Gratitude

Hold on. Why are you talking about gratitude, Greta, it’s not November yet.
Grateful… Thankful… I wish we had different words to describe the recognition and appreciation of what is good in our lives. Too often the words we use are associated with Thanksgiving…with Facebook posts of gratitude each day in November.

We need to attend to the position of gratitude. Let me be more precise: I (i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i) need to attend to the position of thankfulness.

There are a few messages that have come to an intersection in my life recently. All three from differing avenues.

The first is from a podcast interview with Diana Butler Bass. The ‘10% Happier’ podcast is a must-hear for me. I have been reticent to write about the significant impact the book, ‘10% Happier’, the podcast, 10% Happier and the app of meditations (…10% Happier app) have played in my life these past two years. Someday soon I need to flesh out their significance to me.

But back to a recent podcast interview with Diana Butler Bass, author of many books, her latest: ‘Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks‘.

Bass found that she was 56 years old and didn’t fully understand gratitude – always equating it to the torture of having to write thank you notes as a kid, which her mother insisted she do. In writing this book she learned how to be more grateful…to recognize gratefulness. “When you are grateful for one thing it becomes easier to be grateful for two things…” and on it goes.

We need to cultivate the disposition to see THROUGH what’s happening around us in order to see what’s GOOD, right there in front of us. Ex: air to breathe etc. We all too often have a vision of scarcity and fear instead of a vision of gratefulness.

Many people have written about keeping a gratitude journal. I have tried – in various forms – to keep journals in the past. My house is littered with started and eventually neglected journals. So I was somewhat relieved to hear Bass say she had the same difficulty. Instead, she found that a bad thing prompted her to remember the good thing. She used, for example, opening up the morning newspaper and feeling a sense of dread about the state of the world. It was that dread…the ‘bad thing’…that jolted her memory to think about one good thing in the morning. I can understand that way of thinking.

She pointed out a significant word in the scripture 1 Thessalonians 5:18 – a familiar verse to many people. It says IN everything give thanks. It does not say FOR everything give thanks. This isn’t a pollyanna approach to gratitude. The Scripture isn’t asking us to praise and rejoice over our hardships and illnesses. It is merely saying that in the midst of all that pain and frustration, give thanks…recognize and appreciate…the many other blessings in your life.

Another message that resonated with me this morning was from my Jesus Calling devotional book. I know many of you also read from this little book of truth. Here’s what this morning’s message said:

‘I speak to you continually. My nature is to communicate, though not always in words. I fling glorious sunsets across the sky, day after day after day. I speak in the faces and voices of loved ones. I caress you with a gentle breeze that refreshes and delights you. I speak softly in the depths of your spirit, where I have taken up residence.

You can find Me in each moment, when you have eyes that see and ears that hear. Ask My Spirit to sharpen your spiritual eyesight and hearing. I rejoice each time you discover My presence. Practice looking and listening for Me during quiet intervals. Gradually you will find Me in more and more of your moments.’

It is a discipline – a muscle, if you will – to be purposeful and intentional in your gratitude. Can I step back, in the midst of frustration, and find something of beauty around me? Can I purposefully search for moments when God seems to be saying directly to me: ‘Greta…look at this.’ I think we would all claim we are grateful. We list the common things: friends, family, health, freedom. But are we daily and specifically pointing our thoughts toward just one thing…maybe two…for which we are grateful?

I read an article in the June 2018 Oprah magazine issue entitled, ‘Are You Ready For Some Good News’. I’ll finish off this post with some highlights from the article. It is easy to feel like the world is going to hell in the proverbial handbasket. With each passing day it becomes more and more difficult to see the good. To appreciate the good. To be thankful for the good. Harder still, to be thankful in the midst of the good and the bad and the mundane and the challenging.

Don’t be like me and feel a ‘general sense of gratitude’. I am vowing to be more intentional in my gratitude on a daily basis. Nothing big. Nothing monumental. Just a habit of starting my day with a recognition of something really awesome that’s happening in my life and for which I feel a deep sense of gratitude. If we are struggling and can’t think of anything better: let’s just all agree to be thankful for the air we breathe. Some days, if that’s all we can conjure up, then that’s what we’ll resort to, okay?

Here are some positive things going on in our world:

The ozone layer is repairing itself. Thanks to laws restricting – and people committing to eliminate aerosols – between 2000 and 2015 the hole over the Antarctic shrank 1.7 million square miles.

Every major car company has now committed to adding an electric model to its fleet. Volvo and Jaguar Range Rover have vowed to stop designing fossil-fuel-only cars by 2020. It is projected that by 2030, 40% of all new car sales will be electric or hybrid models.

A 2017 study revealed that trees are adapting to the world’s higher concentration of carbon dioxide by using water more efficiently, which allows them to increase in size, which means they can remove more CO2 from the air.

Millennial’s are the segment of the population most likely to visit a public library.

Millennials donate to charity more readily than any other generation.

84% of Millennials say they want to help make the world a better place and that that’s more important than achieving professional success.

The National Crime Victimization Survey says there has been a 75% decline in violent crime from 1993 to 2015.

Last year scientists have begun testing on patients a process to deposit stem cells onto burned skin to help it regrow faster than a skin graft. Within 90 minutes of a patient’s arrival at the ER, her stem cells can be isolated and sprayed onto her damaged flesh, allowing new skin to generate within four days without excess pain, risk of infection, or extended hospital stays.

Of the 7 billion people on earth, 6 billion have access to a mobile phone – and a far less abundant supply our books. Cell phones now offer people in developing nations the chance to read digitally. Of the more than 4000 respondents to a recent survey, 62% said they are reading more thanks to their phone.

Berlin students turn swastika graffiti into clever street art by making images like a square-torsoed owl, an unresolved Rubiks cube, and a guy doing a ‘Walk Like An Egyptian’ dance.

Students make one-legged duck a prosthesis using a 3-D printer.

Gym chain bands cable news networks. Says constant attention to squawking pundits is not conducive to a healthy way of life.

Changes for good are happening all around us in big and small ways. Be a part of that change, yes. But also remember to pay homage to the good you see around you. Notice it. Appreciate it. And occasionally, recognize that it might be God’s small voice saying, ‘I see you. I care about you. This is my gift to you.’

Gratitude. So much more than a Thanksgiving vow…

“Can you please build me a…”

That is such a common phrase around our house. To be honest, the longer we are together the more I’ve begun to wonder if I married Scott for his kind heart or for his access to his father’s power tools! 😉

I’ve *patiently* waited until he had some vacation time off; I knew EXACTLY what I wanted him to build for me: floating wooden shelves.

It started with this picture in the new Magnolia cookbook

(don’t all projects usually begin with Joanna Gaines?!)

Day #1 of staycation finally rolled around and off to the lumber yard we went. I have to say, it’s nice to envision a project and then let Scott take over on the measurements and production. 🙂

We have this little nook when you walk in through our front door that I knew would be perfect for these floating shelves. Plus (a big plus!), it gives me more storage options. I thought I had a better picture of the BEFORE (whyyyyyy do I always forget to take the BEFORE picture?!) but you can see the little inset area over to the right where I had a tall chest of drawers…

I found the shelf plans online. There were other instructions from other sites that didn’t seem very heavy-duty, but the plans from Shanty 2 Chic were really hefty. She said she built her shelves extra sturdy with the idea that her 2-year-old might try to use them as a ladder -ha!

* the adjustments we made to the original plans are noted below if you’d like to make some shelves for yourself

After Scott built the shelves I stained them. Let me tell you – I am willing to paint ANYthing. I’ve painted just about everything over the years. But staining?? Yikes. Staining seems like a grown-up DIY. My parents stained things. Furniture restorers stain things. There’s not much room for messing up with staining. And there’s no painting over it once it’s done. AND THEN THERE IS THE PICKING OUT OF THE STAIN…such stress! It is not unlike picking out a hair color: Is it really this color or will it turn out two shades darker?!  I went with Provincial from Minwax. My plan was to put white dishes on the finished shelves so I wanted my dishes to stand out against the darker wood stain.

The below picture is what makes these shelves so freaking awesome. The outside box slides onto this sturdy foundation. The skeleton of the whole shelf is in this foundation. Plus, you can find your wall studs and go directly into those without having to move the placement of the shelves themselves.


And voila! The shelves look like they have been here all along. Perfectly tailored for this space. I am over the moon excited about the way they turned out! I am certain they will be rearranged a zillion times, but at the time of this post’s printing (ha!) this is what they look like. I am already envisioning more shelves in other places in our kitchen. Famous last words, Give me MORE. MORE!” 

The below pictures are a little odd and not very ‘picture perfect’ but it gives you an idea of where they are in comparison to the wall angles and corners around them.

I am so excited about the way this project turned out. Don’t tell Scott, but I’m already scheming in my head about replacing those folding doors in the laundry area. But shhhhhhh…….we’ll let him rest on his shelf success for just a little while longer.

Here’s to a successful DIY win!

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OUR PLAN ADJUSTMENTS:

  • instead of cutting each shelf at 32″ from your 8′ board, first trim off a tiny bit at one end of your 8′ board to make sure you have a straight edge (so you’ll lose a tiny bit of measurement there.) Your blade is 1/8″ thick so you’ll lose that measurement as well with each cut. Instead, measure each shelf to be 31 3/4″ wide.
  • we chose to make a 45 degree cut for each shelf corner (instead of a blunt cut.) To accommodate for the 45 degree cut, add 1/2″ to the 1×4 sides.
  • our assembly steps:
    • attach the base to the 2×3 frame (interior frame)
    • mount the frame (with attached base) to the wall
    • assemble the sides and the top together as one piece (exterior top)
    • slide the exterior top onto the mounted interior frame
    • put a screw into the side of the shelf to hold it in place on the interior frame (we counter-sunk a hole so the screw doesn’t show from the side)

An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones

There are too many loose ends in the world, in need of knots. You can’t attend to all of them, but you have to try.

This was a raw glimpse into a marriage under extreme outside pressure. I found myself continually thinking, ‘This is exactly how I would probably react.’ It was an exposed view into the upended lives involved in an otherwise all-American marriage. We often go into marriage thinking it is an agreement between two people, when actually it includes more people than just two spouses.

It was difficult to mentally assign a protagonist and an antagonist to the cast of characters. The reader can easily identify with and feel empathy for many of the characters and their sorted reactions to love and heartache and the burden of life’s circumstances that are dealt differently to each one of us.

Tamari Jones unknowingly laid open our souls before us to voyeuristically nod our head in agreement and cringe in recognized moments of selfishness. Many readers will not identify with the exact storyline, but will nod their heads in enigmatic acknowledgement. Jones turns us around to the mirror and asks her readers to answer some timely questions about race and class in America.

May was a good month for reading. I enjoyed all the books I read:

Don’t Let Go. (And ironically, I didn’t.)

Going to the doctor when I’m sick is always my last ditch effort. After putting things off until way past the last minute, I recently went to a nearby walk-in clinic at CVS Pharmacy to see if they could give me any relief from these *&%$#! allergies. The ‘Minute Clinic’ – as it’s called – actually lasted exactly 170 minutes from the time I walked in to the time that I finally walked out: 2 hours and 50 minutes. UGH! Actually I didn’t really care because my energy level was nil. So I sat patiently and waited.

After it became obvious it was going to be a bit of a wait, I walked over to the magazine/book aisle and picked up this book: Don’t Let Go by Harlan Coben. According to the inside jacket, Coben has written exactly 7.gillion books, of which I had read none. But (as always, when in doubt…) the cover looked good so I picked it up and walked back over to my chair in the waiting room area and opened it up to read this mystery/suspense thriller and pass my sniffling waiting time.

He looked at our faces and knew. They often do. Some claim that the first step in the grieving process is denial. Having delivered my share of life-shattering news, I have found the opposite to be true: the first step is complete and immediate comprehension. You hear the news and immediately you realize how absolutely devastating it is, how there will be no reprieve, how death is final, how your world is shattered and that you will never, ever be the same. You realize all that in seconds, no more. The realization floods into your veins and overwhelms you. Your heart breaks. Your knees buckle. Every part of you wants to give way and collapse and surrender. You want to curl up into a ball. You want to plummet down the mineshaft and never stop.

That’s when denial kicks in. Denial saves you. Denial throws up a protective fence. Denial grabs hold of you before you leap off that ledge. Your hand rests on a hot stove. Denial pulls your hand back.

Coben is a quick, leave-’em-hanging-at-the-end-of-each-chapter kind of writer which is great for times when you want to just casually read something entertaining. He hooked me right off the bat and grounded my feet firmly in the have-to-know-how-this-ends quicksand every novelist hopes for.

I had it completely read by the next day. Abandoned military bases, waterboarding, high school friends crossing paths decades later……what’s not to love?! I tried to pass it on to Scott to read who immediately said the curve of the tracks on the front cover is completely unrealistic – a train could never make a drastic curve like that. *face palm*

Sidenote: The title of the book is ‘Don’t Let Go’ and well, ……I didn’t let it go. I was well into the book when the nurse called me back and after our very arduous exam and explanations of meds, etc., I walked right out of that CVS with this book in my hands without paying for it! I am currently on the lam. I’ve been running and hiding for days – never staying in the same place more than two days at a time. I feel certain they are tracking this IP address as I write this review.

Yes, yes. I will go back to CVS, admit to my accidental theft and buy the book for good. (But after reading a suspense novel, it felt only right to type up this book review while still running from the feds myself.)

Need a swimming pool read this summer? This is your book. I think I’ll grab a couple of his other books too and see if I like them as well. Easy. Somewhat mindless. A read that keeps you moving along.

patriotism is a weird thing these days…

I was not born into a military family. I look with awe at the many pictures posted today of fathers, brothers, sisters, friends who have served in the various armed services of America. I have always had a penchant for patriotism, however. Studying history in college and grad school, I was introduced to some of the more nefarious sides of our country’s history. But that’s what forges strength, correct? The trials and errors and rebirths that naturally occur while creating a new and improved model that is stronger and healthier.

Many new mothers can recognize the surge of weirdo hormones that happens following childbirth. After all the congratulations were ended and my friends and family had all left the hospital, I slept on and off – completely in awe that I was now a first-time mother. As the sun rose outside my window the next morning, I looked out to see that my hospital room was squarely facing the tall flagpole that greeted everyone as they entered the front doors. The American flag was waving valiantly and then suddenly, I began crying. I made fun of myself later as I explained to my husband how overwhelmed I felt in a split second transition from ‘normal’ to ‘hormonal’. I couldn’t keep it in; I was so very thankful my newborn baby – less than 24 hours old – was born into the comforting arms of freedom that America offers. Sounds crazy insane, right? But I was completely overcome with pure, raw gratitude.

This unadorned feeling of patriotism happened back in the good ol’ days when pride of country felt a little easier. I have much more complicated feelings about it these days. The older I’ve gotten (and as news channels are multiplying like rabbits and news coverage seems to show no restraint) the more devastation I have witnessed throughout the world. Perhaps you feel a few misnomers about patriotism too… Primarily – can I be proud of my country of origin (something that was a complete luck of the draw) without excluding all other countries of humans all over the world? I’ve had to work through those kinds of questions, especially since 9/11.

I think of patriotism a lot like I think about my personal faith in God. I want to have and hold and honor my faith but I also want others to bathe in the salve of God’s love as well. I wish this same thing for persons suffering under a horrid dictator, being stripped of their homes, their families and their self-dignity. I do not want to be exclusive with my patriotism. With all of our faults, I wish others could live with the same freedom and justice that we do in the United States. I wish ‘American freedom’ could take on the great characteristics of their own country as they learn to live more peacefully democratic lives. I do not believe myself to be of higher standing because I was lucky enough to be born in the United States. I sincerely wish the Miss-America-answer for everyone: world peace.

I cannot write the above paragraph without feeling a strong sense of the INjustice that is also a part of our own country. We have so.much.more to learn with regards to social justice, equality and false imprisonment just to name a few. I am aware of my extreme white-ness as I type each word.

If there was one thing my mother beat instilled into our minds it was this: “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required,” Luke 12:48 KJV

We have a responsibility as….(name the characteristic)…Americans. Caucasians. Wealthy. Privileged. Instead of taking an apologetic approach, why not stand in the posture “…of him shall be much required.” Men and women who have fought in the armed forces have stepped up to eradicate injustice and tyranny. We honor and thank them – especially today on Memorial Day. But we are each given the responsibility to step up and take action against the oppressor wherever we find ourselves. Taking action against violence can take on many different forms: getting involved in the political process, writing letters, befriending someone who looks different than you, encircling all of mankind – regardless of their political, spiritual, sexual or socioeconomic status.

The red hat maxim that has been splashed across our political arena these past few years hints of too much exclusivity. It makes me very uncomfortable. While comparing my patriotism to my faith, shall I gather all the love and grace and forgiveness of Christ for myself, hoarding His salvation from others for fear of losing any part of it for me alone? That is a preposterous suggestion. And yet too often, that is the message we are sending the world. A message of fear. ‘We have it and you don’t and we don’t want to share it with you because there won’t be enough of it left for our country.’

The goal of a peaceful world is our guide for the present and our vision for the future. The quest is the greatest adventure of our century. We sometimes chafe at the burden of our obligations, the complexity of our decisions, the agony of our choices. But there is no comfort or security in evasion, no solution in abdications, no relief in irresponsibility. The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics, whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were, and ask why not? ~ John F. Kennedy

There is no shame in American patriotism. We honor those that have served to fight for our country, especially those that were killed in the process. We pay homage to those within our own personal lives that have gone on before us. We honor and love and respect their commitment to make our lives stronger and more abundant. The greatest way that we can honor them, however, is to take up the mantle of responsibility they made available to us. We want our own lives to be great. We want our immediate families to prosper and succeed. We wish for our cities, our states, our country to excel. Yet our truest success will be found when we can offer these unlimited opportunities of liberties to every human worldwide. As Americans, we must set the example for civility. As Americans, we must lead the way.

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a word about the photograph above:
My sweet friend, Cricket, lives in this lovely 1895 home in Springville, Alabama. Her instagram account is like stepping into The American Dream and never wanting to come out. As amazing as their home renovation has been, her heart exceeds even that. Her beautiful daughters and handsome son have wonderful role-model parents AND Cricket has the MOST adorable side hustle as a vintage shopkeeper in a remodeled vintage camper. Please check out her market schedule and see if she’ll be at a market near you. And look through her home renovation as well as their unbelievable camper renovation. She’s someone on my rather short list of People I’d Like to Meet in Person Someday.

Simple, Slow Saturday

There were plans. There was sickness. Things were rearranged. And all of that together equated to a wonderfully simple Saturday strolling through the City Market, vegging on the couch, baking homemade goodies just because and short-range planning for some summer daytrips. Organic foods…organic plans.

The fruits and veggies are starting to show up at the farmer’s market, but it’s still predominantly flowers and plants and succulents galore. Each time I see someone walking back to their car with an armload or box filled with tomato plants or other annuals, I feel a common bond of hope with them. We all start out the summer filled with grand plans that usually get tapped down by weather or bugs or budgets. But in the beginning – we are imagining our own small piece of heaven, right there in our backyards. Go small-batch farmers, go!

I enjoy watching the vendors who sell bouquets of cut flowers. Is it just us Midwestern gals that love an armful of ‘freshly cut wildflowers’ over an FTD arrangement any ol’ day?! To watch the vendors pick and choose from buckets and buckets of flowers…it’s mesmerizing to me. Someday I hope to see the big flower markets in the Pacific Northwest. I wouldn’t even know where to begin looking and oo’ing and ahh’ing! I just imagine them to be simply amazing.

Being within walking distance of our farmer’s market is certainly a big plus when it comes to bringing home country wildflowers for our urban home. This week I picked a small $5 bouquet, mostly because the flowers are ones that last a lot longer than the other varieties. I had never seen this particular vendor before but I loved their booth and the extra touch of the brown paper surrounding the bunch. I was specifically thinking of the sweet pink vase my friend, Brenda, sent me from Magnolia Market.

And I was right: the flowers look perfect in their little pink home, reminding me of a simple Saturday with my husband and a friend who allowed me to cancel plans with her because of my stupid ear infection but that I got to enjoy her gift all over again…

Mental, emotional and spiritual recalibration. That’s what this weekend has been for us. I hope you’re enjoying a few extra hours with family and friends this Memorial Day weekend.

Coffeeshop Friday

(and a wee bit of Thursday)
I feel like I’ve been sequestered in our apartment for weeks upon months now. In actuality, it’s just been a few days. Seasonal allergies have knocked me flat this year with a little upper respiratory infection thrown in for good measure.

Scott’s work schedule has switched now. He works for 10 days then has 4 days off. Thursday was his first day off and I was ready to enjoy it despite the achiness. We drove up north to Smithville Lake to drive around and see what’s up there. It had been years since either one of us had been there so today seemed like a good day for a ‘Driving With Miss G’ excursion. We even got to see a few sailboats out for the morning…

We drove through nearby small towns and a small community called Paradise, Missouri which sported a few churches, one of which was this United Methodist Church. Our church will open its new building next weekend in downtown Kansas City. It is also United Methodist. The building will be very different than this. There won’t be a propane tank or a horse stable across the street. But we will all, on any given Sunday, gather together with people we love and worship the same God. Standing in the grass (watching for snakes!), it was a centering moment of gratitude that worship takes on many different forms but the love and forgiveness of God is beautifully consistent.

Driving back into downtown, I was thankful for a few hours of driving in the country. As much as I love urban living, I need time in the trees. Wide open driving. Wind, birds, and green expanse. It felt good for my soul.

The sunset last night was overwhelmingly gorgeous. I posted (too) many pictures on my Instagram stories. But I had to share this video with you here. And still, it didn’t capture the magnitude of color we got to enjoy for an hour or so as the sun took a dramatic last bow before leaving for the night.

FRIDAY
When Scott originally told me his hours would be changing, I grasped for something good to look forward to. Friday morning coffeeshops were high on my list. I wanted to have a Twig Cake Company cupcake at Monarch coffeeshop, but didn’t realize they didn’t arrive until mid-morning on Fridays. I’ll know better the next time.

If you follow any Kansas City instagrammers, I am sure you’ve seen Monarch coffeeshop. The space is gorgeous but also…….the windows are tinted perfectly for the best snaps! 🙂

Isn’t that mint green espresso machine gorgeous?!

This below picture is full-on CREEPER stalker level. This wonder woman is Tricia Bushnell and she is the director of the Midwest Innocence Project. (She was being interviewed here, as I not-so-stealthishly took this picture.)

I was introduced to her during the public listening party of the SERIAL podcast about Adnan Syed (2016?). Tricia works tirelessly for wrongfully convicted prisoners. Their stories are sad and her overwhelm at the magnitude can be heard during her speeches. There is so much more to do. But she is ruthlessly dipping water out of the ocean, one cup at a time.

We were supposed to go to a concert tonight. Our sweet neighbor gives us such random tickets from time to time. Scott is still going with some friends, but this sickie is staying home to recoup. I’ve had my little outings and now I want warm tea and a soft bed. Cheap Trick and Poison will have to go on without me. Maybe I’ll wear a Bret Michaels/Shannon Beador headband tonight in solidarity. 😉

Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend! It looks like it will be a hot one here in KC. If you can enjoy a sailboat ride somewhere in your celebrating – all the better!