Be Like AJ Jacobs

When trying to go to sleep, instead of counting sheep, try counting things you’re grateful for— in alphabetical order. AJ Jacobs, author

Thanksgiving, a national day of gratitude in the USA, is Thursday. However, I believe every day should be a day for giving thanks and AJ Jacobs, author of Thanks a Thousand, is just the guy to emulate. Jacobs’ book recounts his mission to thank every single person who played a part in making his morning coffee, over 1,000 people. His journey took him from his coffeeshop barista to the Colombian coffee farmer who grew the beans to the guy who designed the lid for his daily brew. Jacobs also thanked the lady from pest control who kept the bugs out of the coffee warehouse. He thought of everyone!

Scientific studies prove that demonstrating gratitude is good for our physical and mental health. Keeping a gratitude journal, for instance, helps patients in their recovery. We humans are naturally negative. Spreading gratitude is a way to make the world a better place. 

Affirmation: I’m grateful.

Coaching questions: Who have you personally thanked today? What difference does it make when someone thanks you? Think of someone who rarely receives appreciation and thank them.

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Photo by Richard Saunders on Unsplash

Remaining Hopeful In the Face of Tragedy

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest form of appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. President John F. Kennedy 

Tomorrow is the fifty-sixth anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. If you were an adult at that time, you undoubtedly remember the day very well. As a nation we felt not only sadness but hopelessness that this could happen in our country. Today, in the midst of impeachment hearings, we may be feeling hopeless once again. 

When our world looks bleak and we feel like we’re drowning in grief, pain, regret, or anger, sometimes we must rely on hope to get us through. Tightly hugging hope to our chest is a way to stay on top of what has/is happening in our world. 

Affirmation: I’m  hopeful.

Coaching questions: What do you need to be more hopeful about? Where do you find hope? To whom do you turn?

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Photo by History in HD on Unsplash

Beyond Forgetfulness

Forgetfulness is a form of freedom. Kahlil Gibran, Lebanese writer

How often do we say, “I forgot….the keys, the sweater, the birthday, a name, a phone number?”  For most of us of a certain age, some forgetfulness is routine. But what about those whose lives are slipping away, those who have passed up simple forgetfulness and are living in a foreign world, one without memories?

As I interviewed daughters for my book on mother loss, I found it particularly heartbreaking talking with those who are losing their mothers to Alzheimer’s disease. One woman said, “My mother is lost to me but not gone.” This mother had forgotten her daughter and everyone else important to her yet she was alive and may live for many more years. One daughter’s story exemplified Gibran’s quote. She said, “My mother used to have great anxiety and worry. As a result, she was often angry and depressed. Now, because of her dementia, she is free of worry and is experiencing joy.” Of course, this daughter knows her mother’s situation will worsen but, in the meantime, she is embracing the moment.

Perhaps you have lost or are losing your mother (or someone else you love) to this terrible disease. I can’t imagine what pain you’re experiencing but I can stand beside you and support you through it.

Affirmation: I’m grateful that my brain is alive and well.

Coaching questions: What does your ability to think, remember, reason mean to you? What can you do to support those who are affected by Alzheimer’s? 

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Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash

How to Pull Through Even When You’ve Been Punched in the Face

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. Mike Tyson, professional boxer

Even if you think you’re prepared for the worst, there are times when life throws you a curve ball that smacks you right in the face. Here are a few reminders to help you pull through when you’re at your lowest. 

  • Reach out for help. Sometimes it’s hard to admit just how hard life is right now but hiding from the world isn’t the answer. Talk to a friend, clergy, therapist, or coach. What do you have to lose?
  • Even small changes can make a difference. Set small goals so you can experience progress and gain momentum. This forward movement will give you a boost of confidence and optimism. Make your bed, go for a ten minute walk, schedule lunch with a friend (even if you don’t feel up to it).
  • Are you strong enough to be grateful when you’re at your lowest? Think of one thing you’re grateful for even while you’re in the “pit.” Gratitude shifts the focus.
  • Remember the setbacks/crisis/challenges you’ve overcome in the past. Pat yourself on the back for coming out strong. You’ve done it before and you can do it again!

Affirmation: I can make it through this!

Coaching questions: How have you overcome severe life challenges in the past? How can you use this experience to address what is happening now? What’s one step you’ll take today to move  forward? 

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Photo by Baylee Gramling on Unsplash

A Few Good Decisions Can Make a Big Difference

You only have to get things right a few times. Twelve investment decisions in my career have made all the difference. Warren Buffett, third richest person in the world

As I embrace my seventy-fifth year, I’m considering what past decisions help me sleep well and wake up smiling. Here are a few:

  1. I decided to do everything I can to stay mentally and physically healthy while living each day to the fullest knowing that, like everyone, my days are limited. I learned a long time ago that people DO die—including me.
  2. I decided I want to leave this Earth with no unfinished business. I choose to keep a clean slate with people I care about, make sure my financial life is in order, and have no unworn clothes in the closet with the tags on.
  3. I decided to be grateful for all that’s been given to me, including loved ones, rather than bitter, sad, or resentful about what’s been taken away. 
  4. I decided to claim the fact that Jesus died for my sins and, because I’ve asked Him, I am forgiven. This decision alone has kept me sane and joyful.
  5. I decided to surround myself with positive, trustworthy, caring people.
  6. I decided to stay active with friendships, creative endeavors, community activism, nature, and books.

Affirmation: A few decisions matter.

Coaching questions: What decisions have you made that make a difference in your life? Are there some others you need to make (it’s always a work in progress)? What’s holding you back? 

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Photo by Court Prather on Unsplash

There But By the Grace of God Go I

No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark. Warsan Shire, British writer, poet, editor and teacher

On December 4, 2000, the United Nations General Assembly instituted June 20 as World Refugee Day. It is commemorated to honor all refugees, raise awareness, and solicit support. The day is celebrated in many countries around the world. In the Roman Catholic Church, the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, instituted in 1914 by Pope Pius X, is celebrated in January.

Why should we care about refugees, much less celebrate them? In my opinion, it’s because “there but by the grace of God go I.” Had I been born in a different country, at a different time, or of a different race or religion, I too might be the person forced to leave my country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. We frequently confuse immigrant with refugee. A refugee’s choice is frequently to stay and starve, be repeatedly raped, or die. An immigrant chooses to move from one country to another. Many years ago, I helped bring a refugee family to Illinois from war-torn Lebanon. Working with this family to help them assimilate and thrive, is one of my most cherished life experiences. 

Affirmation: I’m grateful to live where I am safe.

Coaching questions: If you don’t already know, how will you learn the facts about the worldwide refugee crisis? If you know a refugee or a refugee family, how can you make a difference in their lives?

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Photo by Siddhant Soni on Unsplash

Gratefully Celebrating Mother’s Day

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. Melody Beattie, author

Mother’s Day can be difficult for many women, not just those of us who have lost our mothers. It can be difficult for women who are estranged from their mothers, have no children but wish they did, those who have lost a child, or those who are away from their family.

For me, gratitude always helps me cope. I’m grateful for the friendly smile, bright eyes, and sunny personality I got from my mom, I’m grateful for my three wonderful children, three step kids, eight grands, eleven step grands, and five (almost seven) step greats. What a bountiful life I have! And even though it’s a day for mothers, I am especially grateful for my dad who partnered with me to create a joyful childhood and beyond.

There will be a bit of sadness in my celebration tomorrow but mostly there will be gratitude.

Affirmation: I’m grateful.

Coaching questions: What helps you feel grateful on a difficult day? What difference can you make in someone else’s day today?

IMG_1479 (2).jpgMe and my mom, circa 1953