They say if the only prayer you ever speak is “thank you,” that will be enough! But, how often do any of us not just say, but genuinely feel deep gratitude? A friend of mine shared a video on FB recently of an old man, blind and begging on the streets of a busy city. His sign read, “I am blind. Please help.” Passersby barely noticed him, or, perhaps, specifically avoided looking at him. Finally, a sympathetic woman stopped and rewrote his sign to read, “It’s a beautiful day and I can’t see it.” Suddenly, by playing up his misfortune compared to their own good fortune, nearly everyone who passed began dropping coins in the old man’s cup. While its not necessary to dwell on others’ hardships to feel thankful, I agree that there is nothing like a challenge to make you appreciate the most basic things in life! One of my rescue dogs, Miss Molly Boxer, is losing her eyesight due to a condition called “boxer eye.” It is a downhill battle that begins with the loss of eyesight and could eventually kill her via infection. As she willingly let’s me clean, moisturize and medicate her eyes multiple times daily, she struggles to see my face beyond the scar tissue forming over her corneas. And when she finds the right angle where she can see, even if only a little bit, she holds that position and looks deep into my eyes as if to memorize my face and commit it to memory for the time when she can no longer see. She holds my gaze directly as if to say thank you for taking her in and for doing all I can to maintain her eyesight for as long as possible. Her gratitude is palpable. I feel it deeply. Imagine if we humans could ever be as simply and openly grateful! So, on this day that should remind us ALL to take pause and BE, FEEL and ACT palpably grateful for ALL that we have, here is my heartfelt list of things I’m thankful for. 1. I am SOOO thankful that my children are getting a decent education. It doesn’t matter that I am not in agreement with the implementation of the national Common Core standards, and, yes, we desperately need to use a different methodology to teach my kids to read, but overall, it has occurred to me that I am beyond fortunate that my children attend the local public school with their peers. It wasn’t so long ago that I would have been encouraged to commit my Beautiful Little Men to a mental institution at birth. A place where, not only would they NOT receive any education at all but, history shows us, they’d barely receive enough basic care to survive, never mind do so with any kind of dignity. Thank GOD we live in a free, democratic society where everyone is entitled to a fair and public education. What a fantastic privilege! Already, my children and I are more educated than most of the world’s population. Lucky, lucky LUCKY us. And, in the words of my dearly departed Grandma, “Thanks be to God!” 2. I’m beyond grateful that I can SEE. I can hear. I can walk. I can breathe. I can smell and move and laugh and cry. I can feel pain and I can and do feel joy, daily. I have food and the ability to eat (lots of juicy turkey today)! Though I may be on the cusp of needing reading glasses and/or a hip replacement (JK), I am here! Alive for another day! There are many people who will not have the privilege of seeing another sunrise — some willingly and some unwillingly, some gone too soon and some at just the right time, it seems — all permanently leaving this earth. But I am ever so grateful that I and my loved ones have another shot at this thing we call LIFE! At the first signs of aging, my dear old Aunt said, “boy, this getting old thing s*cks!” To which I replied, “but it is soooooo much better than the alternative!” I am here. And, I hope to make the best of this glorious second, this amazing moment, this day, month, year and life that I have been gifted! 3. I am grateful for Down syndrome and ADHD. With these disabilities, come extraordinary abilities, opportunities and joy! Yes, comparatively, there are worse afflictions but what does that have to do with me and my life? You see, I am absolutely certain that there’s a mama somewhere typing this exact thing about her child with what I would consider an extraordinarily more physically or mentally challenging disability right now. There is ALWAYS someone worse off AND someone better off. That has nothing to do with me! I receive so much from my children with Down syndrome and with Attention Deficit. Each is not without an upside to counter the downside. If you want to see the upside of Down syndrome, come meet my beautiful Little Men. They are the BRIGHT side of life for sure… they’re happier than most even at their crankiest! I am sure we laugh more than the average family! And, my extraordinary Old Soul is a brilliant conversationalist and beyond connected to nature and all living things in the universe. She may not be able to concentrate very well in Math, but seriously, who wants to do that anyway? (You Mathletes can put your hands down now. LOL!) 4. This is a tough one for me as I’ve struggled with body image and weight loss every day of my life… But today — and, really, every day — I am grateful for every tasty morsel of food available to me. Though it challenges me, it also means I am blessed with an abundance of food for myself and for my family, and even for my pets. I live in a society of haves. Even though I sometimes wish I had something else, something more, perhaps money to pay a personal trainer and chef like the movie stars, or money for a fancy gym membership and time to do that instead of always dealing with my challenges, my weight loss struggle means I have food. A LUXURY many people around the world do NOT have on this Thanksgiving day or any other day of their lives. Today, I pause to take a real moment to be grateful for the abundance of food on our Seder/Thanksgiving table! We are all truly blessed! 5. I am also beyond grateful, if not sometimes a tad embarrassed by this slightly-less-decrepit-than-last-year house of mine that brings my family much more fortune than misfortune but is also not without its challenges. Built circa 1824, can you just imagine the hardships of the folks who built her (by hand, without power tools), who had to go outside to the toilet AND to cook (no indoor bathroom or kitchen), who worked from sun-up to sun-down JUST so they could eat, and who slept from physical exhaustion (not because they played too hard at the playground today) only to get up and do it all again tomorrow just to survive. Yes, I have a solid roof and walls that, although a bit drafty around the windows, are doing a great job of holding out the cold and keeping in my heat… another luxury they didn’t have in 1824. Yes, I have a bathroom (granted only one for five of us, including our 12-year-old Old Soul who has finally run our hot water heater to an early grave). But hey, our toilet flushes, it’s IN the house, and it’s not just a stinky hole in the ground with a shed around it. And, if only for today, that gasping-for-life hot water heater kicked back on after the repairman declared it DOA yesterday. For now, it’s still doing its job so there were hot showers and baths all around this morning… if not for the past three days. I’m beyond grateful and so were my family who we broke bread with today. If you know me, you know I could go on. And on. And on. And on. I have a LOT to be thankful for. But, after getting bogged down in the multitude of side dishes that had to be completed simultaneously, we should all be grateful that we had food to share today; Before we lament the last minute trip to the local supermarket for that stick of butter we were short for the stuffing, be grateful we don’t have to milk the cow then churn the butter; Before we luxuriate in the hot shower, be grateful we don’t have to boil pots of water over an open, outdoor fire just to get a luke-warm bath that the whole family has to use one after another. OMG, imagine! Yes, thank God for 2013, our limping hot water heater and hot showers too! Take a moment not just to say thank you, but to really FEEL thankful! I hope that today you consciously enjoyed the abundant gifts in your life. And, as my nephew said, “Happy Thanksgivukah everybody!”
Inspired by the 31for21 Down Syndrome Blog Challenge and happiness-project.com, I began this blog in pursuit of my own happiness while raising my 3 children -- including identical twins with Down syndrome. On these pages, I endeavor to document the bits and pieces of my life that bring me the most happiness and keep me focused on all the positive stuff going on.
Advocacy, Angels and Random Happy Thoughts. These are the threads of happiness that are inextricably woven through the cloth of my life. Staying focused and writing about these things is what keeps me Walking on the Happy Side of Life. I'd love it if you would "Take A Walk on the Happy Side" with me.