Thursday, March 31, 2011

Day 90, March 31

Yesterday I recounted how I had pruned rose bushes last fall and that several days ago, I had discovered new growth. The act of pruning is not a painless one. The rose bushes suffered physical trauma at having the branches cut back to mere stubs. Yet they survived and are once again preparing to bloom. In the last few months, I've watched friends suffer a different kind of pruning. They, too, suffered trauma. They, too, found the necessary pruning painful, frightening, and humbling. And they, too, are preparing to bloom once more. Life dealt them a hard hand, but they met it with courage, grace, and humor. Most of us undergo periods of pruning during our lives. We suffer through physical ailments, job disappointments, family problems, and a host of other things that belong to this mortal existence. How we handle these times, how we face pain and tragedy largely shapes who and what we are what we become. I pray for my friends. More, I pray that I can emulate them ... and know that I can never match their strength, their faith, their determination to carry on. Still, I try to follow their example. So, for today, I am grateful for people who emerge triumphant from life's pruning shears.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day 89, March 30

Last fall I pruned our rose bushes. When I stood back to survey the remaining stubs, I wondered if I had cut them back too far. Two days ago I noticed new signs of growth on the bushes, dark purple-green leaves that gave me hope they would bloom again. Pruning is a necessary part of nature's cycle. We prune bushes and trees, hoping to generate new growth. Lately I've been pruning possession, weeding out clothes and books I no longer use. (Do you know how hard it is for me to get rid of books?) Still, the result has lightened our household, and I resolved to give away more unneeded and unused items. It set me to wondering if I could weed out unneeded and unused emotions from my heart as well. I am not a forgiving person. There. I've said it aloud. I hold onto grudges, storing away past hurts, allowing them to fester inside me. It is an unfruitful habit that I seem to be unable to break. Could I prune those feelings and make room for new, healthier ones? The best I can say is that I'm trying. I am looking for forgiveness for those who have hurt me and praying that others whom I've offended can forgive me. It's a hard process, much like giving birth as I labor through a messy and painful morass of feelings. I have hopes that my roses will bloom in full glory this summer, perfuming the air with their scent. I have hopes for myself as well, that I can also bloom, unencumbered by old hurts. So, for today, I am grateful for the art of pruning.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day 88, March 29

"I couldn't dream of working on something that didn't make my gut rumble and my heart want to explode." -- Kate Winslet. What powerful words. Kate Winslet, who lives in a galaxy far from my own, shares my feelings about excitement in our work. Without that excitement, that passion, that drive, work becomes such that. Work. Drudgery. With excitement, passion, and drive, work is a joy, something to look forward to every day. When I started this blog, I wasn't certain I could continue for the entire year. It is not always easy to write every day, to find the right words and the right spirit in which to express them. Still, I keep going because passion for "The Gratitude Project" fills me. You may question my choice of words of passion. It has different connotations, but I chose it deliberately. When you have passion for a project or an activity, it translates into energy and determination and the ability to continue. So, for today, I am grateful for passion in work.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Day 87, March 28

"Beauty comes from a life well lived. If you've lived well, your smile lines are in the right places, and your frown lines aren't too bad. What more do you need?" -- Jennifer Garner. I appreciate the sentiments in this quote. I appreciate as well the fact that it came from a Hollywood star, someone accustomed to the superficiality of that culture. Too frequently, our society prizes youth and beauty above all else. We spend billions of dollars a year trying to achieve an artificial standard set forth by the media. Who can match the air-brushed beauty of a model as shown in a glossy magazine? I am not immune to this pressure. Yesterday, I experimented with some new makeup, trying to achieve a "youthful dew." I made a mess of it and of myself and ended up having to wash my face and start all over again. There is certainly nothing wrong in trying to look our best; that is only natural. The problems start when we think that we are somehow less because we do not and cannot equal the looks of a movie star. I had a dear friend whose age rested easily upon her face. Rather than wrinkles, she wore smile lines proudly. Her eyes were alight with humor, interest in the world around her, and compassion for others. Sadly, she passed away a few years ago, but her example of looking for and finding something to laugh about each day remains with me. I did not see her years (she was nearly 84 when she left us); instead, I saw her delight in her friends and a determination to wring joy out of every moment. So, for today, I am grateful for those whose smile lines are in the right places.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Day 86, March 27

Writers are, by nature, observers. We watch. We consider. We evaluate. In the last few months, I've observed some very different individuals. I watched a wife and mother abandon her husband, her two young children, her church, ignoring covenants and promises she'd made. And I watched while her husband and the father of those two children picked up the pieces of the life they'd made together, gather his two sons close to him, and move forward in faith. I watched a husband and father leave his wife and little daughter, choosing things of the world over them. And I watched while the wife and mother forged ahead, determined to make a good life for herself and her daughter. Selfishness and selflessness, two words, derived from the same root, with vastly different meanings. The other night, I asked my grown son how he was doing. He said he had decided to choose happiness. The world has a skewed defnition of happiness, measuring it in terms of material goods and financial success, fame and notoriety. My son, still in his 30s, has a much more mature and eternal sense of what happiness means. Happiness is doing what's right, whatever the circumstances. So, for today, I am grateful for those who choose happiness.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Day 85, March 26

It is no secret that I love beautiful writing. My own attempts to produce it too frequently fall short, but I continue to admire those who write with eloquence, grace, and honesty.

Robert Frost was born on March 26, 1874. He sold his first poem for the princely sum of $15.00. He went on to produce volume after volume of poetry, earning four Pulitzer Prizes during his lifetime.

Despite his success, Frost endured many tragedies, including the deaths of four out of his six children and that of his wife. Along with his mother and several children, he suffered from depression. Still, he wrote. He wrote not of esoteric subjects and far-flung lands, but of rural America and those who made their homes there. He remained characteristically modest about his accomplishments. "In three words I can sum up what I've learned about life," he once said. "It goes on."

He went his own way, teaching and writing up until his death in 1963. As he wrote in perhaps his most quoted poem, "I took the road less traveled."

So, for today, I am grateful for Robert Frost and the enduring beauty of his poetry.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Day 84, March 25

Yesterday I clicked on an AOL article entitled "What every house needs." Written by an interior decorator, the article, I supposed, would list such things as quality furniture accented by well-chosen accessories.

I was surprised and delighted when the author named books as an essential. "Without books, a home has no soul."

I've written before about my passion for books. I read them, I write them, I devour them. From the kitchen to the bedrooms to the living and family rooms and even the garage, our home is filled with books.

Books do not march across the shelves in an orderly fashion. Instead, they meander. Paperbacks mix with hardbacks, children's classics flank thrillers. It is a mish-mash of reading treasures.

This juxtapositioning of books reflects my husband's and my own eclectic tastes. We cannot live without books. They are journeys into the unknown, stolen moments of guilty pleasure, revisiting old friends.

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage of the man who can not read good books." Mark Twain

Twain had the right of it. He knew that reading is as necessary as breathing.

So for today, I am grateful for good books ... and for those who write them.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Day 83, March 24

Mountains do not need man, but man does need mountains.

More than 160 years ago, the mountains of Utah offered sanctuary to Mormon pioneers, driven from their homes in Illinois, Ohio, and Missouri. Today, mountains continue to offer sanctuary, to those seeking quiet and peace, relaxation and recreation.

I am fortunate enough to live in the shadow of the Colorado Rockies. I am strengthened by their permanency, their constancy, their magesty. However, I do not go to them for sanctuary.

I find sanctuary in my home and my church, my family and my friends. My home, with its old quilts and pictures of grandchildren, will never grace the pages of home and garden magazines, but it is a sanctuary from the pressures of the world. Our church is not only a building but a way of life, answering such questions as why am I here. My friends and family buoy me up when I am down and allow me to do the same for them.

Finally, I find sanctuary in my own heart when it is at peace with myself.

So, for today, I am grateful for mountains which offer sanctuary ... and people who do the same.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Day 82, March 23

Life has a way of calling due markers.

The husband and father who neglects his family in favor of work may discover that his family has no need of him. The wife and mother who abandons her family to "find" herself will find that she is alone and lonely. The man who utters nothing but unkind words will likely find that those are the only words returned to him.

Nature is a laboratory of called-in markers. A garden left untended reverts to its natural state. A lawn left unwatered soon withers and dies. Weeds left unpulled will choke out flowers and vegetables.

I have just presented several unpalatable situations above, so what am I being grateful for today? (I can hear you now thinking, "She's going to quote another hymn." Well, I could, but I'll surprise you and just muddle through on my own.)

God has provided us with a remedy for our mistakes, our neglect, our selfishness. It's called repentance. The man who neglects his family can repent and do better. The woman who abandons her family can also repent, as can the man who has nothing but harsh words to give to others.

Repentance isn't free. It requires that we pay a price, that of humility and sorrow and restitution. I am still trying to get it right, still trying to give up the pride and arrogance and selfishness that smear so many of my thoughts and actions, still trying to partake of what the Father so freely gives me.

So, for today, I am grateful for the gift of repentance.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Day 81, March 22

Two days ago I wrote about the beauty of poetry. I neglected, however, to mention the strength in poetry. A well-crafted poem takes more than arranging lovely words in a pleasing pattern. It requires hard work.

The use of poet devices--alliteration, onomatopoeia, rhyme, consonance--does not come easily to most of us. I possess no talent for writing poetry and admire those who do.

Robert Frost's poem "Mowing" demonstrates what sounds can become in the hands of a gifted wordsmith:

There was never a sound beside the
wood but one,
And that my long scythe
whispering to the ground
What was it whispered? I knew not
well myself;
Perhaps it was something about
the heat of the sun ...

Why am I quoting poetry to you today? The answer lies in my fourth sentence: It (poetry) requires hard work.

Too frequently, hard work or what is popularly referred to today as "heavy lifting" is not valued. Many individuals want and take the easy way out. They abandon families. They fail to live up to responsibilities. They ask others to do what they can do for themselves.

I cannot help contrast those people with those who put in the energy, sweat, and, sometimes, tears to do what is necessary. To take care of their families. To give to others. To make their small portion of the world a better place.

Frost understood the necessity of doing the heavy lifting to create enduring poetry. When we put in the hard work to create a life worth living, we are also creating something enduring.

So, for today, I am grateful for poets ... and people ... who do the heavy lifting.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Day 80, March 21

March is Women's History Month. The theme for this year is "Our History is Our Strength." Several days ago, I wrote about two remarkable women who impressed me with their strength, their commitment to their beliefs, their courage in the face of adversity.

With that in mind, I'd like to share with you some quotes by renowned women over the years. (A dear friend shared these with me, and they deserve a wider audience.)

How wonderful is it that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.--Anne Frank

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.--Harriet Tubman

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.--Maya Angelou

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.--Eleanor Roosevelt

Finding her own strength, her own talents, her own faith will always remain a woman's challenge. Women like those quoted above stand as an inspiration for me.

So, for today, I am grateful for the grace and power of women everywhere.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Day 79, March 20

I love poetry. I love the juxtaposition of words, syllables, sounds, that, woven together, create beauty. I love the different forms of poetry--the strict meter of the sonnet, the simplicity of the haiku, the structure of the cinquain.

Poetry, however, involves much more than simply meter, rhyme, line length, and shape of stanza. Imagery, symbology, connotations, even empty spaces go to making a poem meaningful and memorable. Repetition, contrast, and sequence combine to take mere words and turn them into a masterpiece.

A poem, if it is good, will reach inside you, touch your heart, and forever change it. It will speak to you in ways that are unique to you, thus giving every poem an infinite number of lives through its readers.

"There are three things, after all, that a poem must reach: the eye, the ear, and what we may call the heart or the mind. It is most important of all to reach the heart of the reader."
--Robert Frost

So, for today, I am grateful for the beauty of poetry.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Day 78, March 19

Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend the day with my seven-year-old grandson Christopher. Christopher is bright, energetic, and filled with questions. I struggled to keep up as his mind sprinted from one subject to the next.

I rarely have one-on-one time alone with a grandchild and cherished this chance. In my grandchildren, I see reflections of my children and of myself. It is as though I am looking through a time machine, my memory flowing to the past.

A few days ago I wrote about purpose. We all need a purpose in our lives. For me, much of my sense of purpose is tied up in family. Family represents one third of what I call my happiness trifecta: family, friends, and faith. Each represents a vital part of my life. Everything else is an extension of one or more of those things. I suspect I am not alone in this.

I've written before about my ancestors. They are my family, just as my grandchildren are, and their grandchildren-to-be will be. Family is an evolving thing that grows and shifts, with warp and weft weaving a pattern that is both beautiful and unique.

So, for today, I am grateful for the gift of family.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Day 77, March 18

"Well-behaved women rarely make history." I like this quote so much that I have a plaque of it in my living room.

Let me share with you stories of two women in the 19th Century who were considered by many to not be well-behaved and who went on to make history.

Most of us are familiar with Clara Barton, nurse during the Civil War and founder of the American Red Cross. Did you know that she was also an activist, campaigning for the suffragette cause, raising awareness of the plight of disadvantaged people all over the world?

Clara started out teaching school in Bordentown, New Jersey. She taught at a "subscription school," where parents paid a fee to cover the teacher's salary. Clara noticed that many children roamed the streets, unable to attend school because their parents could not afford the subscription. She offered to teach for free if the town would provide a building. This became the first free school in New Jersey.

Clara donated her time and efforts, but she would not give away her dignity. "I may sometimes be willing to teach for nothing, but if paid at all, I shall never do a man's work for less than a man's pay." These were strong words uttered by a strong woman at a period when women were considered second-class citizens at best.

Another strong woman was Eliza R. Snow. Eliza joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at a time when the Church suffered persecution on all fronts. Mobs drove the Mormons from their homes in Missouri, Ohio, and Illinois. In confronting one mob leader, Eliza refused to back down.

The man stared at her, tipped his hat, and told her that she was a "better man than I." Later, in recounting the incident, Eliza said that she was not much flattered by the comment, considering the nature of the man in question.

Her courage carried her across the plains to the Salt Lake Valley where she quickly became a leader in establishing organizations for children and young ladies.

Clara Barton and Eliza R. Snow--two strong women who made history through their integrity, spunk, and determination to make things better for others.

So, for today, I am grateful for women, yesterday and today, who make history.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Day 76, March 17

I am a world-class worrier. If there were a gold medal awarded for worrying, I would be a top contender. You name it, and I have worried about it.

My children? Check.
My friends? Check.
My marriage? Check.
The economy? Check.
The environment? Check.

Are you getting the picture?

Yesterday I lamented to my long-suffering husband that I didn't know if I could keep going. Life just keeps heaping stuff on us, and I felt overwhelmed and, at the same time, humbled by my own puny efforts to try and make things right.

Wisely, he said, "Why not turn it over to the One who can do all things?"

Of course, I knew he was right. Why don't I turn it over to the Lord? "Let go and let God."
How many times have I heard that? And how many times have I persisted in taking upon myself the worries of the world rather than letting the One with power handle things?

Do I lack faith? Or is it arrogance that I believe I can do it better than the Lord? I hope not. But sometimes I wonder ...

Yesterday I wrote about prayer. Could I turn my worries over to the Lord in my prayers? Could I give Him my acceptance of believing that He knows what is best? Could I let go of my foolish belief that I am in charge ... of anything? Could I relenquish my role as chief-worrier and acknowledge His hand in all things?

The short answer is, "I'm working on it."

So, for today, I am grateful that I can let go and let God.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Day 75, March 16

We are three months into the new year, and life keeps throwing us curves. Some of those curves hold hardballs, which have knocked us flat on our rears. We get up, dust ourselves off, and try again.

People whom I love deeply continue to be weighed down with burdens, and I feel powerless to help them. My efforts are weak and ineffectual, and I wonder why my Father in Heaven hasn't provided a way for me to alleviate the suffering of family and friends.

Then I remember. He has. He has given me, has given all of us, a constant form of communication with Him. Prayer.

"Prayer is the soul's sincere desire." So go the words of a hymn. (Have you noticed that I quote hymns a lot, especially when my own words are inadequate?)

I pray in the morning and the evening kneeling at my bedside, but they are not the only prayers I utter. I pray when I'm walking. I pray when I'm driving. I pray when I'm standing in line at a store. I pray always, knowing that the Father will hear me, knowing that He will accept my fumbling words. Too frequently, though, my prayers are filled with my beseeching Him for blessings. Then I remember that I must thank Him as well, rendering my gratitude for all the miracles He has bestowed upon me and those I love.

So, for today, I am grateful for the power of prayer and for a loving Father who is always there.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Day 74, March 15

"Grandma, I need help wiping."

This came from my three-year-old grandson Isaac, who, along with his six-year-old brother Brigham was visiting us last week.

I hurried into the bathroom to take care of the "paperwork," then helped Isaac wash his hands. In between that and cleaning out the cat litter, I did two loads of laundry, wrote several cards, swept the kitchen floor for the third time that day, and decided I was severely underpaid.

A New York Times bestselling book bears the title "The Purpose Drive Life." Lately, I've been ponderinig upon my purpose in life. Do I even have one?

For more than thirty years, I was a full time mother. With all of our five children on their own now, I am out of a job, much like the employee who worked for the same firm for three decades and then finds himself laid off.

Who am I if I am not a full time mother? I'm still a mom. I still worry about my children and grandchildren, but my duties have shifted considerably. Can I make a difference in my small portion of the world? I'm still trying to figure that out.

Having a purpose is important. Without it, we feel that we are taking up space at best. At worst, we are a burden to others.

Hours later that same day, I find myself and Isaac snugged up in a chair reading book after book. He lays his head on my shoulder, I draw him closer in to me, and we take trips via our imagination. For that moment, I have a purpose. My doubts fled.

Of course I have a purpose. I am still a nurturer, still able to make a difference, if only I care to look, if only I care to care.

So, for today, I am grateful for acts, both large and small, that give purpose to my life.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Day 73, March 14

Yesterday (Sunday), I had the opportunity to be with my daughter and her family and my son and his. I watched how they cared for their small children, with love, patience, energy, and humor. And I marveled.

As I've mentioned before, my husband and I raised five children (and, in many ways, they raised us), so I have some idea of what it takes to be a parent. Parenting is not for wimps. Parenting is hard work. It takes everything you have and then some. And just when you think you're getting it right, it blows up in your face. So you start over. Again.

My daughter and her husband and my son call upon wells of reserve to teach and inspire, clean up after and chase after, love and, sometimes, just tolerate these small spirits entrusted to their care.

Too frequently, we observe the effects of neglectful parenting. News stories abound of child abuse, teens in trouble, etc. For all of that, though, there are many more parents who attend PTA meetings and bring dozens of cupcakes to bake sales, who read with their children and sing with them, who help them with homework and still find time to laugh.

A family in our church with seven young children (yes, seven) comes to mind. They home school their older children with quiet determination to give them the best education possible. They attend church and have their children there on time, clean, dressed, and reverent. Their love for family shows in everything they do. I wonder why this family and others like it do not make the five o'clock news.

So, for today, I am grateful for parents who do the hard work.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Day 72, March 13

My mother's roots ran deep in the dark, fertile soil of eastern Tennessee. Life was hard during the Great Depression. Love, with a healthy dose of southern cooking, saw her family through the lean years.

I loved to listen to my mother tell stories of the foods that sustained her family. Dandelion greens flavored with pork renderings. Gravy made with nothing more than a handful of flour, milk from their own cow, and chicken broth. Special occasions called for special foods: turkey on Christmas--when her daddy could shoot one; black-eyed peas for New Year's Day.

When my mother married, she carried with her the traditions of plain and hearty fare such as meatloaf and tuna noodle casserole, fried chicken and pork tenderloin. Her specialty, though, was whole wheat bread. She and my sister and I delivered dozens of loaves to friends, neighbors, church members, our piano teacher. No one turned down Georgia McBride's whole wheat bread. Served warm, slathered with butter and honey, it rivaled any bakery confection.

Mom did not use store-bought shortening. She saved bacon drippings, then strained and refrigerated them. When it came time to make bread, she used the bacon drippings. "It gives the bread a special taste," she said. (These were the days before we worried over cholesterol and counted fat grams.)

When I married and set up my own household, I tried duplicating her bread. I, too, saved bacon drippings. I kneaded the bread by hand, but my bread never matched hers. I wondered why and then realized that my mother had added an extra ingredient to her bread: love. I followed a recipe. She followed her heart.

So, for today, I am grateful for homemade bread and the memories it evokes.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Day 71, March 12

Among my favorite scriptures are those from Ecclesiastes so I will preface today's posting by quoting from the beautiful verses of the third chapter. "To every thing there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven ... A time to weep, and a time to laugh ..." (Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 4)

Yesterday I wrote about laughter and how a sense of humor smooths out life's rough spots. Today, per the above scripture, I am switching gears and tones.

In typical fashion, the media has made much of Brigham Young University's suspension of a star basketball player for an honor code violation. Some commentators asked "Why?" Why suspend a player, especially a star player, for something as seemingly insignificant as a moral issue? Why suspend him before important games and jeopardize the team's winning streak? Why suspend him at all?

My answer is, "Because it was the right thing to do."

Upon admittance to BYU, students are required to sign an honor code. Signing it signifies obedience to that code. If the University failed to uphold it, it would deny the very tenets upon which it was founded and denigrate the man whose name the university bears.

In today's climate of elastic morals and flexible honesty, Brigham Young University demonstrated that integrity still exists, that adherance to a moral compass is still possible, that expediency that does not always triumph over doing what is right. For me, that is both refreshing and reassuring.

So, for today, I am grateful for individuals and institutions who act with integrity.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Day 70, March 11

I love the sound of laughter. I love a deep-throated chuckle. I love a full-out belly laugh. I love the squeal of a young child's giggle. I even love the sound of my own laughter, because it reminds me that life is good.

Laughter is therapy as well as joy. Studies have revealed that watching old comedies on television can release endorphins (those feel-good hormones) and actuall promote healing. Long before SURVIVOR kicked the first participant off the island, I LOVE LUCY and other classic comedies were delighting audience of all ages.

A sense of humor can see you through any number of gaffes, embarrassments, and outright disasters. Let me share with you one such incident:

For many years I've attended the annual conference of Romance Writers of America. As you might suppose, conference attendees are primarily women. Hotels hosting the conference typically turn the men's restrooms in public areas into those for women. One afternoon, as I hurried to the restroom in between workshops, I gave a silent prayer of thanks for the hotel's practical attitude. I took care of business, then washed my hands at the sink, and checked my hair and makeup. I thought it strange that no other ladies were in the bathroom. A sound alerted me to the fact that I was not alone after all. A man stood at the urinal. A warning bell sounded in my head. Where were the flower arrangements that normally decorated the urinals in converted restrooms? I slunk from the restroom, then checked the sign at the opening. Sure enough, there was no discreetly labeled sign indicating that this bathroom was temporarily reserved for women. Somehow I had chosen the one public restroom for men not turned over to women.

I was torn between acute embarrassment and laughter. I chose the latter. Who else but me could have made such a mistake? (Hint: ladies, if you are ever in doubt whether a men's restroom has been temporarily converted for your use, check the urinals. If there are no flower arrangement gracing the porcelain structure, it probably hasn't.)

A sense of humor allowed me to continue on with the conference experience and even joke with my friends about my goof. Later, I went on to write about this incident in an article about humor and how to use it.

I believe God Himself has a sense of humor. Why else would he have created the giraffe with its gangly legs, impossibly long neck, and gentle eyes?

So, for today, I am grateful for the gift of laughter.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Day 69, March 10

I was not blessed with a sense of direction. I've been known to go the wrong way down a one way street. My lack of direction follows me whether I am indoors or outdoors. I've gotten lost inside a hotel and even in our own church building. The only time my internal GPS kicks in is when I'm on the hunt for a garage sale.

It should come as no surprise then when I confess that I've made some wrong turns in my personal life as well. Selfishness and pettiness, hurt feelings and pride, envy and jealousy, all have led me astray.

When I feel myself turning down a wrong path, I try to pull back, to ask why am I going in this direction when I know it can only lead to pain, to suffering. Sometimes I pull back in time; sometimes, I don't.

Fortunately, the Father, in His infinite wisdom, has given me, indeed, has given all of us, a way to correct our settings when we veer off course. Through repentance. When the Spirit reaches into my heart, when it penetrates the thick layer of stubborn pride and self-righteousness, and allows me to see that I've taken a wrong turn, I fall to my knees in humble prayer.

Somedays I wonder why the Lord bothers with me at all, and everyday, I am thankful that He does.

So, for today, I am grateful when my feet ... and my heart ... are headed in the right direction.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Day 68, March 9

Our two grandsons are here for a visit. Brigham (6) and Isaac (3) are at once delightful and exhausting. My husband and I raised five children. Surely we can handle two small boys. We don't get to see them as often as we'd like, and I want to make memories with them.

I have ambitious and not-so-ambitious plans. A trip to the bouncy ball arena where they can jump to their hearts content, and, I hope, come home ready for a long nap. Stories read where they cuddle up to me. Church services on Sunday.

Last night, Larry took them to the grocery store. This is not a small undertaking with two boys each demanding something different. They settled on a sugary, chocolate cereal guaranteed to rot their teeth and graham cracker snacks shaped like the characters from the movie CARS.

As I write this, I hear them arguing over who gets which snack. It takes me back many years when their father (our son) and his two brothers argued over other snacks.

Will they remember these things? Will they remember sleeping together on a hide-a-bed in the family room? Will they remember that Grandma reads the dialogue in books with funny voices and silly faces? Will they remember that we love them?

I hope so.

So, for today, I am grateful for the opportunity to make memories.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Day 67, March 8

Two days ago I wrote of how religious freedom in America was first conceived in Europe by individuals with the courage and integrity to speak out against the established beliefs of the day. Today, I'd like to share with you stories of others who also gave everything to plant the seeds of freedom of religion.

John Wycliffe was a scholar and theologian who spoke out against the prevailing beliefs. Following Wycliffe's death, the king of England had his remains dug up and burned to show disrespect.

Hugh Latimer, an English reformer, was ordered to recant his demands for common people to be able to read the Bible in their own language. (At this time most scripture was written in Latin.) Bravely, Latimer refused. Along with Bishop Ridley, he was burned at the stake. Before they died, he said to Bishop Ridley, "Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out."

John Huss echoed the feelings of these men and taught the gospel as he understood it from the Bible. He, too, was burned at the stake because he held steadfast to his beliefs.

It was not only men who sacrificed their all, indeed, their very lives for the ideals of religious freedom. In 1546, Ann Askew was burned at the stake because she refused to deny her beliefs.

John Lathrop, born in 1584 in Yorkshire, England, served as a minister in the Church of England. Lathrop maintained that the gospel should be taught to everyone, not just the wealthy classes, and that people should be allowed to read the Bible for themselves. Arrested for his teachings, Lathrop was released on the condition that he would leave England. Along with his children and followers, he migrated to England.

Again, I turn to the words of a favorite hymn. "Seeds by idle hearts forgotten, flung at random on the air; Seeds by faithful souls remembered, sown in tears and love and prayer."

Planting seeds. Standing up and speaking out. These individuals never denied their beliefs and, largely because of them and others, we now have the freedom, the right, the responsibility to practice the religion of our choice.

So, for today, I am grateful for those who gave everything and made religious freedom available for all of us.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Day 66, March 7

Yesterday I attended Sunday School class. The teacher gave an excellent lesson on the act of judging. Class members participated, making comments that judging others has inherent dangers. For the most part, I agreed, but I could not help thinking that sometimes we must make judgments.

One sister raised her hand and remarked that some judgments are necessary, particularly when it comes to protecting our families, our children. She suggested that we listen to the Spirit and obey its promptings on when to act. Our wise teacher agreed and thanked the lady for her input.

My purpose today is not to debate the rightness or wrongness of making judgments. My intent here is to commend and applaud the woman who had the courage to speak up. How many times have I failed to do just that because of fear? Fear of offending others, fear of drawing attention to myself, fear of appearing politically incorrect? Too often.

Whether it is in a church class, a PTA meeting, or a political forum, we are all presented with opportunities to tell the truth. In our society which has increasingly grown away from true principles, we each bear a responsibility to bear witness of sacred truths. Yesterday's incident was a minor one, but I know this sister's example will remain with me.

So, for today, I am grateful for individual who have the courage and integrity to speak up and speak out.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Day 65, March 6

One of the tenets of the Constitution is that of religious freedom. The Founding Fathers thought that to be so vital that they wrote it in to that sacred document.

A few days ago I wrote about one of my ancestors, the first to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At that time, in mid-nineteenth America, Mormons suffered from severe persecution. Their homes were burned; their temples desecrated, their families driven from state after state until they migrated to the Sale Lake Valley. I'm sure those faithful members did not feel they enjoyed the blessings of religious freedom.

However, at the same time, they recognized that if their religion and the church were to grow, to flourish, it could happen only in America. The principles of religious freedom began several centuries earlier with such visionary men as Martin Luther, Tynsdale, and others. They challenged existing beliefs and insisted that holy scriptures should be available to everyone. Those who immigrated to the New Land brought with them these seeds and planted them in the rich and fertile ground of what was to become the United States of America.

So, for today, I am grateful for those who have gone before in giving voice and life to the ideal of religious freedom.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Day 64, March 5

My husband and I raised five children. Or perhaps they raised us. At times who was doing the raising was up for grabs. Our home was the repository of footballs and the requisite cleats; flutes and trombones; backpacks and camping gear.

The children have left home and established their own homes now. Larry and I are officially empty-nesters.

A few years ago, we decided that our nest needed some refeathering. After more than thirty years of choosing materials designed to hide dirt, grass stains, and a host of other less than pristine matter, I indulged myself. I even included a few eccentricites, such as a chair shaped like a high heeled shoe.

Our refeathered nest will never be featured in the pages of Home and Garden; however, it suits us. Lately, we've been making plans to add a room off the kitchen, a room large enough to host big family dinners and birthday parties. What were we doing, I wondered? Our nest was empty, and I wanted to enlarge it to bring home my fledglings? Foolish, indeed.

I came to the conclusion that though my nest might be empty, my heart will always be that of a mother. Next week, the quiet and relative cleanliness of the house will be challenged as two grandsons, ages six and three, arrive for a visit. Noise and confusion will reign and undoubtedly triumph. I will rejoice and despair of it at the same time.

So, for today, I am grateful an empty nest and for the times when it is once again filled.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Day 63, March 4

I love color. I love lipstick red, school-bus yellow, Fourth of July blue. I love the soft colors of moss and mauve, heather and gray. I love the contrast of black and white.

As a child, I always looked forward to the start of school. First, because I love learning. Second, because it meant a new box of Crayola crayons. In those days, Crayolas came in boxes of eight, sixteen, twenty-four, and sixty-four. Of course, I wanted the jumbo box, with all the possibilities it promised.

The jumbo box of Crayolas puts me in mind of my friends. (I can hear your collective groan. There she goes, blathering on about friends. Again. It was that or writing about policy in the Middle East. And, really, who wants to hear about that?)

Like a box of crayons, my friends and I come in different hues. Some are bright pops; others tend toward subtle shading. In one way, the most important way, we are united. That is in our love for each other. Recently, one friend suffered in learning that her husband had a serious illness. The rest of us rallied behind her. We wept in private, then we got to work.

We brought meals and provided rides. We showered her with quilts to warm the body and flowers to soothe the soul. We sent cards with inspirational messages and cards with Maxine cartoons (that was me). We celebrated at each snippet of good news. We prayed, and then we prayed some more. Throughout it all, we were there for her ... and she for us. Our friend's husband is doing well now, and we give thanks to a merciful Father.

I am not a gardener and make no pretense to be one. But if I had my dream garden, it would not showcase orderly rows of identical flowers tidily marching one after the other. Instead, it would be a profusion of color spilling into color in wild and reckless abandon, ranging from the palest pink to the most vivid scarlet, from delicate lavender to showy purple. It would hold not only all the colors of the jumbo box of crayons but the colors of friendship as well.

So, for today, I am grateful for jumbo boxes of Crayola crayons ... and for a garden of friends.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Day 62, March 3

I had to smile the other day when I came across a question in an etiquette column asking about the best way to defriend an individual on Facebook. Our technology in the form of social media has presented us with some interesting conundrums. At the same time, I was a bit baffled by the idea of defriending someone.

I grew up in an era where most of us tried to befriend others, rather than defriend them. Funny what difference one small consonant makes, isn't it? It was a different time, with different values and ideals.

The acronym BFF (best friends forever) is currently making the rounds. As always, when confronted with something new, I took my time in deciding whether or not I liked it. After ruminating on it, I decided I did. As a writer, I appreciate the alliteration. As a woman who cherishes her friends, I approve the sentiment.

Best friends forever.

After re-reading what I've just written, I realized I've returned to one of my favorite themes: that of friends and friendship. I can't seem to stay away from it. Perhaps tomorrow I will write about policies in the Middle East. It's not likely, but maybe ...

Friends play a vital part in my life. They ground me and let me fly. They stagger me with their talents and touch me with their love. They rejoice with me. They weep with me. They hug me when I need it and kick me in the rear when that is needed as well. They voice my thoughts aloud when my own voice can't find the words or the strength to be heard. They are, truly, the sisters of my heart.

So, for today, I am grateful for all the BFFs in my life. Best friends forever. And ever.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Day 61, March 2

In the first post of this blog, I wrote briefly about my ancestors. Today, I'd like to expand on them.

My father's family joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the mid-nineteenth century. To understand the enormity of this act, you must know a little of the climate of the times. Church members, or Mormons, were reviled at this time. Mobs drove them from their homes, burned these same homes, and persecuted those declaring their faithfulness. One ancestor was murdered during a massacre in Missouri.

My great-great grandfather William McBride and his family were baptized in Ohio. At the direction of Church President and Prophet Brigham Young, they made the arduous trek to Utah in 1849 where they settled in Santaquin, a small town south of Salt Lake City. Again, at the direction of of the Prophet, William served a mission in the Sandwich Islands. This meant leaving his wife and children to fend for themselves while he traveled, at his own expense, to live among people who spoke a different language and to teach the Gospel to them for several years.

When he returned to Utah, he received a call from the Prophet to uproot his family from their comfortable home in Santaquin to move to the Gila Valley of Arizona. There was no question that they would obey. Gila monsters and a barren desert confronted them. In spite of the conditions, the McBride family forged a new life in the unforgiving land. William and his son started a freight company to support their growing families.

They built homes and churches, tithed to the Lord, and gave thanks for His blessings. Could I have done the same? I'm grateful I don't have to answer that question. Their example stands as a testament to their faith and courage.

So, for today, I am grateful for the legacy of pioneer ancestors.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Day 60, March 1

Today marks two months since I started The Gratitude Project. During that time, life has thrown us some curves. People whom I love deeply are undergoing chemotherapy and its bitter aftermath. Others, due to the unrighteous actions of others, are enduring painful divorces. Still others are facing unemployment. On a national and world level, our country continues to suffer from a recession and corrupt leaders; unrest in the Mideast takes servicemen and women away from home and family. There's no getting around it: life is hard.

And yet ...

There are still things for which to be grateful. Sometimes I lost sight of that truth and want to wallow in a cocoon of self-induced misery. And sometimes I give in to that temptation. Then I remember the "and yet ..."

Today, the sun is shining like a benediction. My car starts when I turn the ignition (unless you've had a car that is finicky in its willingness to start, you won't understand what a blessing this is). My kitty looked at me in adoration as I stroked her belly. I received a card from a friend. Small things, yes, but blessings all the same.

So, for today, I am grateful for life's tender mercies and small blessings.