Giving thanks. Appreciation. Gratitude.

In the midst of the mire.
First thing Monday morning.
After realizing you stepped in dog poo.

An effort in learning to see the good in the everyday…

It’s easy to think about being thankful on Thanksgiving.

That’s the general theme.

It’s harder almost every other day of the year…

And while I’ve had some amazing experiences this year that are easy to call out with gratitude, there are also many other smaller moments that – though they can get lost in the day-to-day shuffle – have been moments of light.

And strung together, they twinkle brightly, reminding me of all the amazing things that have illuminated this difficult year.

These are a few.
No particular order.

Just SHINY moments that have made putting one foot in front of the other worth it…

I was really nervous. Excited…but nervous. And in pain – so not really feeling like myself. But this experience was big, an opportunity to connect and network, and learn. And the truth is, I just wanted to hide in my room. Sleep – and hide. Instead, I pulled myself together and walked towards the Event Lounge. My heart was pounding. People think I’m an extrovert. I wish I could convince them otherwise. I could hear the chatter before I entered the room. Will I know anybody? Will I fit in? Oh, god – I could turn around now and no one would be the wiser. I kept putting one foot in front of the other, knowing it was the best possible plan – and I walked into a room filled with light and people with bright, excited eyes. And from the couch arose a dad blogger that I’ve had the delight to meet and know through my own professional and personal experience. With a big smile on his face, he greeted me with all the warmth of a long-time friend. And I was immediately relaxed. Ready to engage. With my people.

How are these jeans already this loose? Intermittent Fasting is no joke. And I’ve learned my body makes adjustments to its shape in a way that seems out of the blue, really sudden. Jeans that fit a couple weeks ago…last week…a couple days ago…are then loose, too loose. It’s funny, when you’ve been heavy all your life to be on the other side of the slope, and hearing people say, “Those pants are falling off you, you know?” Starting this journey in August 2016, I had several pairs of jeans that were too tight…different levels of “skinny jeans,” you could say. And now, my skinny jeans are 2 pairs I purchased for my son last season…that he’s already grown out of – a few more inches, and I’ll be sportin’ them around. It’s surreal.

We were done. At the gate and waiting for our flight back to the States. Hearts and minds full of an amazing international travel experience. Delighted in the fact that we traveled so well together. Already trying to figure out when we might be able to make it happen again. But wait…there was still another opportunity to get a pint of Guinness. A fresh pour. One last cheers. And so, of course we did.

It was the way the fire told me, “This is the last time.” A confirmation. And I knew it in my heart to be true; I claimed it with every fiber in my being. Even though it was my moment to celebrate, to enjoy – I was only going through the motions. Bound by previous plans, expectations I had built, I felt committed to live through this experience, no matter how awkward or frustrating it was. And sure, there was plenty of light and love to help ease the mechanical motions of my dance from one minute to the next, but hearing the fire’s whisper was the best consolation for my soul. That, and knowing I needed to level-up; understanding that this was an opportunity for me to grow. I needed to be more careful with my words, with how I build plans – with how much I tied my heart to in the future.

My doctor walked into the room and exclaimed, “You’ve lost 25 pounds!” I chuckled. And jumped right into an explanation of what Intermittent Fasting had done for me. She listened. And asked me a lot of questions. A LOT of them. When the words were exhausted, she looked at me and said, “I’ve been researching weight loss journeys and accepting that everyone comes to and through this process differently. I’m not familiar with Intermittent Fasting, but it sounds like you have a good handle on what you’ve chosen – and I see positive results. Keep moving forward.” And then, she gave me a high-five. I love the fact that my doctor gives me high-fives.

He walked to my cubical, shirt in hand. “Would you wear this?” he asked. It was one of those typical blue collar work shirts with a patch that said “Geek.” I grinned. “Uh…of course I would.” He needed to get rid of it and thought of me – we had shared many, many geek-focused conversations as kindred spirits working in a very rigid environment – and hoped that I would indeed wear it. If only he knew how much it meant to me that he gave me first dibs. And as I woke to the first morning of my newest freelance adventure, I knew exactly what I was going to wear.

Is anyone ever really ready to say goodbye to their mom? It could have been for good. I’m so thankful that it wasn’t. As adults, we’re experienced at putting up walls, buffers, to protect us from the reality of what could have been, because there are so many action items that are required in the immediate. This can be a serious issue as emotions build up within us without ever getting a mindful release. For me, it was explaining it to my son. The possibility of his Oma not being alive, not being with us anymore. That, in mercy, she was spared; and we were gifted with more time. The haunted look in his eyes. The way he rubbed his temple and forehead as the reality sunk in. The way he melted into her – ever so carefully to be considerate of her injuries. These images broke down my wall; and still, they remain as reminders of how blessed we all are.

When your friends believe in your work. “I need new headshots,” she told me. I agreed. It had been a while. And again, I hoped I had it within me to pull together enough photos from a shoot that she would be pleased with — I am not a professional photographer. Well, I am in the fact that I get paid to take photos for social media. But I am not a professional photographer in that I would never advertise to offer portrait or wedding photography. What I can say is that I know what I like to see on the other side of the lens. I love bringing out the best in those I love. And I delight in the opportunity to share time with fierce individuals who are facing and overcoming their challenges in an effort towards their happy ending.

It was the way he hopped onto the kitchen counter and pulled me close to him, wrapping his legs around my waist. The familiarity of it, the ease of our connection. It was the way I leaned into his chest and let the warmth of it soothe my need for closeness. I just needed to be touched; to feel like I my proximity was wanted. To feel silly and happy – and close – to an old friend, a crush-worthy individual, a handsome man; in a space where desire was easy to explain and supported with full-on kisses.

Wait. Wait. You guys have a life-sized empanada? Of course, I want to hug him. And yes, please, take a picture!

Paddle boarding. I’ve wanted to do it now for a long time. With this year’s pain and mobility issues, I didn’t think it was a possibility. And yet, there was a glorious afternoon on the lake. I won’t say pain free, but I will say less painful. Friends with gear and generous hearts to take us out on the water for adventure, for an opportunity to learn and grow. For an opportunity for this momma to try her hand at paddle boarding. And after, to celebrate not falling off!

I don’t know why some roads are more beautiful than others. Or why, some speak to me more than others. In unfamiliar territory, we took a turn based on Google’s guidance. Glancing at the map on my screen, I knew it must have been a “short cut,” a road that would shave a few minutes off our total travel time. And that might have been true if I were a normal driver, but the road and the sky and the land, spoke to me of peace – and so, I took the curves in stride, meandering more than anything, because I didn’t want to miss out on this opportunity to soak in the happy vibe.

It was the way my little fish engaged in the moment of discovery. The way he jumped in when the opportunity was provided. The way he giggled and whoop’d with delight. The way he kept at it, persevered. And the way the experienced fisherman, supporting this whole mission said, “Aw, yea. You got it, Buddy,” when the fish was successfully reeled in. There are some moments you’re not prepared for – and when they’re upon you, you don’t or can’t fully absorb. In this case, I captured it through my screen, but I kept my eyes on the pair above my camera, trying to take it all in. It’s this kind of thing that makes the music in my heart soar with an enchanting kind of beauty – the patience and kindness of others as they invest their know-how, skills and gear into making a hands-on, positive impact on the kid.

Stay tuned for Giving Thanks, Part 2.

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