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A lesson in gratitude: a touching post on how to live in the moment as a mom

The cup of juice slips, crashes, splashes… juice splatters on every conceivable surface.

The muddy boots of small feet hurriedly romp onto the living room carpet just seconds before you yell, “Take those shoes off!”

The home-office is piled high with an assortment of children’s drawings, miscellaneous receipts, junk mail and last week’s newspaper. You think the folder containing the plan for the school carnival will balance on top, but you’re wrong. The entire pile spills like a waterfall over the edge and onto the floor.

The husband comes home… 30 minutes late.

I feel quite sure that you can add your own annoyances and mishaps to the list. (I could fill a book.)

These types of daily incidents are the stuff of life. This “stuff” makes me want to pull my hair out, or on a more dramatic day, wish I were in another country, sitting on the beach with a cool drink in hand and taking a light nap while the sea breeze gentle caresses  my face. (Insert your own daydream.)

But what about the good stuff?

The sweet, sleepy smile asking for that cup of juice.

The giggles of delight from splashing in mud puddles.

The life that allows you the luxury of a home office, regardless of clutter.

The husband who comes home. (Because someone is grieving a husband who didn’t.)

A few years ago I discovered a challenge to “count your blessings.” When I was cleaning out a basket last month I found a notebook with a list numbered up to 164. That was my first attempt at tracking thanks.

Cotton-candy sunset.

Little girl talking in her sleep.

Snuggles on the couch.

Toys scattered on the floor.

Are you surprised at that last one? It turns out when you start focusing on things you have to be thankful for you find them even in the least likely of places. Anyone with a teenager can tell you they remember toys around the house with a certain measure of fondness!

The problem is today. It’s hard in the moments (that can feel like days) to focus on the good that we have all around us. I was able to change my own attitude by taking up my notebook again. One hundred and sixty five. That started my journey of thankfulness again among the muck of today.

Want to know what happened?

The dirt and drudgery hasn’t stopped, but all of the lovely things I have to be thankful for make the burdens feel lighter. Counting my reasons for thanks… being able to hold them and read them… has changed my disposition.

Do you need an attitude adjustment?

I’d like to suggest a simple three-step plan: 1) Find a notebook. 2) Pick-up a pen. 3) Start listing all that you have to be thankful for.

Jenna lives in Littleton with her favorite man, Mark (watch out – he will hug you) and two fun kids, Zoe (the 11-year-old who already {thinks she} knows more than her mother) and Eli (the sleep-walking 8-year-old). You’ll find her out for coffee with a friend when she’s not trying to keep the hubs and kids alive.

Random Thankfulness: An Oddball List

Dear God /  the Divine / Universe / Higher Self,

Thank you for my blessings, especially the people. The have let me know love.

Thank you things and people I once thought were curses. They have made me grow.

Thank you for the times when things have gone easily for me. Like buttah.

Thank you for the times when you’ve presented brick walls to bang my head against. It hurt, but I am learning to stop banging.

Thank you for my body and increasing health, and the teachers you have sent to help me heal myself.

Thank you for my curiosity. It makes life so interesting.

Thank you for the Internet. Duh.

How can I encourage moderation with gifts during the holidays?

Dear Mama Drama:

My daughter is three and is starting to understand that the holiday season means presents. I have seen my older nieces and nephews become obnoxious and greedy at family gatherings, throwing tantrums when they don’t get exactly what they want.

I’d like to prevent my daughter from being so obsessed. What ideas do you have?

~Moderate Mama

(photo credit)

Dear Moderate:

The Tao of Gratitude

My yoga teacher is hung up on gratitude. Got something good going on? Show gratitude! Got something bad going on? Show gratitude! She focuses on opening our hips and expanding our hearts because “open hips = happy heart.” And a happy heart is a grateful one.

After a stretchy sequence to eke open our hips more — more — MORE — the instructor closed our practice with this quote during savasana, the pose of total relaxation at the end of class:

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.

— Melody Beattie

Those words led to big emotions on my mat.

My journey through infertility and adoption flashed before my eyes. My sickly, failure-of-a-body has evolved into something I love, both in the way it looks and functions. The dark days during which I nearly lost the will to live were juxtaposed with the brilliant light I found in an online infertility community. My empty arms and longing heart gave way to a fantastically full home — basketballs, laundry, toys and the two children who leave those things all over. Everyday chaos is balanced by the calm stillness I find when I draw my attention solely to the space on my mat.

Yin yangIn my mind’s eye were a thousand tao symbols, each one symbolizing the duality of yin/yang becoming the unity of The Tao.

  • Day + night = a day
  • Good + evil = humanity
  • Passionate Democrats + passionate Republicans = Americans
  • Broken + forgiveness = wholeness
  • An Infertile + a superfertile  = open adoption
  • Self-loathing + self love = me

It was bliss. I felt gratitude for every single thread in the tapestry that is my life.

May your November be full of things to be grateful for.

Images: and digitalart /

Lori blogs from metro-Denver at Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, written with her daughter’s birth mom, will be published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2013.