Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Julia's Gratitude Journal

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Gratitude! It's everywhere! It was the cover theme on last month's Oprah magazine, and I listened to an jour-long show on NPR about how being grateful for the little things that give you pleasure has a measurable effect on lifting depression and calming anxiety.

Not the we're depressed or anxious! Ha ha! No! Not even about the manuscript for the next book STILL not being done! Hang on for a second while I shotgun a King-sized bag of M&Ms.

 Gratitude is also referred to as mindfulness, but gratitude doesn't sound so New Age-y. If mindfulness is your yoga instructor setting up an essential oil diffuser, Gratitude is your grandmother starching the linen napkins and reminding you to count your blessings. We did such a great job a couple month ago, let's all pitch in and think about what's lighting our candles (metaphorically speaking) as we walk into the darkest time of the year.

I'm going to put homemade chocolate chip cookies at the top of my list. I made a double batch the other day, and while I gave away about a third of them to the Smithie and her boyfriend Ishmael, I kept the rest of them for myself. All to myself! (Picture me laughing maniacally and rubbing my hands together.) They've last over a week so far - a major change from the days when the house was full and the cookies would vanish within 24 hours.


I'm also super grateful for Hallmark Christmas movies. You can fight me on this, artsy movie lovers. For me, there is nothing better after a long, busy day than stretching out beside the woodstove and watching a hard-charging corporate executive relocate to a small town, become a gingerbread-house baker, and fall in love with the boy next door who turns out to be a prince. It's like consuming McDonald's fries and a chocolate milkshake - you know it's not good for you, but it hits every pleasure center in your brain.


I got some delightful news a couple days ago that makes me very grateful: the Sailor is getting two weeks' leave and will be home over Christmas! I haven't sen him since his little sister's graduation in May. I may even let him have some of my chocolate chip cookies.

This definitely counts as a small thing that give me great pleasure: nail polish. Think about it - what else can you buy for around eight to ten bucks that lasts for months and lifts your spirits every time you put it on? Okay, a box of condoms, but what else besides that?

I've been mindful of polite drivers lately, as the summer construction season which tore up approximately 85% of the streets in Portland continues into the winter. It's nerve-frying to be stuck in stop-and-go lanes with weird merges and people trying to pull in and out to get to stores and offices. It's made even worse with snow and slush on the streets. which is why kindly drivers who wait their turn, gesture for you to go ahead, and signal their intentions well in advance make me smile. My friends in Massachusetts, I'm sorry you'll never know this kind of happiness.

In the "grateful for the absence of" category, I'm thankful for the continued good health of my kitty Neko. There's no reason for her not to be healthy - she eats moderate amounts of a balanced diet,
stays strictly indoors and is in the prime of life at eight-going-on-nine. It just that for several years the other pets were constantly going to the vets for skin allergies, hawk attacks (not even kidding) getting hit by a pickup and, of course, doggy cancer. I'm pretty sure my bills alone paid the salary and benefits of one full-time vet assistant. Now dear Louie has gone to the Great Dog Park in the sky, and Juno and her allergies are living with the Smithie. One yearly visit for feline leukemia shots is a pretty sweet deal.

Speaking of health, I'm deeply grateful for the ACA. I've just been reviewing my application for 2019, and I'm getting a BIGGER subsidy to help pay for good-quality health care for me and Youngest. Just for kicks and giggles I went on the insurance company's website and priced the same policy off the Marketplace. Oy vey. If it weren't for the ACA, my health insurance would probably be a bottle of vitamin C and some Band-Aids. Thanks, Obama!

So, I couldn't afford the non-marketplace insurance, but I did spring for some really nice sheets, and I'm so grateful when I snuggle down in them with my disease-free cat at my side. Higher thread count and better cotton is totally worth it, guys.

I'm grateful that the Smithie has done so well as a columnist for the Portland Press Herald that she and I will be doing our first mother daughter appearance together next Tuesday, December 11! It's a twice yearly program put on by the newspaper called "Maine Voices." It continues to amuse us to no end that people will be paying good money to hear us talk to each other. Hopefully, it won't sound like the third act of The Glass Menagerie.

Finally, as the holiday season gets into its full swing, I'm always grateful for Mariah Carey singing "All I Want for Christmas is You." Most modern Christmas songs drive me screaming up the chimney after I've heard them for the 100th time. (I actually heard the beginning of "Do They Know It's Christmas At All" yesterday and broke land speed records racing across the living room to change the station.) Not Mariah's classic. I could listen to her warm up her pipes every day for the next ten years, and it still makes me want to dance across the floor, waving my hands in the air and admiring my nail polish.

 

76 comments:

  1. It’s so easy to forget to be grateful for all the things we have instead of always wanting more; I enjoyed reading this delightful reminder, Julia.

    “An evening with . . .” sounds like it will be a fascinating way to spend an evening. I hope you both have a marvelous time.
    My gratitude for things both big and small definitely extends to chocolate chip cookies [or any other cookie, for that matter], Hallmark movies, and family.
    On the driving front, however, I’m still wishing to meet up with a polite driver so that I could be grateful . . . .

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    1. Still waiting for a polite driver, Joan? You don't happen to live/drive in Dallas, do you? Sounds just like home to me.

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    2. There's a reason Maine's tag line is "The Way Life Should Be." Also the way driving should be (most of the time.)

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    3. We live in New Jersey, Gigi . . . and polite drivers are few and far between to the point of being almost nonexistent. Rather than sharing the road, they're more apt to sideswipe your car, just to be first. Poor Miss Phoebe [she's a Saturn Astra] didn't like getting smashed by a Silverado . . . .

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  2. Listening to Mariah Carey as I type this - thanks for the spot of joy on a dark early morning! The event with Smithie sounds fabulous. And your writing is hilarious, as always!

    I'm grateful I can still walk fast in a straight line. After some foot issues earlier this year, I'll take every additional day when they are working as they're supposed to. Grateful for perfectly ripe avocados, the food of the goddesses. For down comforters. For my spunky 86-year old friend who is hanging in there despite lots of health hardships. And for living in a historic MA town on the New Hampshire border - where we DO have lots of polite drivers. ;^)

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    1. Oh, Edith I forgot to be grateful for glucosamine chondroitin and fish oil - two capsules a day have made a huge difference in my knee pain!

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    2. Really?? I have been having a terrible time with knees, lately, aggravated by last spring's fall. Maybe I will remember to take my fish oil and glucosamine!

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    3. Awesome, Julia. Glucosamine never worked for me, but I'm glad it does for you!

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  3. The house painter I booked in June of 2017 to repair and paint rotten trim wood is here this week. Joy to the World!

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    1. I'm still laughing as I type this. And... it'll be like decorating for Christmas! Everything will look better!

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  4. Only three more weeks of teaching til the Christmas break is my current big solace. Plus, we are getting closer to December 21st, the shortest day of the year, which is followed by the 22nd -- the first day that brings us closer to June 21st, the longest day of the year. I always love that turn in the sun's cycle. As we slowly make our way there, I take comfort in a hot cup of tea, the solid weight of Holly the Cat's body between us in bed, and my mother's continued good health that is enabling her to jet off to Holland today to spend 2 1/2 months with my brother and his family there. Did I mention that she turned 90 in November? Hallelujah and praise those genes; may I have them!

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    1. Wow, those ARE great genes, Amanda! Here's hoping you're jetting off to Europe when you're your mother's age!

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  5. This is so wonderful! I am grateful for you, Julia!

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    1. And I'm grateful to you (and for being my need-to-overnight-in-Boston landing site!)

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  6. Gratitude really is important -- thank you for the reminder! Let's see -- I'm grateful for my wonderful husband of 31 years, who I feel like I appreciate now that we're empty nesters more than ever. I'm grateful that we get to enjoy at least one more holiday season with his delightful 90-year-old mother. I'm grateful that so far (knock on wood!) we are still enjoying OUTDOOR walks before work each day. (We will suspend them when the sidewalks get icy or the ambient temperatures drop into the teens or below. But there is something about that fresh air!)

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    1. So true, Susan. We had early snow and a record-breaking cold snap around Thanksgiving, but we're back to more moderate seasonal temps here in Maine and I couldn't be happier about it. 22F to 32F is very doable cold weather.

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  7. So apt today, Julia! Where has the sun gone? I'm grateful for Jimmy Crackhead, our young ginger cat--he's a handsome lad and his antics and sweet nature always bring a smile to my face, even on the darkest of days. Grateful for unexpected hugs and music filling the house. For no-bake chocolate cookies (giving me that chocolate/sugar rush faster than baking chocolate chip cookies--which I love--but I won't begrudge you any, Julia!). And this week, for randy rainbow on Youtube--not sure where I saw him mentioned, but it's been a while since I laughed out loud. I highly recommend his video 'A very stable genius').

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    1. Flora, 'Jimmy Crackhead' may be one of the greatest cat names I've ever heard.

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    2. Thanks, Julia! He's earned it--one of his favorite activities is bouncing off the walls down the hallway.

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  8. Oh, Julia, you have reminded me of how much I am grateful for my lovely flannel sheets - maybe the best part of winter! And I am grateful for you and all the other Jungle Reds, who make my mornings. Tea with friends. Chocolate chips cookies are good but blondies are better and less work. Hope you'll decide to make the Sailor his own batch of cookies.

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    1. I probably will. He loves brownies, and I can whip those up in no time at all. Also, I'm grateful he's said he'll get the rest of my wood pile (the one under two tarps and unexpectedly early snow) into the wood room! He can have any dinner he wants for that.

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  9. What a lovely post, Julia. Will it be possible to tape your conversation with Victoria?

    And what is it about nail polish? It is the ultimate spirit lifter. My cousin's 33-year old son, Jon, who identifies as an "ace" (asexual), just started wearing wild colors of polish. It's jarring to see this giant man, who drives a bus, with gloriously colorful nails. I love his confidence, hard earned as it was.

    After attending the funeral of Jon's stepbrother last night, a 32-year old who committed suicide after a long history of alcohol and drug abuse so bad that he was diagnosed with cirrhosis last year, I'm enormously grateful for my own family. They have problems, yes, but they also have great jobs and thriving careers, and support networks that keep them all on a more even keel. Looking around at the funeral I could see several others who are clearly struggling with many issues related to drugs, poverty, and struggle. It was a brutal reminder to count our blessings.

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    1. Sometimes it takes the hard stuff to help us see what's good out there. It was at the worst moments of Ross's illness that I would find myself really able to focus on the pleasure of birds singing, or the taste of a cold Coke, or laughing at a joke.

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    2. Oh, and Karen, I don't know if they'll be videotaping my talk with V. I'll let everyone know if they do.

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  10. Beautiful thoughts, Julia. And kudos to Neko for staying healthy. Pets can keep us sane sometimes. All best wishes for the night with Victoria and, if you have a minute, go to the YouTube video of James Corden doing his Carpool Karaoke with Maria Carey. It's splendid.

    As I read through your post and the comments, I kept thinking that I am simply and most basically grateful for having enough. After years of scrimping and saving and cutting economic corners, I have reached a place where I have enough money to pay for my house and my health insurance; renovations on my flooring and my wardrobe; a nice car and art for my walls. I have a job and hobbies I enjoy, friends I can call on when I need a laugh or a shoulder, and it's all deeply satisfying because I know how hard I worked to get to this place. It's good to pause, once in a while, and understand that all the work and worry and occasional outright terror has brought me to a place where I can say, "Well done, Gigi."

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    1. You're my inspiration, Gigi. I'm working to get to that place!

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    2. Gigi, that's wonderful. "Enough" is a very good place to be.

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  11. Oh Julia, and all of the Reds, I am grateful for you all not just your books (which I love and reread) but especially this blog with all of your humor ( a box of condoms!) and wisdom (nail polish and lipstick and so satisfying) and your generosity ( your recommendations open me up to so many other authors) plus your blog is the perfect way to start my morning. I am grateful for my life and health and for my charming husband (of 40 years this month). Thank you for reminding me to be grateful for the big and small stuff!

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  12. I'm grateful for the laughs I got from your post! And also, yesterday I finished reading "Thanks a Thousand" by A.J.Jacobs, in which he thanks a thousand (give or take) people involved in getting his daily cup of coffee into his hands. (And just a thought, but you'd get an even bigger crowd next year if your mother-daughter talk veered into The Glass Menagerie third act territory!)

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    1. You made me laugh with that remark, Mary! "Thanks a Thousand" sounds exactly like the kind of nonfiction I love - I'll have to check it out. Which reminds me: I'm grateful for friends giving book recommendations.

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  13. My 16-year-old boy (of all people) adores Mariah's "All I Want for Christmas." It's his favorite holiday song. Go figure.

    I'm grateful for a wood fire when it's cold.

    I'm grateful for my new sunroom and work space with lots of windows.

    I'm grateful for the fact that while I don't always do it well, I can still walk on my own.

    I'm grateful for my critique group and all the great people I've met on this writing journey - including the folks at JRW.

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, all!

    Mary/Liz

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    1. Congrats on having a boy who knows what he likes and sticks with it! And you make me think: I'm also grateful for all the friends and folks at my agency and publisher's who have supported me in the long, looooong trek of writing HID FROM OUR EYES.

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  14. Thank you, Julia! What a great list. It's hard to be unhappy AND grateful both at once.

    I'm grateful for my supportive husband, Brian, who helps with so very much; for my funny and bright daughter Grace, who wants to do and know everything; for my 13 year old son, Patrick, who is growing up unbelievably quickly and is always there with a hand for me to hold when I need it or some company on down days.

    I'm grateful for my half-bear, half-Tigger chocolate Lab, Tucker, who cracks me up, steals my blankets, and gives me cuddles.

    I'm grateful for friends. What a magical thing they are - friends.

    I'm grateful for books, and movies, and snow, and beauty, and their combined ability to lift my spirits. And last but not least, I'm so grateful that I maintain the ability to write, without which I might truly go mad. How do non-writers non-write?

    Be well, all.
    J

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    1. I love your list, Julie, and your description of Tucker - along with several other furry friends mentioned here today - makes me realize we're overdue for another "Send In Pictures of your Pets" blog, so we cal all admire each other's cute cats and dopey dogs.

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  15. Julia, I am grateful that you watch those Hallmark movies so I don't have to. (I much preferred the cheesy Poverty Row mysteries from the 30s and 40s.)

    I am also grateful that you listen to Mariah Carey so I don't have to. (My idea of a beautiful Christmas song is Peter, Paul and Mary's version of "I Wonder As I Wander.")

    I am grateful for my family, our damned cat, good health care, a country where people actually care about each other (despite the current goings on in DC), warm oatmeal raisin cookies, my favorite 842 mystery writers, the chuckle of a baby, real (not fake) news as well as the courage it takes to report in many parts of the world, the art of Marc Chagall, diversity, Drake's Devil Dogs, a comfortable pair of shoes, the beauty and the mysteries of the universe, and the light in my wife's eyes.

    And thank you for taking Hallmark movies and Mariah Carey off my list. You took a bullet for me.

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    1. Truly, truly, they aren't for everyone. But the older I get, the less I worry about impressing anyone with my cultural bona fides. Embrace the cheese, I say!

      Also, my stomach literally growled when I read "oatmeal raisin cookies." I'm picking up a bag of raisins today!

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    2. The chocolate chip don't tempt me that much, but I LOVE oatmeal raisin. Not a surprise from the "granola girl" here, lol.

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    3. Oh we were separated at birth, Deb. Oatmeal raisin are my raison d’etre!

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  16. What a great topic, Julia, and that line about the condoms, priceless, and I intend to claim it for my own.

    I'm grateful that my partner, Julie, has saved all her money since her first communion and could take an early retirement. This is our first week of taking each or for better or worse AND for lunch. I'll be grateful when it's over.

    My world is frosted with snow, none of my children nor their spawn have any health issues to speak of, there's enough money in the bank, enough food in the fridge, enough gas in my tank to get thru another year. At 78, this is all subject ot change.

    I am grateful for my friends here, REDs and readers, for sharing memories of Holly Near and Jane Oliver, for the man who plows our driveway, for Toby and Penny Lane, the two cutest smartest Pomapoos in the free world, for Eliot the Polydactyl Cat a la Hemingway.

    And Deb, I am ever grateful that you brought me here, introduced me to your friends in the crime writing community and encouraged me to go to a couple of conferences. My life has been immeasurably enriched by that.

    Feliz Navidad, Buon Natale, Froeliche Weihnachten, A lichtige Chanukah.

    For your midwinter pleasure:

    In the bleak midwinter
    BY CHRISTINA ROSSETTI
    In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
    Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
    Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
    In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

    Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
    Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
    In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
    The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

    Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
    Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
    Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
    The ox and ass and camel which adore.

    Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
    Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
    But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
    Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

    What can I give Him, poor as I am?
    If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
    If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
    Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.


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    1. Aw, thank you, Ann! You have been a blessing for us, as well! And thank you for the Rossetti. So lovely, and I am grateful for having pulled the second-best book title from it--the best, of course, goes to Julia.

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    2. Awww. I blush. Ann, I love your list, and I'm grateful for getting to know you here and for following along with Tales of Julie's Impending Retirement. I think a couple month in, you should write us a blog about living with the newly retired!

      Also, I love the line about "saved all her money since First Communion." My Smithie is like that, and at 26, despite paying extra on her student loans, she's half-way to her goal of a house down payment. I have NO doubt she'll be able to take early retirement if she so chooses.

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    3. Have you listened to James Taylor's rendition of IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER? It is so beautiful

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    4. I haven't! Rushing off to YouTube to try it.

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    5. I love that rendition (James Taylor). The whole album is great, IMO.

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  17. Thank you, Julia, for inspiring me and making me laugh this morning. I was a bit Eeyore-ish yesterday but now I feel much better. I've kept an actual gratitude journal on and off over the years. You've reminded me that it's high time I started again.

    This morning I'm grateful for seeing my dogs' sweet faces first thing when I get up.

    I'm grateful for our healthy cats and dogs.

    For a smart phone and a smart thermostat that let me turn up the heating before I get out of bed in the morning.

    For looking out the kitchen window this morning to see that the house sparrows are already nesting in all three boxes!

    For my granddaughter's amazing laugh.

    And husband and family and all my wonderful friends, and readers, and writers, and thank God for books. Julie wonders how non-writers get through the day. I wonder how non READERS do.

    AND for Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas (Gigi, looking up the YouTube.) Which reminds me that sometime in the next month, I can watch LOVE ACTUALLY again!!

    But, Julia, about the nail polish. I have some fab colors--I especially love the polish from Butter London. But I've never been able to put on nail polish that looks decent and that doesn't chip in an hour. Is there a secret???

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    1. Do you use a base coat? No matter what brand polish I'm using, I always start with two coats of Sallie Hansen's Hard As Nails base. I also leave lots of time between coats of the color - sometimes I'll do the first oat in the evening and the second the next morning. Mine will usually last five days to a week, depending on the brand.

      I love the Butter London colors (and bottles) but haven't tried them yet. Maybe that will go on my Christmas list...

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    2. I'm an Essie girl. It's the names of the polish that draw me in - Sweater Weather - First Timer - Tart Deco - that's my dream job - Nail Polish Namer! Anyway, Debs, the top coat is key. I use Revlon's Colorstay Gel Envy Diamond Top Coat - dries the polish quickly and it lasts about a week. And, Julia's right. Always use a base. Lord, this might be the girliest post I've ever written in my life. ;)

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  18. I’ll try not to repeat some of the things I mentioned the last time we had this discussion. Among the many things for which I am grateful;
    The coffee grinder I bought last spring when I retired. Nothing beats freshly ground coffee, and nowadays I am usually able to drink the whole thing before it begins to cool.
    I have lost the unwanted pounds I slowly gained over the three or so years after the doctor told me to cut back on exercise after tearing my meniscus. Thank you, Weight Watchers! And I am back to walking an hour a day after many years of having to scale back my walks! Plus, I’m “shopping” in my closet, now able to wear clothing I haven’t been able to wear in a long time. My bank account is happy, too!

    I could go on and on. About a year and a half ago I began the discipline of starting the day by listing all the things for which I am grateful. I try to do it before I get out of bed. And it’s true: being grateful DOES make one a happier person.

    DebRo

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    1. The weight loss and walking is fabulous, Deborah! When you're young, you think "Oh, I want to lose a few pounds" to wear a different size skirt or look a little more fashionable. When you get to our age, you want to lose it to FEEL better and be healthier. Kudos!

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  19. Oh, Julia - I'm grateful for YOU! Your posts are beyond divine.

    I'm grateful for grandkids, the laughter they inspire, and the feeling that there is hope.
    And nice drivers. I'm trying to be one.

    Nail poilsh lessons needed here, too.

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    1. See above re: base and extra time between coats, Hallie. My fave brand is Sally Hansen (misspelled it before) Complete Salon Manicure. They will last a full week without chipping, and the fat brush makes it easier to apply without getting those weird ridges of enamel.

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    2. But what do you all do about being so right-handed that the left hand, polishing, gets smears all over the right finger??? I need help here.:-) (And loved your post, Julia)

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  20. I'm grateful to be part of Jungle Reds, in fact I'm grateful for all my friends in the mystery sphere. Writing is lonely most of the time and having friends makes all the difference.
    I'm grateful for my wonderful family and our close relationships, one or the other stopping by or sharing a meal every few days.
    I'm grateful for John's beating one health problem after another
    And I'm grateful for my publishers who have championed my books and kept The Tuscan Child as the 14th bestselling book on Kindle this year!

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    1. Woo-hoo! That's something we can ALL be grateful for, Rhys!

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  21. Julia,

    I'm grateful for humor in my life, delivered by you and so many others. It keeps me sane in these insane times. Looking forward to seeing you and V. at your mom-daughter chat next week. Counting on it to be funny, just so you know.

    For some strange reason I'm also grateful for the classic Brenda Lee version of Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree, which I can imitate-sign right down to the hiccup.

    "Everyone dancin' merrily in the new (hic) old-fashionnnned waaaay."

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  22. That's a modern one that ages well, Brenda. I also love the Dean Martin version of "Let It Snow."

    I'm grateful to have you and Diane as such good friends!

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  23. Julia, I am grateful for ACA too! Which state are you in? Maine? A friend in New Hampshire mentioned that some insurance companies are dropping out of ACA ?

    There are many things to be grateful for! I am grateful for good books.

    Diana

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    1. Yes, Maine. Thankfully (there's that word again) one of the providers that dropped out last year has come back into the market - bringing costs down for everyone. The only reason I haven't locked in my plan is that I have to call and find out of my doctor is in network - their "health care provider" lookup seems to be permanently stuck trying to load.

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  24. I was thinking about the things that haven't gone the way I had hoped this year or over the past few years and thought, "what do I really have to be grateful for?"

    But despite those things that have been a downer, I also thought about the things that actually make me glad to be alive.

    There's the music I love. From albums to concerts and writing about them both. When I listen to anything from Savatage (heavy metal) to Led Zeppelin (classic hard rock) to the mind-blowing music of Beth Hart (rock/gospel/soul/R&B and much more), there's something there that just grabs me and makes me feel great in that time and place! I'm grateful to all these performers that have given me a musical soundtrack for life.

    There's the writing I get to do reviewing my beloved mysteries and thrillers. This has led me not only to many a great read but to be on a somewhat friendly acquaintance level with a number of authors who spin the yarns I get to read and talk about.

    I'm grateful for those friends and acquaintances I've made in both the writing and musical worlds whether they be creators (you've all been so nice and friendly at the signings) or simply other fans (as we share our experiences).

    I'm grateful that I have a job that keeps me employed and thus with a roof over my head, food in my admittedly oversized belly and some cash in the wallet to do these various activities I enjoy from comic conventions, to concerts, to book signings and record shop signings.

    And though they are both gone now, I'm grateful that I had the parents that I did. My father was a cop and my mother was the chief law enforcement official of the household. They backed you when you were right, and gave you hell when you were doing something stupid. But right or wrong, they were there and gave a foundation from which you could grow.

    And of course, I'm thankful for basketball and bacon cheeseburgers, two driving forces of the universe that without, life would be a lesser experience to live.

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    1. Jay, we are grateful for you, and your list is totally inspiring!

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    2. Jay, it sounds like you totally get the gratitude thing. And yes, we're very grateful to have you here as part of our community!

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    3. Deborah, I don't know about inspiring but thanks. I just write what I think at the given moment when it is called for.

      Julia, it is a big funny that you think I get the gratitude thing because I usually consider myself more of a grumpy cuss. But I like what I like and see nothing wrong with saying so.

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  25. Thanks for the fabulous post, Julia! As always you fill the blog with wit, wisdom, and warmth which is so appreciated.
    Plus, the Massachusetts driver dig made me snort! I am grateful for coffee because without it I would have nothing for which to be grateful as nothing else would ever get done - including posting to this blog.

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  26. Julia, I meant to add earlier that my weekend is not complete until I read the latest column by the Smithie. And I would LOVE to see the two of you collaborate on a book of essays! I mentioned once before that I can easily see the two of you as the New England version of Lisa Scottoline and her daughter!

    DebRo

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  27. Julia, you crack me up! And, Victoria has that same wit in her writing that makes reading your all's observations on life an experience in complete reading satisfaction. So, the first thing I'm grateful for is writers, such as you and Victoria, who enrich my life every day with reading that takes me places I may never travel and give me stories I can totally immerse myself into, and make me think about ideas that need thinking about. All of the Reds are, of course, a part of the wonderful world of writers that do these things for me.

    Attending my senior-in-high-school granddaughter's choral concert and going to attend my nine-year-old granddaugther's Christmas program tonight, I'm thankful that I have these programs to go to, no matter that the chorus didn't sing any upbeat Christmas songs, which means I have grandchildren for which to attend and grandchildren to give me joy beyond my wildest dreams.

    So, the above leads me to be thankful for family and friends who are family of my heart. My husband, children, grandchildren, and those special friends are who make us the best we can be.

    And, talking of children. I'm thankful that my son and I have discussions about such matters as redemption, after me reading Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier and then talking to him on the phone about it. Jane Fonda's name even came up, and I don't think I need to say why about the redemption question. And, I'm thankful that my daughter counts on me as someone she can talk to and her example as a person who takes care of herself.

    I'm thankful that I had a mother who valued reading and considered it as an excellent way to spend time. I've been able to pass that on to my children and now the grandchildren.

    I'm thankful for the mystery/crime community, the authors and readers I've gotten to know and count as dear friends. My book reviewing has allowed me to give back to the authors who give me so much first. So, I'm thankful that I enjoy reviewing and promoting the books and authors who work so hard on their stories.

    I'm thankful that we now have a twelve-year-old rescue Brittan Spaniel that gives us unconditional love and softens the edges of every day.

    I'm thankful that my husband served in the military and we now have great health insurance for life. That's such a relief. The importance of that was driven home two and a half years ago when my husband was in an accident, and the medical helicopter to take him to a burn unit in Louisville was $25,000 and we paid under $100.

    I'm grateful for young people and jazz. Those two items might not seem to go together, but last night they certainly did. I love jazz and Christmas songs jazzed up, and last night at my granddaughter's concert, the high school jazz band played some songs to begin the concert, and these young people did such a stellar job. You could see the passion in their faces they had for it, and it made me love those budding artists so much. I used to teach teens, and their enthusiasm and passion gives such hope for the future.

    Some have mentioned humor, and what a blessing that is in my life. I am thankful that I love to laugh and that there are so many people and sources of humor from me to draw on to get my laugh on.

    Of course, I am thankful for the roof over my head and the food I eat too much of. I don't take those things for granted, as there are just too many examples of people, such as the immigrants traveling to our border, who don't have those basic needs met and who are desperate to try to provide them for their children.

    And, back to music, I'm grateful for the music that brings back sweet memories from the past, music that the grandgirls school me on now, music that can fill my mind and chase all thoughts but pleasure from me, and the great Christmas music that both keeps it jolly and can be bittersweet, too.

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  28. I'm grateful for books, books and more books...and of course the wonderful authors that keep providing us with the joy of reading! I'm grateful for all the generous authors that have been part of my church 's Author Luncheon program...including you, Julia! Grateful for my healthy cat, Rosie, and my crazy 6 pound dog, Lacy, who thinks she's my protector. Also grateful for family, friends and living in Maine which is almost always the Way Life Should Be. Merry Christmas and thank you to all the Jungle Reds.

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  29. I'm grateful for family and friends. Also good food, and all the creative people who are responsible for books, TV, movies and music. I have over 20 Christmas albums with Bing Crosby, Perry Como, and Julie Andrews and others.

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    1. I love those old Christmas albums, Sally. My family favorite - the one we always played when I was a kid - was the Ray Conniff Singers "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" album from 1962. You can imagine how thrilled I was when Ross found the record at a yard sale one year!

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  30. Thank you for this topic, Julia. I always enjoy hearing how folks employ gratitude, how it enriches their lives.

    Making a daily gratitude list has been part of my spiritual practice for the past three, almost four, decades. Some days are more challenging than others, but I've always been able to list between five and 10 items each day. This past year presented a special challenge. Last autumn my husband began showing symptoms of a neurological disorder that we feared was the onset of Parkinson's Disease. We were extremely grateful to find out it wasn't Parkinson's, rather a condition called normal pressure hydrocephalus, colloquially known as water on the brain. It isn't actually water, it's excess cerebrospinal fluid. I'm deeply grateful to Ron's neurosurgeon who correctly diagnosed him and successfully performed the surgery last December 7th to install a shunt and reverse Ron's symptoms.

    While Ron was in rehab following his brain surgery, I attended a small dinner party on December 26th, Boxing Day. When dinner was over I used the bathroom before beginning the 65 mile drive home, and in an entirely freak accident, fell down a flight of stairs into the basement. I have no memory of the fall, or of anything else, until a week and a half later when I came to in the ICU on life support.

    Because I was intubated, I relied on writing on a pad of paper supplied by my nurse to find out what had happened. I'd broken my neck in two places; broken my back, left elbow and arm, right clavicle and six ribs, and I'd sustained a brain bleed/TBI. After hearing that list, I immediately began listing things for which I was grateful. Some of the things my list included were: I'm alive. I'm not paralyzed. I'd regained consciousness. My husband was still recovering as expected from his brain surgery. My accident occurred after the 49ers season had ended, so I wouldn't miss any games. I had medical insurance. The hospital I was in was a major trauma center and I was receiving the absolute best possible care. Another guest at the dinner had seen me fall, and instead of coming down the stairs to see if I was okay, he immediately pulled out his cell phone and called 911. I believe that action may have saved my life, and prevented my injuries from being any more severe than they were. Of the 10 dinner guests that evening, there were a nurse and two doctors who knew exactly what to do with me until the EMTs arrived. Another key factor was the fact that the dinner party was comprised of sober folks, so when the EMTs asked, as they must, if alcohol had been involved, our host, also my dear friend, was able to tell them, "No, this is a sober group." (When he related this part of the story to me a few weeks later, he claimed his reply had been, "Not tonight." The fact that I laughed at that points out another item for which I'm eternally grateful - my sense of humor, twisted as it is, was intact.

    I'm beyond grateful that two people, our nephew and a woman who's as dear as a daughter to us, both made arrangements with their jobs to take leave, and to have their teenaged children stay with their former spouses so that one of them was with me every minute of the day, 24 hours a day for the three weeks I was hospitalized. I'm grateful to their employers and to their former spouses for their unconditional support.

    The past 11 months have been an enormous freakin' challenge, but one I've been up to, in large part because of my spiritual practice, including the regular writing of gratitude lists. If anyone reading these comments doubts the effect an attitude of gratitude can have on their lives, I encourage you to give it a try, and see for yourself how powerful it can be.

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    1. Lynda, your story is a powerful reminder of how vital and life-saving the practice of gratitude can be. Thank you for sharing with us - and I'm happy to hear things are getting better and better for you.

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