding.

If you’ve read my blog before you probably know that being thankful is an important part of my daily practice. For me, being thankful for all that we have been given, earned, or fought hard for in this world is essential. While I do my best to always be thankful I take November as my month to highlight this feeling and share it with as many people as I can.

For the past few years I have kept a physical list during the month of November. I find the act of writing commits the item to memory much faster. Each day a new item is added to the list and on Thanksgiving a part of our dinner tradition is to revisit the list. It’s a warm and wonderful way to truly embrace thankfulness.

I wasn’t going to start my list here until next weekend but seeing those Christmas decorations today made me realize I may not be the only one feeling sad about the silence of Thanksgiving. So, without further ado, my first two items for the month:

Nov 1: Today I am thankful for a husband who is teaching me to be more fiscally responsible.

Nov 2: Today I am thankful I have food security. I can fuss about what to eat instead of worrying about when or if I can eat.

What are you thankful for today?

With Love, Mia

Gratitude and Ambition

As we approach Thanksgiving (perhaps you’re even reading this post on Thanksgiving) I want to take a few minutes to address something that has been on my mind for a long time. It’s the pervasive idea that gratitude and ambition are mutually exclusive virtues. In my experience, society places a high value on gratitude but bristles at the idea of an ambitious individual.

As children we are taught to be polite and to always be thankful for the kindness of others. We are to be ever grateful for the good things that happen in our lives. Before I go on I want to say that I believe teaching gratitude is a very important thing to do. We don’t live on this planet in isolation and it’s important to acknowledge who and what helps us along our journey. Ungratefulness is an ugly trait in a human and our society is not designed to appreciate that. Thank goodness!

There is, however, a risk to over-engaging in gratitude. It’s the point in which you start to frame your life in terms of the things that happen to you. You start to cede the control of your life to other people, or “uncontrollable” events. This path can become self-destructive if you’re not aware of where to draw the line. It’s easy to become unhappy with your life but feel powerless to improve your situation. Or even worse, to feel guilty for not being more grateful for what you already have. One of the most powerful tools to combat this potential downward spiral is the virtue of being ambitious. This allows you to take back the control and make positive changes to your life. If you are ambitious enough it also allows you to improve the lives of others in ways that gratitude alone will never be able to.

Ambition, however, is not usually seen in the positive light. Often times ambition is seen as aggression. Being ambitious is commonly synonymous with being controlling or overpowering. You’re seen as someone who rocks the boat and people don’t usually like that having that type of person around, especially in the workplace. Showing an interest in growing and improving your life and the lives around you is met with either skepticism or even downright negativity. The ambitious individual is chided and asked why their life isn’t already good enough. “Why aren’t you grateful for the things you have? All your blessings aren’t  enough?What more do you need?”

So therein lies the rub. At least for me. Growth is uncomfortable and downright difficult. People who want to improve themselves, and especially people who want to improve situations for others, should be applauded, not reprimanded. Wanting to make the world a better place (even just your small corner of the world) does not mean you are forsaking all of the greatness already in it. It’s not apathy that pushes someone to dedicate themselves to a goal or to strive for success. An ambitious person needs to believe that his/her struggles are worth the fight. In essence, there needs to be something worth fighting for. Without gratitude for what we already have, there would be no point in fighting to make things even better.

This year as Tony and I sit down for our Thanksgiving meal we will take a moment to share those events and people we have been grateful for over the past year – our thanks, our gratitude. When we raise our glasses we will not only be toasting to show our thanks, but we will also be toasting to the future. We will be reaffirming our intentions to build on the greatness we have experienced because, you see, gratitude is only the beautiful beginning.

Calor Amor

Tony and I had lunch at the mall today. On our way to the food court we saw the inklings of Christmas; racks of sweaters rolled near the aisles, Uggs and Ugg knock-offs lining the shoe displays, store employees preparing decorations… the “Santa HQ” had even been set up downstairs already. I sighed and we continued to walk on. I’ve already mentioned how the Christmas creep bothers me so I won’t hop up on that soap box again. We’ll just leave it at a sigh.

Actually, forget the sigh. This story has a happy ending! We sat down to enjoy our lunch and listened to the mall tv show “Calor” between bites. The mall show always makes me laugh and seems to give us something to talk about (usually it just gets us talking about how old we feel, haha). Today Calor was doing holiday segments on different ways to prepare pumpkin, and on different things one of the anchors was thankful for. Wait, what?! That’s right, a segment on giving thanks. Since it’s mall tv they were a mix of purposefully funny items and the occasional genuine item.

So, in the name of Calor, I give you a handful of things I’m thankful for:

  1. Good health
  2. A climate controlled home
  3. An amazing auto insurance company
  4. A warm bed to sleep in
    and last but not least,
  5. A husband who keeps me laughing all day and keeps me feeling warm and safe at night

Perhaps it is just my upbringing, but taking time to reflect is very important to me. The act of feeling thankful should be repeated on a regular basis. With that I’m going to do my best to end each post with a little note of gratitude or thanks. Sometimes it will be something small and silly, sometimes it will be something more serious. It will always be genuine.

Today I am thankful for: a mother-in-law who loves and cares for me as though I am her own child. When we first moved out here she knitted me a scarf. I wore it today and thought of her. It always keeps me that much warmer. ❤

What are you thankful for? (remember, there’s nothing too small!)

Why there’s no Christmas music at our house

Halloween has come and gone and November is officially in full swing. Leaf piles are growing and hot drinks are starting to take center stage. Chimneys start to puff out smoke and squirrels start to collect their winter cache. In quiet moments, the world is perfect and beautiful.

Unfortunately this is also the same time of year that a great darkness begins to creep out of restaurants, gas stations, and seemingly every store under the sun. What am I talking about? Christmas advertising, of course.

Before I go on, let me say that my distaste has nothing to do with the religious, spiritual, or traditional aspects of the holiday. Both my husband and I grew up with Christmas in our homes and I have always been fond of decorating and celebrating with loved ones. The problem I have is two-fold…

1) I have a generally foul view of advertising. Don’t get me wrong, advertisers are very sly folks and I am intrigued by how well they poke at our collective psyches. I just think that’s kinda mean. I think many times we lose focus of what truly matters to us because we are focused on the images presented in ads.

2) Stop ignoring the November holidays, gosh darnit! In the US, November has two prominent holidays already – Veterans Day and Thanksgiving. These two holidays have heart warming themes that encourage us both as individuals and as a society to; reflect on the greatness in our lives, share that greatness with others, and celebrate those who have made possible the greatness we enjoy. For me, those themes are what we should be supporting and promoting.

Again, I have no hatred towards Halloween or Christmas. In fact, I enjoy them both quite a bit. I just wish the advertising world and the media gave equal focus to other holidays. I cannot change the world but I can change the way I interact with it. That is why, in our house, November is given its space to be what it is – a month of reflection and thanks-giving. After we reflect, share, and give thanks, then we can comfortably move on to the next celebration… but not a moment sooner. November 28th will be here before you know it and then our house will be one big singing Christmas carol. >.<

I dedicate this November, as I do every year, to saying “No” to a hyper-advertised and sensationalized consumer Christmas. I dedicate this month to reflection and thanksgiving. A November worth remembering because it will be one lived with feeling.

Like what you’re reading? Share the feeling with your family, friends, and heck, the whole world by using #givingthanks or #thankful