Gratitude Journal, Day Six: This Day
I woke up this morning, feeling well rested, to find a quiet day ready to unfold before me. Blue skies dimpled with delicate clouds, sun peeking through the Royal palm to present streaks of lavender. Quiet time. Alone time. Space to think and marvel, reflect and wonder. Time for a cup of coffee before growing feet patters hit the floor. When the owner of these tiny feet finally awoke, it was with a smile and arms stretched wide, waiting for a hug. There was time for snuggle, opportunity for tickles, and plenty of laughter to follow. A perfect morning, as mornings go.
Edem and I readied ourselves for Sunday shopping; just as we were heading out to make our day one we could declare productive, a phone call came. The beloved friend's voice extended an invitation to brunch followed by the beach. Bali family time was on the invite, and we graciously accepted.
The remainder of our day was filled with sunny perfection. The only difficult choices in front of me came when I needed to decide between a dip in the pool or a dip in the ocean. The decision was made over and over again. Pool. Ocean. Ocean. Pool. Edem even found a friend to occupy his time and fill his afternoon with giggles and sand castles.
Time. Gorgeously spent. A perfect day.
It was only a week ago that I stepped back into a practice of mindfully recording that for which I feel grateful. One week ago, I was having one of the worst days possible, and was then catapulted back to reality: I have it pretty good. I needed to remember that fact, and take stock of all that I have before me. Each day since has presented itself with more and more opportunities to take note of the wonderfulness that is in my life.
Some people say that a practice of gratitude increases your returns- when you are grateful, more good will come your way. I believe this. And I also believe that we see what we open our eyes to, receive what we seek. If it is ugliness goggles that I wear, it is ugliness that I will see. If we believe in a world of deception and mistrust, we will be deceived, and betrayed. Because that is what we look for. That is what we draw to ourselves.
This week has reminded me of something: I live in a wonderful world, filled with ups and downs, opportunities to grow and learn. I can choose to live in gratitude, and receive more of the goodness that is up for offer, or I can choose something else. Gratitude feels good. It feels great to be drawing strength and beauty my way, opportunity and grace. And so, that is the direction I want to go in. I want to cultivate more of this good stuff. I want to choose happiness. And so I am consciously choosing to stay in gratitude.
For this lesson, for this week, for this day, I am eternally grateful.
How has your week gone? Are you finding the good in each day, and giving thanks?
Gratitude Journal, Day Five: Bali
Bali has been a great gift for us. I am incredibly, endlessly grateful to have been welcomed in and embraced so fully. This is a magical island, one that teaches and pushes, nurtures and guides. I give thanks each day, every time I see the sunrise and set, the moon wax and wane. I give thanks with the sight of offerings being made and the reminder that we must take a moment to express our gratitude and show humility. Bali has etched her beauty into my heart and I have been chiseled into a better person.
Gratitude Journal, Day Four: Edem
I have been granted with one of the greatest gifts in the world, and his name is Edem James Threlfall Kwashie. He is head strong, curious, loving, brazen, bold, independent, challenging, thought provoking, out- spoken, creative, smart, loud, brave, and a handful. And I am thankful for all of it. (Ok, OK, there are moments when I wouldn't mind a less headstrong and independent son under my charge...)
I am also incredibly thankful for all of the people who are helping me to nurture this gift from above, guiding him towards being the best that he can be. Edem is a force to be reckoned with, and I couldn't do it alone. I am filled with gratitude that I don't have to.
Here is a little clip of Edem reading, evidence that his teachers are doing a fabulous job. It is also evidence of Edem's creative spirit; this recording was his idea. He directed every bit of it, including my part in this "Story Time with Edem" blue feature. He dedicated it to Memo and Bampa, whom he wishes were here to read him a bedtime story.
Erin and Edem
**In retrospect: I wrote this post while sitting in a Balinese hospital, waiting to get a mammogram which I had been putting off. More than a month prior, I found a lump in my breast. Not wanting to hear the words: "You have breast cancer," in a country woefully unprepared to treat it, I put off the tests. (Ostrich syndrome, I know.) In the end, I heard the words: "It is just a cyst- you are fine." And I stood up from the oncologist's desk, looked around at those who didn't get to hear such words, and numbly walked to my car. When I shut the car door, I wept. Tears of gratitude for me and sorrow for others fell down my cheeks. Though I was grateful for this victory, my post of gratitude should have been different. On that day, I posted this:
I don't need to say anything more...
I started to practice yoga while in university. It was a required course in my actor conservatory training. Prior to the first day of class, I knew little about this ancient "exercise," but was open to give it a try. My first time on the mat, I felt like I had found some new way "home." Each breath, each move, just felt right inside my body, like I had finally found my way back to something I had always known. Yoga quickly became a release to me, my yoga-mat the place I saught when I had something to sort out.
Fifteen years later, I still feel the same way. No, actually, I feel more in love with my practice every single time I step on the mat. I get a little jolt of joy with the sound of my rubber sanctuary flicking onto the floor. As I am led through Asanas, my heart opens up, my mind is freed of clutter, and my breath fills my body with compassion and acceptance. I am unable to carry anger or grudges after a yoga session; I am led towards forgiveness and empathy. Yoga has taught me to breathe through discomfort, to listen to my intuition, and to be present in the moment. Through yoga, I have learned to love who I am.
When I am leading class, I feel immense love for my students, and a great sense of gratitude that they will entrust their breath and body to my guidance.
Tonight's gratitude journal entry is dedicated to the teachers along the way who have helped me to dig deeper into my practice, challenge my perceived limitations, and accept me exactly as I am, where I am. I extend gratitude to the teachers who have helped me to find self love, and to listen to my inner voice. For helping me to deepen my practice and to nurture my sense of well being, I say THANK YOU. For sharing your passions and wisdom, I say THANK YOU. For reminding us all that we are connected through breath, that breath leads thoughts, and thoughts lead our actions, I say THANK YOU.
It is in yoga that I learned the power of Namaste, the idea that we are all connected by the same life source. The divine light that is in you is the same light that resides within me. To end our practice, we bow to that light, and show our humility and grace. To all the teachers who have taught me so much, I bow to you in gratitude.
Gratitude Journal, Day One
Originaly written for Common Threads, this piece also appears in The Huffington Post
I was introduced to “gratitude journals” when my mother gave me a copy of Sarah Ban Breathnach's Simple Abundance. I kept a precious little notebook in which I dutifully wrote 10 things every day for which I was grateful. Some days, this practice was far more challenging than on others.
Today would have been a day when I would have struggled.
Sunday has turned into "Date with Edem" day. We plan out something fun to do, and head out as early as possible to enjoy our time together. Today we needed to grocery shop, so we decided to start with planning our purchasing. Edem has a new love for cookbooks, so while I made a list, he scoured his cookbook and picked out meals for the week. He was trying to read a recipe to me, but struggled with some of the words. When I attempted to help, he got really angry and stormed away. I tried to cajole him into sharing his plans, but there was no turning back. I had broken the sacred: "Edem doesn't need Mommy's help" rule.
This was going to be a funnnnn date day...
At the brunch spot, Edem had a fit about not being allowed to go into the market, then about his scrambled eggs. Apparently, they had not been properly mixed. (YES, dear readers, you remember correctly. My son is 5, not 2) When all eyes were turned on us, he informed all who could hear that he doesn’t "LOVE THIS MOMMY ANYMORE!!!!!" Just in case there was any doubt as to which mommy THIS mommy was, he pointed an angry finger to my face.
(Every post needs a picture; here is one showing Edem's stink eye)
A quick trip to the bathroom, a stern scolding, and some time out, Edem finally changed his tune, but not before wearing me out and convincing all who were visiting the busiest cafe in Bali that I Am EVIL Mommy.
Insane traffic, cruel heat, and an over-crowded grocery store packed with people who should have their cart rights revoked started to turn this day into a day filled with nothing-gone-rights.
With all of this hurricane nonsense reeking havoc on my favorite playground, I was already feeling down and missing home, making me an easy target for the blues. So when I rounded the corner to find a display of turkeys, I nearly lost all "Mommy-is-an-invincible-woman-of-steel" composure. The can of cranberries did me in. Yes, a can of Cranberries cinched this deal: this was a crappy day....
You are confused, aren't you dear reader? Cranberries? Turkeys? Five- year-olds throwing tantrums??? Before you walk away, let me explain.
Fall is my favorite season, Thanksgiving my favorite holiday. My best memories come from the "Orphan’s Thanksgivings" I hosted with my University roommates. A few days before Thanksgiving, we would make our way to the grocery store, piling carts high with the raw ingredients needed to make our no-processed/canned food feast. Canned cranberries would NEVER make their way onto our table. Confession be made- this year I’m not cooking. I’m hiring a caterer to cook a meal. YES! For the Love of God, I called a caterer to cook my Thanksgiving meal. There. It’s out. Why? I don't have a proper oven, nor fridge large enough to hold the ingredients needed to cook the meal.
The rest of this grocery store trip turned internal lamenting about where I was shopping. I started to complain about the ridiculously high prices of everything, the poorly lit store, the low-quality cheese selection, the-- anything-- I complained about it. I even compared the way a cart moves in Bali to one in the states.
I just wanted to be home, wearing gorgeous fall colors. I wanted to be roaming the aisles of Whole foods, or picking out produce from the farmers market. I wanted to be helping with the clean-up efforts, supporting my friends, being a part of the community I so dearly love. This want, coupled with the start of my day, made it difficult for me to feel grateful.
On the drive home, my pity party for one had me wearing a thick pair of ugliness goggles. Then we saw her. A woman dressed in rags, carrying an incredibly dirty baby, standing on the roadside, begging.
Edem was the one who pointed the duo out, which started a pretty meaningful conversation about how lucky we are, and how that young lady would have loved to have eggs scrambled any which way. Or how she would have been thrilled to have the resources to shop in ANY grocery store.
Yes. We all have the right to a rough day. An occasional pity party is a-ok in the world of being human. But losing site of all that we have, forgetting how incredibly blessed and lucky we are, that's not okay with me. I needed a good waking up, a reminder of all that I have. How lucky I am to have been able to travel to see the world. Clearly, I have a case of home-sickness; that’s something to explore, but I also have sooooo much right here in front of me that is absolutely amazing
To step back into gratitude, I’m going to do something I haven't done in a long time: I’m going to start a gratitude journal, from now until Thanksgiving. I will share it with you. Maybe then, on days when I am wearing my ugliness goggles, you can hold me accountable, or at least help me find the things for which to be grateful.
I am grateful that I have…
1. A son with a healthy set of lungs.
2. The resources to go to brunch.
3. The ability to count to ten and temper my immediate responses.
4. Highly developed cart-maneuvering skills and can dodge others who do not.
5. A beautiful home.
6. Quiet time.
9. Friends with whom to share a catered meal.
10.People to love in distant lands.
What about you? What ten things would you add to a gratitude list today? Tell me about it in the comments section.
A Little Reminder
My time spent in developing countries and impoverished areas of the U.S. has made me see one thing very clearly: children around the globe do not have equal opportunities in life. While working on the Buduburam Refugee camp in Ghana, I held children who were weak and malnourished, hanging onto a thin life thread after a round of diarrhea. In Togo, I held a 2 year old with pneumonia whose sickness decreased his should-be-robust-size to a mere twenty pounds. I spoke with and interacted with mothers who cared for their siblings with polio twisted limbs while looking after their own children. My stories are numerous, and though the scenarios vary, one thing was often true: the quality of these young lives was greatly being compromised by illnesses that are easily prevented with vaccines.
When my own son was born in Ghana, we were not to be released from the hospital before he received his vaccine for polio and Hepatitis B. Paid for by UNICEF and made possible by efforts of the World Health Organization, my son's second round of vaccines were administered in the large, bustling city market center. We were just one mother and child in a long line of others who were provided access to life saving vaccines, all thanks to the efforts of organizations like GAVI Global Alliance.
Aware that there are heated debates around vaccines in many parts of the developed world, I recognize that there are many reasons why some mothers feel it is best for their child if they opt out of some of the recommended vaccinations. Because I have first hand seen the devastating effects of polio and Hepatitis, pneumonia and diarrhea, I am eager to support the efforts of organizations working to bring affordable (usually free) vaccines to children around the world.
On Saturday, September 15, I will join the efforts of other World Mom Blog contributors in hosting a GAVI Global Tea Party. Our parties are being filmed with the intention of creating a short documentary showing women around the world working to raise awareness of GAVI's efforts. If you would like to join in the meaningful fun, but cannot make it to Bali in time for the party, you could host a tea party too!
At my party, we will sip Balinese tea, while watching and discussing videos from the GAVI Alliance. Here's one to get you started.
Yours in Awareness and Action,
What are your thought/experiences with vaccinations?
Leave your comments below!
When my son came into my bedroom at 5:45 a.m. with a hopeful look and a box of cupcake mix, I brushed him away. He went quietly and I closed my eyes... Just two more minutes…
An hour later, I awoke thinking about how nice it was that my five year old was finally independent enough to let mommy sleep in. Sensing my rousing, he popped into the room. "Mommy, I started a treat for you, come see!" Alarms, at that moment, should have gone off, but sleepy mind lingered. Slowly, I allowed the day before me to unfold. Morning routines over, I made my way into the kitchen.
"Ohhhh, Edem..." Piled high on the center island, spilling down onto the floor, the cost of my luxurious snooze lay before me. The cake-mix box suddenly appeared in my face: “Look! It says you just have to turn on the oven!"
Aghast, I took a quick inventory of the ingredients scattered around: the box of baking soda that I scoured the island to find, wide open and empty; a few remaining shreds of a precious vanilla bean; egg shells strewn in a Hanzel like trail to a now empty bottle of sparkling water. Coffee-grinds and honey left a gooey path to the brimming over cake pan on the floor. Edem stood giddy with excitement about his creation.
The empty organic coconut sugar jar pushed me over the edge. "Edem!! What have you done! Mommy just bought that sugar last night! It is REALLY EXPENSIVE!!!" The golden treat that I measure into my coffee each morning was gone. Every. Last. Grain.
"EDEM JAMES THRELFALL KWASHIE! What have I told you about cooking without me???" His wide expressive eyes betrayed the smile frozen on his lips. "But.... This time I didn't turn on the oven...”
"Go. To. Your. Room. NOW!"
He slinked, I stomped. As I wiped my way through the disaster, I realized that he managed to pull out all of the ingredients that we used in the chocolate chip brownies made a week before. Clever.
The last thing to clean out was my favorite mug. Filled with coffee grinds and water, something lingered when I attempted to pour out the contents. A pile of golden sugar was clumped at the bottom of the cup.
Edem slinked out from his room and began to silently dry every spatula and whisk. Clumsily, he helped put away the mixing bowls and baking pans. The last thing to go was my hand-woven service tray used for special events. "I don't know why you had this out," I snapped.
Later, as we drove to the store, he asked me if I would someday let him eat in bed. "Eat in bed? What gave you that idea?"
"Ibu Deborah read us a book about a Grandpa who liked breakfast in bed. She said some times you do special things like that for the people you love. To make them happy."
Suddenly, everything became clear.
I am hanging out over at Yeah Write this week. Stop by and read the work of some fabulous bloggers, and them come back on Thursday to vote for your favorites!
The "I AM NOT" challenge.
Years ago, when I first graduated from university, I was inspired by a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: "Do one thing every day that scares you." At that time, I embraced that challenge, and set out to do things that previously scared the bejeezus out of me. It was a wild and crazy time, full of new experiences. As I grew older, I found myself becoming less and less willing to step out of my comfort zone to try new things. Being a member of the international teacher world, I was surrounded by people who were always rising to the challenge of doing new things, but I found myself only willing to do this in a limited capacity. I would definitely move to a new country, but I would immediately set out to make my life familiar and routine, even within these new settings. In the past few months, as I heard people describe me, I realized that I have been selling myself short. I haven't given myself the opportunity to fully embrace the opportunity for new and different to come into my life. This realization didn't sit well with me, and so I have given myself the challenge to embrace Eleanor Roosevelt's decree.
In my efforts to try new things, I have come to realize that, as we strive to define ourselves, and create the labels for who we are, we also create labels of who or what we are not. The labels can be both liberating/healthy and limiting. In the past few months, I have been attempting to challenge my personal list of things I am not. Up until a month or so ago, my list looked like this:
I am NOT :
1. A Runner. Unless chased. Or late for a very important event- and even then, I walked briskly. This identification of self was challenging because, on my bucket list, I stated that I wanted to some day run a marathon. NOT A RUNNER+ ONE WHO WANTS TO RUN A MARATHON=disaster. :-(
2. An Ocean swimmer. Or a lake or pond swimmer. Not knowing what lingers beneath me, and therefore could eat me, kinda' eeks me out. A few years back, I wanted to learn to surf, so I had to overcome this a bit. I did. But still. Unless there is good reason, I don't hop into the ocean thinking: "Hey! Let's swim a few rounds!" Seriously, people, there are things deep below that could eat me.
3. Utterly Spontaneous. In fact, I am the opposite: I am a PLANNER. I like to have schedules and events in place. I have always had a theory that, by having order in my schedule, I was free to say "YES!" should the unexpected arise, but in reality, I liked to have that scheduled in, as well.
4. An Athlete. I'm not. I love Yoga and pilates and dance and these sorts of physical activities, but give me a basketball and I will immediately give it back, probably with a look of dismay on my face. (Come on, I am 5'2", on a good day. Do I LOOK like someone who knows what to do with a basketball????) I have ZERO interest in organized sports. Never have.
A few years back, my list was longer: I said I wasn't a camper, a hiker, a teacher. Years going before that, I said I wasn't a lot of things that I have now come to fully embrace as core essentials for who I now say that I am. Every time I challenge my self identity and try something new, I am surprised by the sense of joy that comes. I am also surprised by how much broader my sense of self can be than I had previously assumed. While I stand strongly with certain core values, I have also come to embrace the idea that it is better to say: I am not YET this that or the other, but ya' never know what could happen!
And what could happen is this: a woman later in her 30s could buy a pair of running shoes and begin to- hang on- RUN! That's right, friends who know me to be a high-heel-wearer, I am now a running-shoe-wearer, and I actually run when I have them on my feet. Fairly often. In the interest of full disclosure, I should admit that my first run was comical. I was pathetic. And this realization rattled me- how can I call myself fit yet unable run a mile???? So I have started to read blogs about being a better runner, and have asked friends who run for advice. I have been challenging myself, and am amazed by what my body will do, when I let it.
Oh, and while you are recovering from that one, try this one on for size: I wore goggles, in the middle of the ocean, and stared at amazing sea life while----- hold on, it is coming---- SWIMMING IN THE OCEAN!!!! It happened a few days ago, when my father rented a glass bottom boat to tour the Gili islands. Our boat tour was amazing, and I saw gorgeous things from the safety of my boat seat- I'm talking sea turtles,cobalt blue fish, choral, and star fish. We cruised for a while, then suddenly, the driver stopped, anchored, pulled out snorkeling gear, and said, "OK. Who is jumping in?" For a minute, I wanted to say "Not me!" But then I realized that my "NOT ME!" would have me missing out on the chance to see so much beauty. So I said "I DO!" jumped in, and nearly had a panic attack. Then I looked down beneath me and saw a whole new world that I might otherwise have missed. Stunning. Breath taking. And I could have missed it.
Both experiences, running and snorkeling in the deep blue sea, have been absolutely exhilarating. As I did both, I thought: "This is what others have known all along! What other amazing things have I been denying myself?!"
Utterly spontaneous and an athlete are next on my list to challenge, and believe you me, I will challenge them. I will challenge them because, as I get to know who I am, I am realizing that I all too often limit my own possibilities by declaring who I am not louder than declaring who I could possibly become. Going against the grain of "who I am," (ahem) I am not going to plan these things, (that wouldn't work well with utterly spontaneous, after all!) but rather, I have decided to open myself up to the possibilities of the universe. This is my year of saying "YES!" to things I might have previously said no to, because, why not? Who knows what I might discover on the opposite side of a great big YES?!?!?
How about you? What limits have you set for yourself that you are now challenging, and what have you discovered on the other side of yes?
Yours in taking the challenge,
The Snorkeling Runner
Erin Michelle Threlfall
Theatre Artist, Activist, and Educator, Erin is the mother of a budding genius in his 7th year of study. Erin and her little man, Edem, have a plan to investigate world theatre and influence education one continent at a time. Ghana, South Korea, Togo and Bali have been checked off the list of places to live; these days they call Brooklyn home.