Shelley Widhalm

Archive for the ‘Gratitude’ Category

The Gratitude Wall (and Being Thankful)

In Gratitude, Gratitude Wall, Thanksgiving on December 1, 2019 at 11:00 am

 

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The paper leaves offer an opportunity to reflect on gratitude.

Have you heard of donor walls, where nonprofits and businesses thank their contributors?
Well, the Gratitude Wall is a take on that, at least at the assisted living center I visited on Thanksgiving Day. I thought it was going to be another year of the Gratitude Tree, where we put something we’re thankful for on leaf-shaped cutouts and adhere them to a tree centerpiece.

The Gratitude Leaves

This year, the activities director of the center, which is in Fort Collins, Colo., left folded orange leaves on the dining room tables. The leaves look like tiny greeting cards with “I am thankful for:” on the front that you open up for two blank spaces. The director told us to list the things that make us feel grateful, preferably before our meal of turkey and the fixings arrived, so we could talk about it over lunch. She asked us if we wanted to read them aloud (a half-dozen people raised their hands), or have staff hang them on a wall somewhere in the center.

Most of the residents opted for hanging the leaves—I imagine the result will look like a donor wall, but I only stayed for a couple of hours after the meal and didn’t see it by the time I left.

Anyway, on my leaves, I wrote, “Reading, Writing, Coffee, My Business, Getting Published, My Family and Friends, and Zoey, My dog!”

My mom said, “I knew you’d put Zoey in there.” Of course. She’s a cute, 12-pound miniature dachshund who is my BFF, coworker and whatever else.

The Gratitude List

My list could have gone on and on, but I placed reading and writing first, because those are my hobbies and the key skills for my writing and editing profession. I said my business, because even though it’s hard to go it alone, you can create your own life if you work at it. I added the publishing bit, because I recently got a short story published in “Rise: An Anthology of Change,” compiled by the Northern Colorado Writers. And I put my family and friends, because without their love, support and advice, I wouldn’t be where I’m at—I would still be at square one of figuring out how to have a business.

I should have put the Loveland Business Development Center, because the consultants there have given me advice, tips and homework, pushing me toward success—though, I feel like I’m in the middle, still striving. I still have a weekend gig job. I have a pile of novels and short stories I want to see published. And I can do better with my business. Lots better.

Next Year’s Gratitude

What makes you feel gratitude? Does your gratitude help you see success personally and professionally? How so? What do you want to add to your gratitude list next year?

For me, it’s a traditionally published novel, an improved blog and lots of business!

Happy Thanksgiving! (and the Gratitude Tree)

In Being Thankful, Gratitude, Gratitude Tree, Loving Writing, Thanksgiving, Writing on November 24, 2019 at 11:00 am

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Thanksgiving is a time for showing gratitude. What are you thankful for?

What traditions get you excited when it comes to Thanksgiving? Of course, there’s the food and with my family … the Gratitude Tree.

My brother, his wife, my mother and I eat the traditional turkey, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole lunch at her assisted living center, and then we usually get coffee after. But our tradition became extra special three years ago.

The activities director came up with the idea of leaving leaves or other fall-shaped cutouts on the tables and asked the residents (there’s about 75) to write down one or more things that make them feel grateful. Once they have something, they then place the cutouts on fake Christmas trees or centerpieces, depending on the year. I call whatever it is the Gratitude Tree.

Each year, I put my dog and coffee, but this year, I think I need to be more creative.

What should I say? My business? My writing? Reading? My fairly new car? My dog (yes, I already mentioned her—she’s a 12-pound miniature dachshund named Zoey)? My brother? My parents? My friends? Poetry? Nature?

I could go on and on.

It’s important to show gratitude daily, and health professionals often recommend gratitude journals to make it a regular practice. Plus, writing down something helps put it to memory.

I’m grateful for my dozens of journals and notepads, because I love to write however and wherever I go. I guess my top gratitude would be #writing. What’s yours? What makes you feel thankful?

Anyway, I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving with family, friends, joy and gratitude!

Thankfulness Pause

In Being Thankful, Gratitude, Reflections on Writing, Thanksgiving, Writing on November 26, 2017 at 6:00 pm

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Giving thanks is easy when it’s good things, like puppies and perfect grades, scores or assignments.

But it’s a little harder if the result is a skipping heart that over time might break. I was laid off a year ago, and I thought I wouldn’t be grateful about that—who wants to lose their job and face fear of losing more?

I was laid off Nov. 1, 2016, from a reporting position at a daily Colorado newspaper, and I felt a little bitter about Thanksgiving a year later. I thought about how during Thanksgiving 2016, I felt shaky, scared, alone and like little bombs would go off as even more could go wrong. I remember going on a run one November morning just before the holiday and wondering if the sidewalk would crack or a falling branch would hit me—this after the clutch blew on my car just after I got laid off and had a big dental bill.

Liking analogies (I’m a writer!), I thought I’d been kicked off the ship into the big ocean without a compass. Or, I was kicked out of the nest—a fledging without wings. Or, more recently, I was kicked out of the nice comfy house—a housecat that’s gone feral.

But I like being a little wild, I like to fly, and I like to be lost, because what’s happened is I found a long list of thankfulness. I went from a 9-5 pattern of expectations and routine to a constant state of learning, of trying harder than I thought I could, of reinventing, of creating, of finding new ways of writing, of digging into myself, yes, I can do this, I can. I really can! I had to learn how to ghostwrite, be a technical writer, write for different publications in different styles, and edit anything from short stories to sermons to novels from the line to the structural levels. I constantly became uncomfortable. I had to try, try, try.

My heart, it wanted to break. “Give up. It’s too hard,” it beat into my sighs.

But I couldn’t, I wouldn’t. I had to fly. I wanted my wings. I wanted to chase mice and words and have writing as my world.

And then ironically, I forgot about thinking about writing and my layoff on Thanksgiving 2017. I visited my mother for the Thanksgiving noon meal at her assisted living home, and my brother and his wife joined in. We had the traditional holiday fare, and like last year, the volunteer director of activities asked the 75 people in the dining area to find the leaf-shaped paper cutouts on our tables to write what we are thankful for.

My first one was easy, and the same as last year, “Zoey my dog.”

Next, I put, “My apartment in downtown,” something similar to what I wrote last year. The new things on my list included “Coffee!” “My family and friends,” and, here’s the key, “My BUSINESS,” with “business” in caps. That said it all, the layoff and the kick outs were worth the eventual ROI—except I didn’t save a cutout for “Writing.” Ironic, because I love to write and am thankful for it, and I had put it, along with reading, on last year’s list.

Even so, I ended the day realizing that what seems like a negative, something that’s heartbreaking and scary, can turn to the good. It’s how you cut it out and shape it—I have a new perspective that I couldn’t have in my 9-5 sameness—what happens outside doesn’t matter to how I treat my wings.

Because despite the things I cannot control, I can and will fly even if my wings aren’t ready yet. I’ll get there. It takes a paper cutout leaf with a new word, “HOPE.”