Gifts of Gratitude

Last weekend, I spent a lovely afternoon with some good friends enjoying a spring festival at a local winery.  I’m just so happy that it finally feels like spring!  And we can spend afternoons outside in the sunshine!  We chatted and sipped wine and ate good food and shopped a little.  And while shopping, I got an unexpected gift and a little chain of serendipity.

I saw these really cool re-purposed wine bottle lamps, vases and wind chimes.  And I wanted one for my patio.  So I bought this one…

photo 1-1And then I got talking to the artists who make them.  You can find them on Facebook here.  I found out that they host DIY parties and teach people how to cut and create their own bottle artwork.  We chatted for a few minutes while they wrapped up my purchase and then the woman told me that I was their first sale that day, and so she was giving me a special gift…

photo 2-1I got a Ling Bling! The artist, Lori Merck Ingwerson, creates these whimsical charmed sun catchers, calls them Ling Blings and gives them to her friends (and customers!) to remind us to be thankful…for what was, what is and what is yet to come.  She sends them with people when they travel and asks that they leave the bling somewhere for someone else to find or to give it away and then to send her a picture of your bling out in the world.  This kind of thing is totally up my alley!  And that’s exactly what I told her when she gave it to me.

I love the idea of giving thanks, of gratitude, and especially of gratitude in action.  I’ve written here before about one of my favorite authors, Brene’ Brown.  She is also a researcher who studies shame.  Which might sound kind of sad, but in the process of studying shame, she has discovered and taught many ways to live courageously and authentically. One of her findings is that people who practice gratitude often feel a deep sense of joy in their lives.  She writes in her book “Daring Greatly” about practicing gratitude.  She says, “I use the word practicing because the research participants spoke of tangible practices, more than merely an attitude of gratitude or feeling grateful.  In fact, they gave specific examples of gratitude practices that included everything from keeping gratitude journals and gratitude jars to implementing family gratitude rituals.”

When I got my ling bling, I immediately thought of this idea and I love how this artist is doing something to spread the spirit and action of gratitude in others. I’ve kept a gratitude journal (because Oprah said to!)  on and off for years.  During some seasons of life I write in it every night, other times I use it more sporadically, and there have been stretches of time when it’s been almost forgotten.  The practice of writing down things, people or situations for which I’m thankful has pulled me through some tough times and helped me savor the sweet seasons of life.  What I’ve found though is that whether it’s a rough season or smooth sailing, I can always find something to be thankful for, and in addition, perhaps most importantly, the more I notice the good things, the more good things show up in my life.

Perhaps a little example of this is that one day this week, as I often am, I was thinking of what I might like to write about.  This ling bling popped into my mind and I decided I would write about it and thankfulness.  So I was scheming up how I’d compose this post, and on that same day I was to teach a lesson to a girls running group that I coach.  When I flipped to that day’s lesson in my coaching manual, I got another little gift from the universe…the topic I was to teach to my little runner-girls…gratitude!  So we practiced turning our ungrateful thoughts into grateful ones.  And then we ran our hearts out!

So I’m holding on to my ling bling for now.  It’s hanging on a hook, right across from where I eat breakfast each morning and where I finish up this blog each week, and I’m looking at it and I’m looking for a good time to give it away or leave it on my path for someone new to pick up and carry on.

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For each lap the girls ran, we wrote a letter or a heart. These rock stars busted out 16 laps! I’m so grateful for these girls, our whole little running crew and the lessons I teach and learn along with them.

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I’m grateful for these friends! I’m grateful for spring, sunshine, wine, artists who share their work with the world, ling blings, food trucks and all my people (I hope you know who you are! 😉

 

 

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#15 – Vidalia

It’s outdoor dining season!  This week, I got to enjoy a tasty, al fresco dinner with some good friends at a super adorable spot.  Vidalia Restaurant is a quaint, little BYO place just off the main street in Lawrenceville, NJ.

I had passed this restaurant while on a bike ride a few days earlier and was so charmed by it’s patio dining area. The owners have turned their side driveway into a sweet, open air dining room with a white picket fence, big umbrellas, pots full of colorful flowers and strands of twinkling lights.  I couldn’t wait to get there to eat! 
I tried my best not to look at the menu beforehand, thinking I might like to be surprised by the choices.  I made it a few days too, but then I had to go online to make a reservation, and that’s when I peeked at the dinner selection.  One thing about me is that I often enjoy the anticipation of something about as much as the event itself.  Which was true in this case because I enjoyed thinking about artichoke francese as I finished up my day at work, artichoke francese as I picked out a bottle of wine and artichoke francese as I waited for my gas tank to fill up on my way there.  Most of all, I enjoyed eating artichoke francese while chatting with my friends and sipping said wine. Outside!  Ahhhh…

Vidalia Restaurant

There were also some salads.  I couldn’t pronounce mine, Insalata Palermetana, which consisted of organic baby leaf lettuce, shaved parmigiano, fennel, oranges, and almonds; drizzled with homemade honey infused balsamic vinaigrette.  My friends both had an asparagus appetizer that seemed to be wrapped up in some yummy bread and Insalata di Mela, organic spring mix lettuce with walnuts, gorgonzola, apples, and topped with the same honey balsamic dressing. 
The meals were delicious, the atmosphere was charming and the company was the best!  I’m definitely going back and I know exactly what I’m getting next!

#4 – Wine and Cheese/Be MC

Does it count as hosting if someone else throws the party?  But it’s at your house?  Either way, I had a sweet little wine and cheese gathering on my patio.

My good friend MC called a few gals over to my place to celebrate my birthday and help me kick start my list.  She even brought the wine and cheese!  She said all I had to do was open the door.  (I did make sure the place was clean first.)  How nice is that?!

When MC heard about my list and that I wanted to have a wine and cheese party (but was whining about my small, undecorated patio with not enough chairs) she made it happen.  We shopped, I gardened. She invited people to my house.  One thing about MC is, she’s a doer. Like a 5am vacuuming, cake-baking, painting kind of doer.  Sometimes, lately,  I’m not.  Never at 5am.  But I do feel happy when I accomplish things on my list.  Whether it’s a Chores-and Tasks-To-Do list or a Before-I-Turn-35-Fun list, it feels good to be doing, to be out and about, to be cake-baking and painting…not so much to be vacuuming.  Sometimes when I’m really tempted to curl up on the couch for a Real Housewives of NJ marathon some TV, I remind myself to “Be MC.”  It’s a little commandment I revised from one of my favorite bloggers/best-selling author, Gretchen Rubin, who reminds herself to “Be Gretchen.”  I’m not sure how Gretchen would feel about my spin on her commandment since her idea is to be herself, accept herself, realize her true strengths and areas of limitation, likes and dislikes. And here I am, trying to be someone else.  But I think she would get it. I don’t actually want to BE MC.  I like being me and 5am is not my time.  I want to emulate what I think is a great quality of my friend. I want to be productive.  I want to make things happen.  MC motivates me to get doing and I always feel good about it.  But if the doing ever got to be too much, I could always duct tape her to a chair, so she could sit, relax, enjoy some coffee and chit chat.  (That may or may not have happened in real life.)  That’s what friends are for.  And one more thing about MC is, she’s a great friend.  Just look at the cheese tray she made for me!

Cheese Tray by MC

PS – I’m not totally done with #4 because I really want to do this at a wine and cheese party.