We Choose to Be Grateful

Photo via Nicole Spangler Photography
Photo via Nicole Spangler Photography

My husband and I are going holiday shopping today. Well, that's not really true. We're actually going out to lunch to plan our holiday shopping. Our family is newly interfaith which means that eleven years of marriage later, the holidays suddenly feel fresh and new in the best, although what could potentially be the worst, possible ways. And it also means that we require a planning date.

Two years ago we sat our three children down and explained to them the bare minimum of what they needed to know about the upcoming changes to our Hanukkah-celebrating home. “We love Daddy and we want to share his whole story.” Our family gulped in our new-to-us traditions of ornaments and stockings and tinsel in the only way we know how: together.

When I watched my husband fit his story to our children's, one puzzle piece at a time — Star Wars ornaments, mini-bedroom trees, cookies, so very many cookies — I sat in that moment and willed it to slow down so I could capture it and keep it tucked away in my pocket to warm me over on cooler days.

We've all felt the slowed down warmness of fleeting moments like the one I had — ones that leave us filled with an immeasurable feeling that everything is exactly as it should be. We try, in our mothering way, to grasp at these times and revel within them. But as it turns out, we can create these moments. We can choose gratefulness.

Life coach Sophie Skover says, “In my book, The Continuous Appetite, I encourage people to make a list every day of 5 things they're grateful for, but you can never repeat the same thing. This is a great exercise. But to take it a step further, it's great to sit with your eyes closed and really feel the gratitude for that thing, experience, or person that you're grateful for. This will send a rush of positive energy through your system which is bound to refill you during such a busy time!”

Sit with your eyes closed and really feel the gratitude for that thing, experience, or person that you're grateful for. This will send a rush of positive energy through your system which is bound to refill you during such a busy time!

So when I look at this extra step that our family has, for a time to carefully plan and discuss and maneuver our celebrations and our gift giving during an already busy time of year, I choose to create what I want to feel.

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I sit within the realization that I have a husband willing to carve his story with mine, in-laws able to watch our children, and kids who already know that everyone has a story to tell, and that each story needs to be heard. I choose to be grateful for what we have, and what we are, during a time of year than can be difficult for families who are interfaith.

This feeling of gratefulness sticks with me and trumps busy and tricky and overwhelming every single time. As we step into the beauty, and the busy, of the holiday season, five women share how and why they choose gratefulness as well.

Photo via Katrina Kennison
Photo via Katrina Kenison

Katrina Kenison is the author of the parenting classic, Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry, as well as two recent memoirs, The Gift of an Ordinary Day and Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment. She celebrates the gift of each ordinary day in her popular weekly blog.

Katrina says, “This season, as we mourn the death of our beloved border collie Gracie, who was part of our family for thirteen years, I'm grateful for all the lessons she taught us: to live in the moment, to love unconditionally, to play, to be up with the sun, to live each day whole-heartedly. Gracie shaped our family by living right in the center of all our hearts; she made us better people. And the last lesson she offered us was all about how to let go: gracefully, gratefully, without regrets.”

Photo via Jenny
Photo via Jenny

Jenny blogs about life after divorce, parenting four teens, and what it's like to be 47, single, and look a little like Hagrid at  The Happy Hausfrau.

Jenny says, “One of the worst parting gifts from divorce is what it does to the holidays. Days on the calendar that used to represent family and love and traditions suddenly become “Dad Time” or “Mom Time”. I'll never forget that first Christmas Eve without my four kids … I allowed myself to grieve, and boy did I do a bang-up job. I cried, I ranted, I drank wine and watched Lifetime Television. I missed my kids, and they missed me. But guess what? We all survived. Over the years I have learned to accept what I cannot change, and swapping holidays with my ex-husband is one of those things. Instead of mourning the times without my kids, I chose to be grateful for the times I had with them. The beauty of this? Choosing to make the most out of the time I had with my kids spilled over the holidays and into every day life. I began to see what a gift it is to to be with these four remarkable people. Our holidays are once again times of family, love, and new traditions. There may still be the occasional night filled with wine and Lifetime Television, only now there's no crying. Happy Holidays from The Happy Hausfrau!”

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Photo via Heidi Cave
Photo via Heidi Cave

Heidi Cave is a wife, mother, motivational speaker and author. Heidi writes on her blog and you can find her recently released memoir FANCY FEET: turning my tragedy into hope in bookstores, her site and Amazon.

Heidi says, “After a devastating car crash took the life of my friend, burnt over half my body and cost me both my legs, I fought hard to overcome, to get through to the other side. I wanted more than an existence. I had dreams to get married, to know motherhood and live a full life. These dreams came true and along the way I was faced with this question: What do I want my story to be? Because everyone has a story. What will my kids see when they look at me? Will they see a story of resentment and bitterness or will they witness hope, belief and love? A story where I choose to be grateful. What I do impacts their stories. To them I am mummy – someone who has their snacks ready for them after school because they are just starving. I get cranky when they haven’t cleaned up the dishes and socks are strewn all over the house. Under the couch, on top of the couch, tucked in between the cushions … socks … everywhere.  I am also someone who listens, who uncovers their fears, who loves them no matter what. I want to give them a story of courage; determination and love, always love. A story of how grateful I am to be mom to my dreams come true.”

Photo via Sarah Millar
Photo via Sarah Millar

Sarah Millar is the managing editor at Mamalode, a premiere media company for moms.

Sarah says, “I’m lucky enough to get to pick my kids up from school almost every single day, and I can’t help but feel grateful I have a job that allows me to do that. Evenings and weekends my husband is never afraid to jump in and take over when I need to plug back in. I’m always struck by what a great team we make.”

Photo via Lindsey Mead
Photo via Lindsey Mead

Lindsey Mead writes about paying attention to the small joys that exist in everyday life on A Design So Vast

Lindsey says, “For a few years now we have made a deliberate effort to scale back our holiday season, and it has become my absolute favorite family time of year.  December is dotted with small traditions that I know mean as much to my children as they do to me: a cookie baking afternoon with dancing to Christmas carols in the kitchen, choosing a new ornament each on the morning we get our Christmas tree, the enormous boxwood wreath we hang on the front door.

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I am grateful for each of these little moments, which add up to the holidays for me. 

Perhaps most of all, I'm grateful that my children find such joy in such small experiences, and I'm reminded of how traditions form a scaffolding for our family life.”

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We Choose to Be Grateful

Galit Breen is the bestselling author of Kindness Wins, a simple guide to teaching your child to be kind online; the TEDx Talk, “Raising a digital kid without having been one”; the online course Raise Your Digital Kid™; and the Facebook group The Savvy Parents Club. She believes you can get your child a phone and still create a grass-beneath-their-bare-feet childhood for them. Galit’s writing has been featured on The Huffington Post; The Washington Post; Buzzfeed; TIME; and more. She liv ... More

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