What They Don’t Tell You About Getting Older

This is a big weekend in the Hobbs House. It always has been really. You see this Saturday is my Father-in-law’s birthday and Monday is my Mom’s. For years we have celebrated our alternate parent’s lives back to back. It can be a bit hectic and time consuming celebrating so much life in one fail swoop. For years we did a lot of driving and eating the last weekend of February.

But things have changed, for now my Father-in-law is gone. He died a few years back after battling cancer at 85. We still celebrate his birthday in some way with his widow, my mother-in-law. In many ways it is not just an acknowledgement of his life and the impact it had on us all, but a recognition of hers as well. It was awfully hard on her to lose her husband of 59 years in her late seventies. We worried about her a lot those first couple of years. Would she bounce back? Would she find life again? To some extent when we celebrate my Father-in-law’s birthday with her, we are also celebrating the fact that we  still have her in our lives. Even at 82 she presses on and lives a vibrant life. She is a gift to her community and our family. We are just so grateful she is still with us not only to share memories of him, but to make new memories as well.

And then there is my Mom. When you lose one family member, it doesn’t take much math skill to realize you are going to lose the rest of them sooner than you wish. Each birthday we celebrate becomes more and more precious. Even though my Dad is 82 and my Mom is seventy something, I mean 49, I mean I’d better stop talking about her age or I’ll get in trouble, they are still active. They are involved with their church and community and friends. They are a vital part of our family’s life watching over our kids when we get busy or sick and lending a hand in any way that is needed. But more and more our conversations focus on their friends and age mates who are sick and dying. Even though I am just in my early 40s, since I was a later in life surprise to them I realize I am lucky to have had them in my life as long as I have.

So that is what they don’t tell you about getting older. That you will move from squabbling with your parents and having them on your nerves half the time for giving you such much advice to praying to God for one more year with them. One more year to hear their words of wisdom and having the blessing of their presence in your family.

As I looked through the card aisle today I realized they just don’t make cards that express that adequately. Yeah, there are gratitude cards and “I love you” cards, but there is no “I’m just so grateful to have had one more year with you in my life card.”

So, I decided to make my own.

For our parents, even though we still sometimes squabble, get on each other’s nerves and disagree:

what they don't tell you about getting older

 

So, if you are lucky enough to still have your parents, even if it is not their birthday, feel free to share a little love with them this weekend. You can even steal this graphic off my Facebook or Pinterest or just forward this post. Love and Gratitude are meant to be shared. Take the time to offer it while you are able.

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The Best Thanksgiving: Not Perfect But Perfectly Present

As we approach Thanksgiving, I thought I would re-post this favorite from last year. May you have a blessedly imperfect Thanksgiving!

As I sit here this Thanksgiving eve while iced cookies are cooling and the soon to be deviled eggs are boiling, I realize how this is a crossroads sort of moment.  Like many of you we are preparing for a big feast tomorrow with lots of family and friends involved.  Being a family of perfectionists, there have been moments of tension in our planning and preparing.  We want things to be nice and that’s okay.

But as some point, we have a choice to make.  Are we going to be perfect, or are we going to be present?

When we can’t find the right cookie cutter and run out of the fall colored sprinkles, will we huff and fuss or just roll with it, improvise, and move on?  After all, does anyone really care about how perfect the sprinkles are, or do they just want to enjoy being with the kids who made the cookies themselves?

be present not perfect

As you make your preparations for whatever Thanksgiving will look like for you, however full or empty, however well or broken, however joyful or bittersweet, I encourage you to be as present as you can in it all.  I’ll go ahead and let you know that nothing will be perfect.  Not your turkey, not your relatives, and certainly not yourself.  But even though you are not perfect, rest assured that you are still perfectly loved.  If not by those in the room with you, then by The One who brought you into being.

And that is indeed something to be thankful for.

being present not perfect

Easy Gratitude Exercise

As we enter this week of Thanksgiving, I thought it would be helpful to share with you an easy gratitude exercise.

So easy you can practice it anywhere and anytime.

I learned it while reading Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World which is a great resource book for anyone looking to take back their life from stress and fear.

So as an early Thanksgiving gift, I offer you the

Ten Finger Gratitude Exercise.

easy gratitude exercise

When you are in a time of stress or worried thinking, simply look at your ten fingers. If their existence is not miracle enough to snap you out of your worry loop (I mean come on, opposable thumbs, how cool is that!?!) proceed to use them in counting off things you are thankful for.

For me the first three are easy, family, friends, health or something of the like. The next few come pretty quickly too. Having a house, a safe community in which to live, clean water, and free education.

But by the time I get to eight, nine and ten, I find I have to really think about it. What am I thankful for? What is good in my life?

At this point I start re-wiring my brain to focus on what I am grateful for instead of what I am worried about, which is really the whole point.

Pretty soon things get re-framed. Instead of complaining about the cold, I am grateful the hard freezes have killed the weeds I am allergic to which made the pollen count go down. Now I can enjoy walks outside again, even if said walks require a heavy coat.

So when you encounter times of stress and worry this week, just turn to your ten fingers and focus on the good things in your life.

Hopefully then you’ll remember those stains in your carpet or your fallen cake aren’t such a big deal anymore. Even Uncle Joe getting tipsy and ranting about politics isn’t the end of the world. He’s getting pretty old anyway and one day you might miss his curmudgeonly ways.

Remember friends, take a breath and focus on the good things, the big ones and the small ones. But most of all:

Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

Gratitude as a cure for Anxiety

31 Days (11)

One of the sure fire ways to quell anxiety and depression is to focus on Gratitude.

Since anxiety often revolves around issues of scarcity (not enough of something) and depression is fueled by negative thinking, gratitude puts a pause in the downward spiral of our thoughts and moves us in a better direction.

Personally, I have found practicing gratitude to be quite helpful in managing my anxiety.

Gratitude reminds me that there are still plenty of good things in the world and that there is much more to my life than my worries.

Lately, I’ve been laying in bed and having a moment of gratitude before I even push back the covers in the morning. Sometimes when my anxiety is flared I actually wake up worried, so having this moment is important for me to start my day off on a positive rather than negative note.

I start with the really simple things. I give thanks for the rest I received the night before and that I woke up alive and breathing. I give thanks for my children whom I hear stirring about and the dogs that shuffle around next to my bed. I give special thanks for my husband when I hear him puttering about in the kitchen starting breakfast. From there the list goes on.

Usually this is enough to help me put the worry down and get up and going each day.

Throughout the day, practicing gratitude can keep us on an even keel. In Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic WorldWilliams and Penman suggest practicing a ten finger gratitude exercise once a day. This consists of counting out ten things you are grateful for on your fingers. They emphasize not stopping until we get all the way to ten as this forces us to look around ourselves and find appreciation for the small things in life.

gratitude heals anxiety

gratitude exercises help me appreciate the good in the small things like dachshunds lying in sunbeams.

 If you want a great read that will help you take the next step with Gratitude in your life, check out Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where you Are. Voskamp, who herself has struggled with depression, one day decides to keep a running tally of the good things in her life. She will writes down every gift, large and small until she makes it to one thousand. This practice of appreciating everything from bird nests, rising moons, messy kitchens, boisterous kids to beyond becomes life changing for her.

If you adopt her practice, you may be surprised how healing it is to focus on the good that is all around us. For it turns out that our scary and scarce world has been abundantly full of goodness and joy all along.

I know I am praying for my eyes to be healed to see this grace all around me.

How are you learning to practice gratitude for the large and small gifts in your life?

 

 

Grateful on the 4th of July

Based on the circumstances of my life, you would think I would be the most patriotic person around. I was born on a national holiday (Memorial Day) in an Air Force town to two parents who were employed by the Department of Defense. One of these parents was a Vietnam vet who spent most of my childhood active in city politics. Lets just say there was a lot of God and country in my early life (in the best of ways).

Chalk it up to teenage rebellion that I was not a red, white, and blue girl. I was not convinced that ours was indeed the best county around. My restless feet decided to walk out on my patriotic town and visit as many other countries as I could. I was on a quest to find what my Americana childhood had been missing.

As I traveled around Europe, Central America, and Africa, I did in fact find that each land had its own unique beauty and wonders to discover. I will never forget how good mangoes taste straight from the tree or how delightful Norwegian cloud berries are. And there are social policies that I do wish our country enjoyed (A year off of work for new mothers anyone? You can have it in Norway!) But the irony is that it the biggest effect visiting all these other lands had on me was to make me more grateful for all the gifts my own country had to offer.

So on this 4th of July, a brief list of things I am most grateful for as a citizen of the United States of America.

grateful on the 4th of July

 

1) Every morning I can wake up, turn on the tap and drink a glass of clean, fresh water.

This may seem really simple, but if you have ever visited a country where this is not possible then you know how big of a deal clean running water is. Nearly a billion people worldwide do not have access to clean water. Not only is the available water dirty, but women often have to walk miles each morning just to carry jugs of unclean water home. Among those places, 80% of illness is related to dirty water and lack of proper sewage. Which brings me to the second thing I am grateful for about the old US of A.

2) Each morning I also have access to a flush toilet to properly dispose of my waste.

It only took one walk down a street bordered by gutters flowing with raw sewage to convince me of the miracle of the modern American sewage system. Even though I grew up with stories about my parents using outhouses, I had always taken for granted that our government provided a means to take dirty water safely away and to bring clean water to my fingertips. If you want to learn more about the worldwide water crises and how to help visit The Water Project.

3) My daughter can go to school without fear of being shot or kidnapped.

This is a big one for me. Even though American women complain about not getting equal pay and bearing more of the household load than men (and these are injustices that should be rectified), we have so many opportunities that are unavailable to most of the women in the world. We can wear what we choose, get an education, hold a job, and have a voice in the running of our government. It breaks my heart that our sisters in the world suffer so needlessly just because they are born female. I don’t even know how to start to make this better (although I do sign petitions regularly to this effect at Amnesty International, and you can too!) Maybe I’ll start be being grateful that I am raising my daughter in a land where she at least has a chance at living in a safe environment that allows her to reach her full potential.

4) Access to medical care

I know this is a hot topic right now. And it is still true in the USA that those with more money get better medical care than those with less. But we do have a safety net that allows most people to get some level of medical care that sustains their life. If nothing else, I am grateful that we have a health department that brings vaccinations to my children’s public schools, educates about and prevents contagious diseases, and keeps malaria from spreading by keeping check on chemical levels in our public pools.

When we brought my daughter home from China we noticed a small circular dent in her left upper arm. When we pointed it out to our pediatrician he mentioned it was nothing to worry about, just a scar from her smallpox vaccine. A vaccine we had no idea about since that disease has been eradicated in America. So today I’m grateful that my daughter will never need to rely on that vaccine during her life in America and that the mosquito net above her bed is purely decoration.

5) Religious and Political Freedom

Whether I am Republican, Democrat, or otherwise I am grateful I can speak my mind about our government without fear of having my tongue cut out. I know we all complain about the government and for good reasons, but let us always remember it could be so much worse. We have no evil tyrannical despot like so many poor countries. There are not armed forces on guard in every town keeping an oppressive peace. As much as we argue back and forth, we are not currently in an actual civil war. I lay down on my pillow at night with no fear of the government coming after me in my sleep. I know that some of you may quip back sarcastically that if I listened to news more maybe I would know I should be more afraid.  To you I would respond, spend some time in an unstable and corrupt third world country and get back to me on how bad our government truly is.

As I’ve written this list I realize I could go on and on about all that I am grateful for about our nation today. But I will stop now and enjoy some star shaped cookies and fireworks with my family.

grateful on the 4th of July

As you celebrate today, what are you most grateful for?

 

 

Its Who You Know

We’ve all heard the saying, “It’s not what you know, its who you know.”  A much nicer was of phrasing this truth would be to say relationships matter.  Who we are connected to and surrounded by greatly impacts our life.  If we are surrounded by difficult or toxic people, it can be draining and even dangerous for us.  If we are surrounded by caring, life giving people, then life is good regardless of the ups and downs that come.

As I think about the impact of relationships on my life on today of all days, I realize again that I am an incredibly lucky woman.  Yes, I have good friends and family to which I am connected.  But today, I am most grateful for this guy.

IMG_3122

No, not Sheriff Woody, the cute guy with him.  My husband and best friend for the past twenty years.  This week he is the birthday boy.  There will be no big party or fuss though.  He will go through his birthday as he does most others, by doing things that help other people.  You see this man of mine is not only a rock that keeps me centered, but he is a touchstone for hundreds of other people in our community.  People that come once a week and sit on his couch, tell their stories , cry their tears, and most importantly have someone to bear witness to their life.  Sometimes he makes interventions, sometimes gives advice, but mostly I think he just listens and passes the puffs plus and Hershey’s kisses that we buy in bulk for his office (if you ever wondered what the secret was to being a great therapist…  now you know).  When his day at the office is done, he’ll be off to run around the soccer field with my son and a hand full of his teammates (By the way they will be chasing him,  My man runs fast for an old dude :-)).

So in the midst of your busy day, my birthday boy, I hope you know this.  My wish for you this year is that you would know how special and loved you are.  That you would know how grateful so many are for the gift of your life.  In the midst of all the busyness and doing for others, I pray that some of the goodness and kindness that you put into the world would come back to you.  And may you have your own good people to listen to your stories and pass you chocolate when you need it.

So, this is who I’m most grateful to know and love.  Who is a blessing in your life?  Don’t forget to take time out of your week to tell how grateful you are to know them.  If you want you can even share this post as a way to say thanks.