Tag Archives: gratitude

Thankful

Having just celebrated Thanksgiving, I am feeling a need to talk about gratitude. Most people don’t think enough about how many blessings they have in their lives because they focus too much on the daily humdrum of life. It is much easier to focus on negativity when it sometimes does take more effort to open your eyes to all the beautiful things that are right in front of you. I live my life, acknowledging my gratitude twice daily: morning and night (through journaling), making a conscious decision to do so. In honor of this month of gratitude, here are 30 (thirty!) things for which I am grateful, and believe me, I could list about a gazillion more than what’s here:

(Aside from the first one, listed in no particular order!)

1. Bruce: my other half, my partner in crime, my best friend, my husband, my fiancée. He never wavers, and he has taught me how to love purely, and with all that I have. No matter what obstacles life throws our way, we conquer them together.

2. A roof over my head, food in my fridge, and love in my heart. These all go together because we had to live in a hotel for 5 months while our home was being built, and I can never take for granted how it feels to be home. We spent plenty of our younger “hungry years” food shopping at my mother-in-law’s pantry, and now we have a well-stocked fridge and pantry, and even when we neglect the food shopping, there is still always enough to make a simple meal. And love because no matter where Bruce and I live, there is always love in my heart.

3. Autumn in NJ. There is nothing more beautiful than the palette of oranges, reds, and golds that naturally decorate our environment, even on years when they say it’s a bad season for foliage. Sometimes I wish I could pull my car over even in the worst of places because the view is that beautiful. The fall also reminds me that I survived another summer and that the coziness of winter is imminent.

4. Every single day when I can put my two feet on the floor and walk unassisted. I work hard to stay strong, and after 14 (+) years with MS, this is something that I am truly grateful for. (Don’t ask me about going up and down steps though!)

5. Yoga. It has taught me to connect my mind, body, and spirit. As much as my lack of balance can make things difficult, I like the challenge, and I never give up. Walk into my house almost any day of the week and you’ll see my mat, evidence that I am constantly practicing.

6. My family (steps and all!). They are spread all over the east coast, but their support is felt from all corners.

7. I feel a special sense of gratitude for my sister, Lorri, and my brother-in-law, Ken. They have been by my side (literally) through all the ups and downs. My sister was there with me the day I found out I had cancer, and both of them were there the day I celebrated the end of my cancer treatment and they witnessed me ringing the gong.

8. My Rankin family. For almost 23 years they have loved and supported me without question. And because I am a Rankin I have been blessed with a little sister and a nephew, both of whom I absolutely adore.

9. My MS family. This motley crew of crazies is essential to my mental health. Although support from family and friends is great, nothing replaces this group who can truly understand the challenges that I face every single day.

10. Living in this day and age where there are treatment options for MS patients to help slow down illness progression, giving us all a better quality of life. While I don’t think I’ll see a cure in my lifetime, as long as they continue to find more treatments for us, my gratitude is infinite.

11. My fur babies, past and present. Rescuing these poor pups that never would have been adopted otherwise has added so much joy to my life, and although it’s heart-breaking to lose them, the happiness they bring on a daily basis is worth it.

12. Diane, my trainer. In addition to working me out, she has become a trusted friend, who I consider family. She plays many roles for me: cheerleader, therapist, trainer, sister, and friend. She has helped me change both my body and my mind, and for that alone I am eternally grateful. She knows what I need when I need it, and words can’t describe how important she is to me.

13. My volunteer job at Marty’s Place Senior Dog Sanctuary. The “residents” are so loving, and I have met so many other like-minded individuals in both the many other volunteers I have met there as well as in the very skeleton crew of paid employees. They never waste an opportunity to thank the volunteers and to let us know how important we are in the daily upkeep of this extremely special place.

14. Having taken my cancer diagnosis and used it to build more inner strength.  Today I can look back at the beginning of my journey (starting just about one year ago), knowing that I faced it head on, with a smile on my face…and kicked ass.

15. Being proactive in my medical care, knowing how to use the tools at my disposal and sift out the fluff to understand the meat. I’m not afraid to advocate for myself, and I can do it without getting angry.

16. Having learned to listen to my body, and to understand what it needs and when it needs it. I know when I am over-tired and need rest, and I know when I can push through. I know when I have a gut feeling, I need to listen to it, and I’m grateful that I have learned this lesson.

17. My former students, near and far, who continue to play such an important role in my life. They help me to see the good in others as I watch them blossom as adults, doing amazing things. They make me happy just thinking about how far they have come, and they fill my heart up with endless amounts of pride.

18. Meditation, specifically Transcendental Meditation (TM). Through the process of learning TM, I am generally a more self-aware, calmer version of the person I used to be. TM allows me to settle my mind and give myself those 20 precious minutes of clarity.

19. Air conditioning. It sounds trivial, but when you suffer from heat intolerance due to MS (and you lose your vision when overheated), it takes on new meaning… especially when you live in NJ where the summer months bring what feels like never-ending heat and oppressive humidity. Also, the curly girl in me appreciates the AC as well, but for completely different reasons!

20. On-line shopping. Being that crowds make me anxious (mostly because I can’t feel my feet which throws my balance off), being able to still do my holiday shopping on my own, without fear of walking into people (or things) and embarrassing myself, helps me maintain my independence.

21. Social media. How else could I have reconnected and stayed in contact with so many amazing people from so many different aspects of my life? (Pssst: if you don’t see me on Facebook, it simply means that things got too political for me and I took a little break, but you will always see me on Instagram!)

22. Photography. This little hobby of mine has given me friendships with some pretty spectacular people. I never knew I could feel such a strong connection with friends simply because of a shared passion!

23. My forever friend, MHP, for always ALWAYS loving me. We don’t live ten minutes from each other like when we were younger, but it doesn’t matter. She is forever in my heart and no matter how long we go in between visits, it’s always like no time has passed at all.

24. My “brother from another mother”, BH, for coming back into my life at a time when we both needed a specific kind of friend to suit a specific purpose. He has seen me through so much and I am so thankful for his kindness and support. Not a day goes by without a text or a phone call, which in itself is hugely comforting to know that he has my back always.

25. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and On-Demand. Being able to watch anything we want so quickly, without having to go out to the movies is the best. Aside from the germaphobe in me who gets grossed out by sitting in chairs that who knows what kind of person sat in last, the MS patient in me appreciates not having to choose the right moment to go to the bathroom without fear of tripping in the dark. At home I can press “pause” as many times as I need to!

26. Having chosen a profession and worked long enough to earn disability retirement so that I could collect my pension early, allowing me to take care of myself and my illness, and still contribute to the household bills.

27. The families of former students who have brought me into the loving fold of their own families because of the relationships we established so many years ago. It’s hugely validating to me, not just as a former teacher, but also as a human being. All I did was love their kids and help them to succeed, but that’s all I had to do, apparently. I’m so thankful to feel so loved.

28. Coffee. And certain medications. When chronic fatigue rules your life, you must give thanks for anything that helps you push through the day, whether prescribed by a doctor or otherwise.

29. Texting. Sometimes I just don’t have it in me to have a full conversation over the phone, and texting allows me to check in with (or be checked in on by) friends and family, with less effort expended. It’s not that I don’t want to talk to loved ones, but sometimes, I simply do not have enough energy.

30. I am grateful for this life I’m living. It’s not perfect, nor is it what I envisioned for me and Bru, but it’s the only life I have been given. Despite the obvious, our life is perfectly imperfect, and overcoming so much together only makes it that much sweeter.

So there you have it. With very little thought, I have listed a whole month’s worth of people and/or things for which I am eternally grateful. I’m not saying that you need to physically acknowledge your gratitude twice daily like I do, but I am saying that if you start and end your day with gratitude, there’s no way that you will be able to fixate on any negativity that arises during the day. We all deal with stress in our lives, and I have found the best way to counteract stress and negativity is by focusing on gratitude. I dare you to try it. You’ll be amazed at how differently you view your world. So tell me… What are you thankful for?

PS. I took a little tumble and dislocated my finger the night before posting this blog, so I am adding the fact that I’m grateful that my finger isn’t broken, and should heal up much more quickly than if it were broken. I’m also grateful that I didn’t dislocate a body part more important than a pointer finger.

Gratitude

This week, my MS sisters and I were honored to participate in a video project intended to be shown at a very prestigious annual fundraiser for the MS Center where we are patients. Then to add to my excitement, I was asked to give a speech to the crowd, right after Daniel Rodriguez, the singing police officer who performed the national anthem on almost every major event here in the tri-state area in the wake of 9/11. The whole campus of the hospital is transformed into an elegant venue, as it becomes “an evening in the vineyard”, the biggest fundraiser of the year for our MS Center. Tickets are not cheap, so just being there is an honor in itself.

His voice blew me away!

For me, I am in my element when I am in front of an audience, using my skills honed through years of teaching, educating others. I love being able to share my personal struggles with others so that they can see that everyone struggles in so many different ways. I like seeing light bulbs go on in people’s minds as they make connections that they wouldn’t have made without having me standing in front of them as a visual. I like being able to speak on behalf of so many, especially when the audience is receptive (something I didn’t experience very often as a teacher!).

I’m very comfortable at the podium.

Remembering how despondent I was when I tearfully resigned my teaching position, makes me extra happy to be able to speak at events like this one. I have often been told that I’ll always be a teacher, except now the world is my classroom and my students are not held to the confines of a high school setting.

On the video screen at the entrance to the event.

Throughout the night, I had perfect strangers coming up to me and thanking me for talking to them, and telling me how inspired they were. They were the ones opening up their wallets to support the cause, yet they were quick to tell me how much they enjoyed listening to what I had to say. And all I could do was thank them right back, not only for their compliments but also for their generosity. I witnessed the kindness of strangers in the form of more handshakes and hugs than I could even begin to count. It’s nights like that when I am reminded of how positivity is contagious, and I love that. There was no pity or sadness, but rather celebration of good people doing good things for a community that desperately needs it. My heart literally could have burst out of my chest with gratitude.

My sisters.

As for me, I enjoyed a beautiful night filled with good food, good wine (and beer), and amazingly generous people. Plus I spent it with my MS sisters and my partner in crime, who rearranged his work schedule to be my date. At one point during the evening, I looked around just to take it all in so that I could lock it away in my memory for safe-keeping. At the end of the night I should have been exhausted but instead I found myself invigorated. I’m pretty sure that’s what people mean when they talk about being “high on life”.

All four one. Taken from our video.

With all that I have been through in 2017 with my breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment, this night was exactly what I needed to kick-start a happier, healthier ending to what might have been the most difficult year I have ever had. No medication or treatment plan could have left me feeling better than I did when I left this event. I am so glad that I stopped to really feel the love because the memory will sustain me for longer than you could even imagine.

Just a sampling of the goodies. (photo credit: Carla)

(Also, sending a big shout out to my former student who served me some awesome craft beers. Thanks, John!)

Love

Here are some things I have learned (so far) on my journey with breast cancer: 

First of all, everyone has a story about someone (like their college roommate’s brother’s girlfriend’s mother) who had breast cancer (insert amount of years ago) and after treatment is totally fine. The same exact things were said to me when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Everyone has a story to share. But I understand why people feel the need to say these things. It’s because they don’t know what else to say, which can be somewhat awkward, and they want to be optimistic because they know it’s how I live my life. I mean no one wants to say that their college roommate’s brother’s girlfriend’s mother died from breast cancer to someone who has just been diagnosed with it, nor would they want to say that their college roommate’s brother’s girlfriend’s mother has MS and was doing great but now is confined to a wheelchair. Now THAT would be awkward. 

I got a little care package from one of my MS family members with this bracelet and a bandana with a beautiful card. So very thoughtful!

More importantly, though, I have learned that by and large, people are kind. Every single person that I met at the Breast Health Center, at the Breast Specialist’s office, and at the hospital where my surgery was performed, took a genuine interest in me, and I never once felt like I was just another patient with breast cancer passing through their doors. 

Adorable and sweet to be thought of by my sister’s in-laws.

But most of all, I have felt the love from family and friends, near and far. I have gathered more strength from that feeling than I could even put into words, and for that I am so appreciative. I wish that we lived in a world where everyone expressed feelings of love every single day to every single person they love, and not just when times are rough. I have been feeling so especially loved and I do always try to express my affection to my loved ones on a regular basis. It shouldn’t have to take a reality check like cancer or MS for people to be comfortable sharing the love. Why wait until there is a reason to let someone know that they have a special place in your heart? 

My challenge for all of you (and also for myself) is to make sure that the ones you hold dear always know it and they always feel the way I have felt since I started this battle with breast cancer. I know this cancer won’t kill me. But it has already taught me so much about life and love. I tell my loved ones I love them at every opportunity. It’s genuine and it comes from my heart every single time. And I hug everyone just a little tighter for just a little longer, because I want to, and it feels good to hug and to be hugged. 

Doing “normal” things with Bruce trying not to think about what we can’t stop thinking about.

My journey with breast cancer is just beginning. With some form of treatment on the horizon, yet to be determined by my oncologists, I still have a long way to go. It’s weird how when you get older, time seems to go by faster when we’d like it to slow down, and as kids we want the time to move more quickly because we think we are missing out on amazing and exciting things in adulthood. I am here to tell you that life is precious and fleeting, and we should never waste opportunities that are presented to us. In the blink of an eye, everything can (and often does) change. We all should be mindful of gratitude for what and who we have in our lives. Even at your lowest point, if you search for the positive, I am sure you will find it. I have.

This is how we live. Every day.

Gratitude

Being that this is the week of Thanksgiving, I am approaching the blog differently this time. I never need a reminder to be grateful for something…anything (!), no matter how small, every single day. If you are not able to do the same, then I challenge you to keep a gratitude journal in which you document something for which to be grateful each day. You might be surprised at what you come up with. So here are some of mine, in no particular order:

  • I’m thankful for my rock, my partner in crime, my other half, my biggest cheerleader, my best friend, my love. He’s the yin to my yang, the pen to my paper, and the vim to my vigor. Bruce supports me on every step of my journey, and works hard so that I can focus on doing the things that keep me strong and healthy. Without him I’d be lost and hopeless. 
  • I’m thankful for my family, whether biological, steps, in-laws, or MS. However they became my family is unimportant because they are always there to see me through the dark moments and show me the light. 
  • I’m thankful for my tripod: my two best girls who have loved me from the moment we met, and who really are the other two legs of my tripod. Without them, I would never be able to stand up straight. 
  • I’m thankful for my adorable rescue dogs who always show me unconditional love. They provide me with so much joy and watching them rehabilitate from scared, skittish, and sometimes even aggressive with the right kind of love and affection makes us all better beings at the end of the day. 
  • I’m thankful for my many, many former students who are constant reminders of the career I loved but had to abandon far too soon. They inspire me with their accomplishments, and they fill me with a pride like no other I have ever felt. 
  • I am thankful for living in a time where medical research is constantly being done to create new treatments to help manage an incurable illness. 
  • I’m thankful for a medical team that listens to me, is honest, and truly cares about me not only as a patient, but also as a person. Our relationship spans 13 years and they really are family to me.  
  • I’m thankful for the seasons of the year because each one is special to me for different reasons, but each one reminds me of how fortunate I am to be able to experience them all.
  • I’m thankful for a roof over my head and food in my refrigerator. Where we are today is so amazing, especially when I think about the tough days early in our marriage where food shopping was often done in my mother-in-law’s pantry. 
  • I’m thankful for the best qualities I inherited from the generations before me. I have my dad’s work ethic (not to mention curly hair), which made my career as successful as it was. From my beloved grandfather I inherited an open heart and an ability to love so fiercely, with every fiber of my being. Last, but certainly not least, I am blessed with my grandma Ruth’s fighting spirit and quick wit. She was at death’s door and bounced back too many times to count, and we often joked that she had nine lives. This quality is the one that I depend on most these days, and I am lucky to have inherited it. 
  • I’m thankful for this body that my spirit occupies, even though it is far from perfect. Under the surface there is a storm brewing, but I still feel stronger and healthier than I have in a long time. I will never take this body for granted no matter what it looks like because it’s just the shell of who I really am. 
  • I’m thankful for the technology that allows me to find support from friends and family at any moment, with just a single text. I’m also thankful for the aspect of social media that has allowed me to connect with loved ones from so many compartments of my past. We may not talk all the time, but I am comforted by their presence nonetheless.
  • I’m thankful for my nephew, Lucas, for always making me laugh and smile. At just 20 months of age, he makes it impossible for me to be in a bad mood, and I can’t help but feel optimistic about the future when I see that little smile, hear that giggle, or feel his little hand in mine. 

As you can see, I am never at a loss of things to be grateful for. This list is just a tiny peek at what I really feel, because I could keep on listing more and more. The point is that we shouldn’t need a day like Thanksgiving to be reminded of all the things around us that make us feel grateful. Gratitude is as important in my daily life as breathing is. None of us can control how much life we have left to live, but we can most definitely control how we view the days we do have. Being the staunch optimist that I am, some might say that being grateful comes easily. I, too, have my struggles, though. Although we shouldn’t need a day like Thanksgiving as the impetus to acknowledge the things we are grateful for, whether facing a chronic illness such as MS or not, we sometimes need a little push to help us look beyond the daily grind we often find ourselves trapped in. I make a conscious effort every single day to remove those blinders so that I can see all of the amazing blessings that fill my life. You should do the same. 

picframe

Thankful

This week I had a pretty bad day, but luckily this is Thanksgiving week. I’m usually pretty good at the whole “being thankful” thing, but it’s pretty hard when bad things seem to happen one after another. The way I always get myself out of the funk that happens from feeling beaten down by life is by listing all the things for which I am grateful. 

As Thanksgiving approached this year, it seemed that I couldn’t catch a break: bad back spasms, a water-in-the-basement scare (which luckily was unfounded), and a flying rock that cracked my windshield as I was driving, just to name a few. I consciously took a step back in order to remind myself of all the amazing blessings I’m lucky enough to have in my life. 

I always start with the roof over my head. We went through a lot to be where we are today, including those oh-so-lovely 21 weeks (and one day) of living in the “hometel”. When I think about this home, I think about how lucky I am to have the perfect half to my whole…the guy who has stood by my side through it all, and who carried me when I was at my lowest. I think about our little family and the perfect (albeit simple) life we have made together. 

 

Home sweet home!

 

the family that makes our house a home .

The family that makes our house a home.

Then I think about my MS family. I couldn’t put together a better support system than this group. Just when people I thought were my friends had walked out of my life, the universe gave me them to fill the holes in my heart. To feel so completely understood and loved, despite all of my flaws and limitations, is comforting and, at the same time, liberating somehow.

The MS family

I think about my nephew, Lucas, who has taught me how to love even more deeply than ever before. While he isn’t officially a part of my bloodline, he has been a part of me since before he even got here, and I simply can’t get enough of him. He is pure love and there is no sweeter sound than his giggle, no better view than that smiling face. I’m thankful that because I am no longer working, I can be a constant in his life, not just some random relative that drifts in and out. 

My love, Lucas Scott.

My love, Lucas Scott.

I also think about how the fact that I am not working allows me time to work on me. I can now pay attention to my body and treat it well so that my MS behaves as much as possible. Of course I know that part is not always in my control, but by controlling the things I am capable of, I feel more empowered than ever. I owe so much of this to my trainer who always pushes me harder than I think I can manage, and who is WAY more than just my trainer. 

This woman has changed my life in so many ways and I love her to pieces.

This woman has changed my life in so many ways and I love her to pieces.

But mostly I’m truly thankful for little things that remind me how beautiful life is: the changing seasons, a great sunset, happily snoring puppies, or even a great, big hug. I could go on and on listing my blessings, but I’m sure you get the point. How could I possibly dwell on those few bad things once I started counting my blessings? Try it. You’ll see. 

Sleeping puppies.

Sleeping puppies.

A beautiful sunset.

A beautiful sunset.    

Changing seasons always lift me up!

Changing seasons always lift me up!