Friday, November 25, 2011

Giving Thanks for Those Who Sacrificed


Today, I am blessed to share with you all a post by a fellow New Englander, grew up not too far from my hometown.  Author, Melissa Ann Goodwin, ponders the meaning of gratitude.  In thanks for her guest blog, I am promoting her new book, The Christmas Village AND, she is gifting one of my readers with a copy.  All you have to do is leave a comment below.

The Christmas Village is a wonderful holiday tale about a troubled boy and his adventures in finding himself.  All I can say is, you must read the book!  I am hooked and can't wait to find out what comes next. For a sneak peak, check out the trailer.



~~~~~
  
I knew that I wanted this post to be about gratitude. It’s November, and it’s Thanksgiving, and remembering our blessings is at the forefront of our minds. I have so much to be thankful for, this year and always. But, how did I want to express that? Perhaps, I’d write a poem. Maybe, I’d find inspiration in some Thanksgiving quotes. My plan was to meditate on it a bit, open my eyes, and write.

As I drove home from teaching a yoga class this morning, dazzling sunlight reflected off the small white gravestones in the veteran’s cemetery across the highway. The cemetery covers an entire hill, row upon row of white markers cascading down its slopes. When I got home, I suggested to my husband that we drive over there, park the car and take a walk – something we’d been meaning to do.
Each marker in section 60 of Arlington Nationa...Image via Wikipedia
  
As we headed up the hill, we noticed that the first section of stones all had the same year of death – 2001. The stones are simple and uniform in size. Engravings on them provided names, dates of birth and death, rank, branch of service and in what wars they served.

Looking out over row and after row was sobering. We walked quietly, occasionally commenting on a long life or a very short one. When it was a short one, we knew there was a good chance the person had died in service. Some of the veterans served during two or even three wars.

I was reminded of when I’d gone to Arlington National Cemetery, many years ago. It was a day like today, blue skies and sunny. We wandered through rows of similar white markers –though there are many more rows there. Suddenly, a red fox appeared – there – in the middle of these endless rows of white gravestones. Where on earth did he come from? I can still remember the juxtaposition of this beautiful fiery-red animal against the backdrop of a sea of white. He stared at us for a few seconds; then ran off. The moment seemed important, though I can’t say why.

When we returned home today, I knew that I just wanted to write some words about being grateful to everyone who has ever sacrificed to give me a better life. There are hundreds more veteran’s cemeteries like the one here in Santa Fe. So many people chose, or agreed, to serve to protect this country. To protect me. Thank you, all of you. Then, there are my parents, also gone now, who sacrificed for me in so many ways. Thank you, Mom and Dad. There are teachers who educated me, for far less income than their jobs deserved. Thank you, Miss Collins, Miss Noone, Miss Cronin, and all the rest.

The list goes on, endlessly, but you get the idea. Today, I just feel very grateful to all those who are gone now, who made my life better. And I am grateful for everyone, who is still here in physical body, who does that too. In my life, I have been loved and cared for. I have been granted much grace. So, this Thanksgiving, I’m keeping a special lookout for anyone in my life who might need that favor returned.

Don't forget to leave a comment for your chance to receive a copy of Melissa's book, The Christmas Village!

Melissa Ann Goodwin is a native New Englander, now living in Santa Fe, New Mexico with her husband, artist J. Richard Secor. She has written extensively for Fun for Kidz, Boys’ Quest and Hopscotch for Girls. She was a regular feature article contributor to the Caregiver's Home Companion for more than five years. Her work has appeared in Guideposts’ Angels on Earth, Caregivers’ Home Companion, Caring Today, The Lutheran Digest, The Peak Magazine, The Andover Townsman, and the Martha’s Vineyard Gazette. Her poetry took 10th prize in The Writer’s Digest 2010 annual competition. The Christmas Village is her first novel.

Author's Websites:

Melissa Ann Goodwin

The Christmas Village

FaceBook:
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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lest We Forget

A composed satellite photograph of North Ameri...Image via Wikipedia
We are a land of immigrants.  This is an important fact to remember.  This is a land where our forefathers and foremothers came to escape political, religious and academic persecution.  But, lest we forget, this is also the land were some of our ancestors were forced to come in chains.  Ripped from their homes, their families, their lives. Many of our loved ones spent years of persecution here, in this land of the Free, at the hands of those who had just escaped the tyranny of their homelands.

Lest we forget, there are also those of us with ancestors who called this land home, long before the Europeans came.  We knew the greatness of this land of Plenty.  We talked to the Great Spirit and gave thanks daily for the blessings.  We thanked our four-legged, winged and finned brothers and sisters for sharing them selves with us; we thanked Mother Earth for the blessings of the earth; and we protected and respected the silent Ones who grew around us.

Lest we forget, this land is not home to only those with enough money to buy whatever they want or whomever they want.  This is a land were the dream of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" exists for all who will have it. This is a land were we, The People, pull together in crisis to help our brothers and sisters regardless of race, color, creed, sexual origin or nationality.  This is a land, lest we forget, that was founded on the idea that freedom was the birth right of ALL, not a few.

As we sit round our tables on this Day of Thanks, let us be mindful of our roots, let us tell our children the stories of how and why we came to this land called, America.  Lest we forget, let us remind all that this is a land in which Mother Liberty raises her touch high to light the way, offering respite to all.  
 
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
 
May God bless us all and continue to gift us with "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Words of Gratitude from Around the World

One of the things that has been affirmed for me over the past two months in seminary is that Sacred Writings exist everywhere.  Often, we humans, have an egocentric view of the world, believing we, personally, are the only ones with the answers, and even, sometimes, the questions.  Of course, for every question, there are multiple ways to answer, often saying the same thing, but simply using different words.  (Ask any teacher or lawyer this and they will tell you it is true!)

The following are poems and prayers of gratitude from various cultures and religions.  May the beauty of their words touch your heart, and lift your soul.  



Oludumare, oh Divine One! I give thanks
to You, the one who is as near as my
heartbeat, and more anticipated than my
next breath. Let Your wisdom become one
with this vessel as I lift my voice in
thanks for Your love.
African - Yoruban

~~~~~

Great Spirit, Divine One, Creator
who is heaven earth rock wind insect tree fox
human of every size shape color

Holy are your infinite names chanted sung whispered
shouted in every language, tongue.

We will midwife the rebirth of Gaia
as best we can
restoring the Great Law of Peace.

Guide our hands to the soil and seed
honoring the alchemy of food.
Let us remember your abundance
and share the bread of life with any who hunger.

We are for giving
and giving and giving.
We trust in the give-away.
We give and receive.

Let us be humble before the darkness and the light
walking in harmony amidst them.
Give us courage to know them intimately
both within and without.

For you have breathed it all---
the behind, the above, the below, the beyond.
Your awesome power courses in our veins
and animates our hearts.
You are the Great Drum.

We thank you.
translation of the Lord's Prayer
from King James to Gaian - Claudia L'amoreaux

~~~~~

Welcome Morning - Anne Sexton

There is joy
in all:
in the hair I brush each morning,
in the Cannon towel, newly washed,
that I rub my body with each morning,
in the chapel of eggs I cook
each morning,
in the outcry from the kettle
that heats my coffee
each morning,
in the spoon and the chair
that cry "hello there, Anne,"
each morning,
in the godhead of the table
that I set my silver, plate, cup upon
each morning.

All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house
each morning
and I mean,
though often forget,
to give thanks,
to faint down by the kitchen table
in a prayer of rejoicing
as the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds.

So while I think of it,
let me paint a thank-you on my palm
for this God, this laughter of the morning,
lest it go unspoken.

The joy that isn't shared, I've heard,
dies young.

~~~~~
We return thanks to our mother,
the earth, which sustains us.
We return thanks to the rivers and streams
which supply us with water.
We return thanks to all herbs, which furnish medicines
for the cure of our diseases.
We return thanks to the corn, and to her sisters,
the beans and squashes, which give us life.
We return thanks to the bushes and trees,
which provide us with fruit.
We return thanks to the wind,
which, moving the air, has banished diseases.
We return thanks to the moon and the stars,
which have given us their light when the sun was gone.
We return thanks to our grandfather He-no,
that he has protected his grandchildren from witches and reptiles,
and has given us his rain.
We return thanks to the sun,
that he has looked upon the earth with a beneficent eye.
Lastly, we return thanks to the Great Spirit,
in whom is embodied all goodness,
and who directs all things for the good of his children.
Native People - Iroquois

~~~~~

Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ,
For all the benefits thou hast won for me,
For all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me.

O most merciful Redeemer, Friend, and Brother,
May I know thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly,
And follow thee more nearly:
For ever and ever.
Prayer of St Richard of Chichester - 1197-1253

 ~~~~~

That she was taken out of her mother,
thanks be for that!
That she, the little one,
was taken out of her, we say,
thanks be for that!
Native People - West Greenland Eskimo

~~~~~

(Prayers above from World Prayers)

~~~~~

Buddhist Pray of Thanksgiving

(serving the food)

In this food I see clearly
the presence of the entire universe
supporting my existence.

(looking at the plate of food)

All living beings are struggling
for life.May they all have enough food
to eat today.

(just before eating)

The plate is filled with food.
I am aware that each morsel
is the fruit
of much hard work
by those who produced it.

(beginning to eat)

With the first taste, I promise
to practice loving kindness.
With the second, I promise
to relieve the suffering of others.
With the third,
I promise to see others' joy as my own.
With the fourth,
I promise to learn the way of nonattachment and equanimity.

(after the meal)

The plate is empty.
My hunger is satisfied.
I vow to live for the benefit
of all living beings.

~~~~~

What Was Told, That
by Jalal al-Din Rumi
translated by Coleman Barks

What was said to the rose that made it open was said
to me here in my chest.

What was told the cypress that made it strong
and straight, what was

whispered the jasmine so it is what it is, whatever made
sugarcane sweet, whatever

was said to the inhabitants of the town of Chigil in
Turkestan that makes them

so handsome, whatever lets the pomegranate flower blush
like a human face, that is

being said to me now. I blush. Whatever put eloquence in
language, that's happening here.

The great warehouse doors open; I fill with gratitude,
chewing a piece of sugarcane,

in love with the one to whom every that belongs!

Namasté
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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Giving Thanks for Writers - Blog Hop!



Today, Words from the Heart is part of a huge blog hop.  A blog hop is an event where readers have the opportunity to visit a group of blogs that are promoting or celebrating the same thing.  This blog hop is brought to you by the WoMen's Literary Cafe Authors as part of their Gratitude celebration.

For our part of the hop, we are honored to post and grateful to host author, Wendy Young.  Wendy's book, Come the Shadows, will be part of our Blog Hop give-away. You'll want to check out the other blogs that are also hosting give-aways! Find out more at the end of this post!

Gratitude by Wendy Young

This is the time of year where everyone begins to consider the question: What are you thankful for?

In my house, now that we’ve started having kids, we try to make it a daily question. Every night we ask our son: What are you thankful for? His answers are quite simple and surprising – even something like his blanket will rate on the list. We’re happy that, so far, both Mommy and Daddy rate every night, too.

Even with that daily focus, however, this time of year brings special attention to the question and the answers get more complicated every year. We move from thankfulness for a toy or a special treat as a child, to thankfulness for a nice car and spending money as a teenager, to thankfulness for our jobs, our relationships, our health, and our kids as we grow into and through adulthood.

This year was a giant leap for me. I can, for the first time, tack Author onto my list of life titles and that opens up a whole new area of gratitude. Some of the new additions to my list:
  • I am thankful for a husband who supports and encourages what I do and believes in what I want to do with my life.
  • I am thankful that I am an author at a time when self-publishing has been transformed by the e-reading revolution.
  • I am thankful for social media that allows me to connect so easily to those in my neighborhood or across the world.
  • I am thankful for the authors who came before me and opened these paths.
  • I am thankful for the successful and talented writers who share their knowledge and encouragement.
  • I am thankful for other authors at the beginning of their paths, just like me, who know what it’s like to walk in my shoes and who give of themselves in support of all of us.
  • I am thankful for book reviewers who take the time not only to read my work, but actually review it and post their thoughts on blogs, purchase sites, or reader sites like Goodreads.
Lastly, and in many ways most importantly, I am thankful for every person who has read what I’ve wrote. It doesn’t matter if you’re one of the 30,000+ who have read my free short story or the smaller number who have purchased my book; I am thankful for YOU.

Most of the latest additions to the list apply to being an author and what makes the non-writing aspect of this job easier and more enjoyable. Readers, however, are the complement to writers and are much closer to my heart. I write very character-driven stuff and if I’m connecting with readers – making them smile, laugh, think, feel – then I’ve done what I set out to do.

As a writer, it can be tempting to hoard your work and never let others into that realm. It’s easier, it’s less stressful…but it’s also less fulfilling. As an author, it’s an incredible boon to have someone read what you wrote. Add to that the knowledge he/she enjoyed it and the author has been given a wonderful gift.

Writers are normal people. We struggle, we stress, and we even moan and groan (a bit). Readers have an unique power to reward writers and not just with the purchase of a book. We live in a time where readers can find any writer and connect. Reviews are welcome, but so are quick messages or emails explaining what the story meant to you, the reader.

I am thankful for those who read and enjoy in silence, those who take the time to tell a friend, those who take the time to tell the world, advocate for a writer with a review or other public means, and those who find me and say, “Thank you.”

Sometimes, I may simply say, “Thank you,” in return. It’s true gratitude, not platitude, every single time. I’m not being lazy or rude I’m simply incapable of quantifying all that I mean in a simple reply. The appreciation sometimes seems too big to fit in words, alone. Readers are appreciated and I am thankful for every single one.

Keep doing what you do best – reading – and if you have a spare moment, let the author (any author) know what you think about the work.
The Barn-star of Thankfulness - A Barn-load of Gratitude!


  
The WoMen's Literary Cafe is very thankful for all of the support from bloggers, reviewers, and readers during the Come Back To Me book launch and 99 cent event. As a thank you, we are giving away two copies of Come the Shadows” by guest blogger and author, Wendy Young for free today only. Enter to win your copy by leaving a comment on this blog.  Don't forget to check out our sister sites below!

And the winners are: Cecilia and Kathy R!  Congratulations!!  Wendy will contact you with how to access your free e-book copy of Come the Shadows!  Thanks everyone for your participation!!


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Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day in the Eleventh Month

Today, we observe Veterans' Day, or what was formally called, Armistice Day, which commemorates the signing of the Peace Treaty in France between the Allies of World War I and the Germans at the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day in the eleventh month." After World War II, the name was changed in the United States to Veteran's Day. In addition, it marks what would have been my parents 59 wedding anniversary.

Mom and Dad shortly after their marriage

During this month long look at gratitude, I want to thank my parents, posthumously, for finding each other.  While theirs was not always the most harmonious of marriages, there was never any doubt of the love they shared for each other, even to the end of their days. Daddy was Momma's "sailor boy" and Momma was Daddy's "sweetheart."

I am grateful for the lessons these two people taught me.  Momma opened my eyes to poetry, literature, art, music and dance.  Daddy taught me how to fix things, how to re-purpose old stuff and how to make things from bits of this and that, long before it was a fashion statement to do so.  They both, together, taught me to question authority, honor the dead, support those less fortunate and always make room at the table for others.

 On their Golden Anniversary - 2002

My Mom and Dad were most definitely part of the 99%. If they were still here in this reality, they would be camped out in Boston with the other Occupy folks. They taught me much of what I know and believe about social justice and peace work.
 
They were educated in the School of Hard Knocks.  The jobs they had served others.  They never got further than high school in their training, although both read constantly. They could hold their own with the best of scholars. They lived in the projects of South Boston.  They died poor in money, but rich in love of family and friends.

The gratitude I have for my parents is endless.  I can never adequately express, nor show how much their crazy love touched my life.  But, crazy as it was sometimes, their lives, their love touched so many other lives, not just mine, making the world richer for it.  

I miss my parents.  They were good people.  As the world pauses to remember those that have died for their countries, I will, also, remember my Mom and Dad and give thanks.

Namasté!


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Monday, November 7, 2011

Attitude of Gratitude

Gratitude TagImage by eekim via Flickr


Out of the mouths of babes!  In Sunday school, yesterday, I was talking to the kids about gratitude.  I challenged them to find uncommon ways to give thanks.  One of the older students (I have a multi-level class.) said, "So you want us to have "An Attitude of Gratitude," right?"

Now, she may have heard it some place else, but it just blew me away.  "An Attitude of Gratitude!"  The poet in me loves the alliteration - the rhyme.  Her little comment inspired me to continue my postings on Gratitude. (I had planned to go on to other things this month.)

Living in gratitude is all about our attitude.  In order to be thankful, we must be mindful of the fact that every second, every encounter, every trial and tribulation is a gift.  Finding ways to show we are grateful becomes a natural part of our lives, when we mindfully live in gratitude.

In my seminary course, I read a passage of Buddhist text that stated that the ungrateful were a burden.  At first, I didn't get it.  Then, I sat with it for a bit, mulling it over in my mind.  

Of course!  I understood, finally...when someone lives without gratitude, they are never satisfied.  They continually seek more for themselves and from others.  What a burden to bear...and what a burden on others to live with someone like that, because they are never happy.

As you go through your days, see the gifts the Creator leaves for you.  Give thanks; feel your burdens lift.  

My gratitude list this week includes:
  • Thanks for my former students who write me still.
  • Thanks for the hundreds of people around the globe (from over 125 countries) who read my blog and share their lives with me.
  • Thanks for my beloved, Roger, who honors who I am and supports my journey. 
  • Thanks for the quiet moments that allow me to hear the Creator's Breath.
  
Blessings of gratitude to all! 
 
Namasté!
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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Gratitude in the Face of Difficulties

Huge branch that hit the house cradled by the arborvitae
 
This past week, we were hit with a freak snow storm that dumped from 10 to 27 inches of snow on the area.  With trees still in full foliage, there were many broken limbs, falling on power lines, roof tops and across roadways.  Finding a way to be grateful, may seem an impossibility, but, here is my list of things I am grateful for because of the storm.
  • My step-daughter and I were able to have time traveling back from Maine together.  We had to take detours, which, if she was traveling alone, she might not have known.  
  • Because my dear Roger planted arborvitae around the perimeter of our property, the huge maple branch that fell on the house did not do damage.  The arborvitae cushioned it, keeping it from hitting with full force.
  • We had time to read and talk because the distractions of Internet and phone were not available.
  • We have natural gas for cooking, which allowed us to make a huge pot of soup to share with others, who had electric stoves.
  • My mother-in-love only lives a few houses down the street, which made it easier to help her until the power came back on.
  • Not having work allowed me time to catch up on correcting papers and reading students' journals.
  • Our power was only off for three days.  Some people are still without power, a week later. 
So much to be grateful for, even in the face of difficulties!  Sometimes it seems like a stretch, but eventually, as you practice gratitude in all things, it become easier to see the silver linings...they are everywhere!

May the days ahead bring us all ways to be show our gratitude, even in the face of difficulties. May those, who are still without power, find warmth and comfort in the compassion and care of others.  Many blessings to all those working to fix the problems this storm has caused.
Namasté!
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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Living Gratitude



Thanksgiving is just around the corner, which makes November the perfect time to begin a Gratitude Journal.

Many years ago, I began a Gratitude Journal. Journaling had been my way of maintaining my balance though the ups and downs of life, but keeping a Gratitude Journal was new to me. The idea came from a friend, which was long before popular talk show hosts recommended it.
  
At the time, I was in a very difficult life-transition. The suggestion to keep a Gratitude Journal was given in the hopes that the journal would help me count my blessings, of which, at the time, I thought I had few.
 
Interestingly, the more I wrote in my journal, the more blessings I found in my life. The more blessings I found, the more 'whole' I became. I began to see how rich my life was, in spite of the issues I was dealing with on a day-to-day basis. Later, when my parents died less than a year apart, the ability to count my blessings helped me through my grieving process.
 
So, here is the challenge - keep a Gratitude Journal this month. Each day, write in your journal. List at least three things, for which you are grateful. These things do not have to be grandiose. Simple pleasures are fine.


You can even create a theme for each week:


• During the first week of November, journal your gratitude for family
• Second week - friends
• Third week - conveniences
• Fourth week - lessons learned

 
Don't get stuck trying to write profound statements. One or two words can suffice. For example: warmth of the shower, maple tree in the back yard, when Dad died (being grateful for his life)


The magic of a Gratitude Journal is that if we make an effort to write, each day or each week, we suddenly find ourselves finding more ways to be grateful, as this happens, our outlook on life changes. We see more beauty and happiness than before.
 
The upshot of keeping my Gratitude Journal was that I now "live" in Gratitude.  Nothing happens during the course of a day that doesn't get seen as a gift...even the bad or difficult things.  I learned by keeping the journal that my life is rich in the things that matter...family, friends, love, Life!

Truly, it has been this ability to see the gifts within each situation that has helped me through the past year of unemployment (or under-employment, since I have worked at many part-time positions) as well as the recent disappointment in not being able to refinance my mortgage.  Don't get me wrong, I'm no saint!  I get upset and angry just like anyone, but when I take time to be still, the Spirit reminds me that there are gifts to be had if I look.  So, I do, and in seeing them, I feel better.
  
Putting words to paper, holding a light on the dark corners of our conscious, truly helps bring about healing, peace and balance. Giving thanks for both the Light and the Darkness, helps us to stay the course, follow the path and Live the Love.
 
For prompts on writing your own Gratitude Journal, click here.

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