Are You Grateful?

Yesterday I took out some time to reflect on my life. I couldn’t find a single thing to complain about, instead I found a whole lot of things for which I am grateful. I know, it’s not Thanksgiving yet. It never hurts to be thankful any time of year.  As Thanksgiving is approaching, maybe I can inspire you to think about the things you that make you grateful. Here is my list:

Men in My Life
I have four sons, and four years ago, I got to add a husband and step son to the list. They are all very different. Now granted, four of them kind of look similar, but they are definitely distinct individuals. My oldest son was born in September of 1972, and my youngest son was born in June of 1978. Yes, that’s four little boys in less than 6 years! (My Image 3mom said I was a bad bookkeeper)! As I had these babies, I expected they would all be born looking alike. How wrong I was. They all looked different as newborns, and even though they have many similar characteristics, they look alike and they don’t look alike. They definitely look related. They differ, from one being a risk taker and another being risk adverse. The youngest (like his mom who is a youngest) knows no strangers. He is the ham in the family—loved being on stage and in the action, although the oldest is that way also. Numbers 1 and 2 were in a rock band together in their youth, and number one son was the lead singer—no surprise there. Number 3 son was the quietest of them all, maybe because it was hard to be heard within the buzz of numbers 1 and 4! He is the one who thinks everything through. He doesn’t work without a plan, and he is successful in working out his plans. Even though he is the quietest of them all, people love him because he is genuinely sincere and loyal.

Four years ago I got married, and added two more great men to my life—my husband and his son. My husband who I wrote about before, so I won’t go into details, is so kind IMG_1062hearted. He cares for his 99 year old mom (okay, she’s not 99 until Saturday), and he loves his two brothers. He cares and treats my sons with love. His son, my newly acquired step-son, is so much like his dad. They look alike. He is smart, caring, and goofy just like his dad. How could I not love him when I see his dad in him! He and my sons just fit together like they have always known each other. They have much in common and have a great time when together. (They even get together when my husband and I are not around). Are any of these men in my life perfect? NO! They are real. They try their best. They admit when they are wrong. They work hard. They are full of life. They all enhance my life in ways that are beyond explanation. I love them all so much.

Extended Family
I get blown away when I think about my extended family. I had two older sisters who mean the world to me. One passed away five years ago, and I still miss her everyday. I am connected to my sisters’ children (5 nephews and 1 niece). I love seeing them and have been blessed to get to know them and their families as they have moved into adulthood, and some have even become grandparents themselves. My extended family is huge. My dad was the oldest of eight children, and my mom was one of four children. I have only one aunt and two uncles still with us today, and I have dozens upon dozens of cousins all around the country. Some of these cousins I knew well because I was raised with them as a child, and we have kept in touch over the years. Some I didn’t get to know until I met them on Facebook, but I feel very connected to them, and I look forward to meeting them in person whenever the opportunity arises. Some i have met as my husband and I have traveled and ended up visiting in the cities my cousins live. I am very different from my cousins in many ways, but also very much alike. There is a strong tie with them. I also have extended family that includes my husband’s relatives. l am so grateful that I have two great brothers-in-law and two great sisters-in-law, and have gotten to know their wonderful children also. I also have dear family ties to those I was related by  previous marriage. These people are still special to me, and our friendships have lasted over the years. Nieces and nephews, along with cousins, related through friendship now.

Where I Live
IMG_5356I live in a big, beautiful home in the country sitting on a small lake (large pond) with a big in-ground pool, and a great screened-in porch that looks over the woods and lake. I haven’t always had a beautiful home like this. I raised four boys in a home that was only 800 square feet. To do that was difficult, and sometimes I had a difficult time paying the mortgage or the utilities. The kitchen was so small that If we were having dinner at the kitchen table, and one of the boys wanted another glass of milk, someone had to get up and push their chair under the table so we could open the refrigerator to get the milk. IMG_0026Over the years since then, I turned my life around, figured out how to have a career I loved that paid an excellent wage, and even had a modest 3-bedroom home built new from the ground up. I don’t need to have this large of a home, and one day we will downsize. Maybe because I lived without a lot in my younger days, stuff is not important to me. I don’t need to fill a home with stuff. I just need memories and love to surround me. But, I am grateful for this home in the woods, for the serenity it provides, the opportunity to have many guests, and for a whole new outlook on life away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Where I Have Traveled
IMG_2475In my last jobs before retiring, I did a fair amount of business travel. They weren’t always exciting places to be, but they were a new landscape for me, and I appreciated every opportunity I had to be somewhere new. Between work meetings, and career conferences, I traveled to Los Angeles, San Diego, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Washington D.C., North Carolina, Chicago, Connecticut, Iowa, and Michigan. Since I have retired and married to the king of road trips, I have seen southern states, western states, part of New England, and everywhere in between. Next year we have reservations to see England, Germany, and France. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would get to see so much of the world. I am grateful for every short trip and every long trip I have taken.

What I Have Done For A Living

ajw typewriter
Yes, I photoshopped my head to this because she is typing on an IBM Selectric typewriter!

In college I majored in Sociology with a minor in Psychology. Nice fields of study, but what does one do with only a Bachelor of Science degree in these fields? The year was 1970, and I had no idea how to find a job. I went on an interview, and in the course of the interview, I was asked if I could type. Not realizing that this would put me in a box, I willingly took their typing test, and scored above 70 words per minute, and I was offered a job as a secretary. This was in the days before administrative assistants. I was required to have a pot of coffee with the Wall Street Journal on my boss’s desk when he arrived to work. I was a horrible secretary. I couldn’t figure out why these guys couldn’t do some of this work themselves—did they really need a mommy at work? I went back to school. I thought I would have to get a new bachelors degree, but fortunately the school I talked to thought that my 17 years in the workforce could prepare me to get my MBA (Masters of Business i_love_hr_mugAdministration), as long as I could pass the entrance exam (GMAT—Graduate Management Admissions Test). I enrolled and received my MBA, and tailored my learning in the area of Human Resources. At that time, there were no HR graduate degrees. I worked some really bad paying, entry level HR jobs, just to have it on my resume. My first HR management position was as a Manager of Human Resources for a credit union where the employees had just certified a union. I negotiated their first 2 union contracts. This position, although not a high paid one, gave me a background that led me to larger companies with larger pay. By the time I retired, I was a Senior Human Resources Manager at a Fortune 100 company. I loved my career. I still dip my toes into the HR world by doing occasional consulting with large and small companies needing some extra help. I am so grateful for this opportunity to have a positive impact in the lives of employees.

My Friends
I have never realized how much my friends mean to me. My friendships have deepened over the years. In the last 10 years, I have reconnected with many from high school. We are very different, but we care about each other—we celebrate when they have good news, and we grieve with together over illness and death. Every so often I will get together with a friend I have not seen in years or even decades, and we pick up where we left off, just like we never missed a beat. What a blessing to have these friends.

God Who Loves Me Unconditionally
The thing I am most thankful for is my faith. I have gone through a lot of seasons in my life, some good and some bad. Some of those seasons I thought God was mad at me and had abandoned me. As I searched for my “higher power” as I was recovering from my codependent behavior, I realized, that God had never left me, nor was he angry with me. He was there waiting for me to come back. God has blessed me in so many ways since, with my family, my extended family, my career and my friends, that I am overwhelmed with gratitude and joy.

Gratitude has many benefits for us.  It affects us emotionally by making us more relaxed, more resilient, and less envious.  Our personalities are affected by making us less self-centered, more optimistic, and having increased self-esteem.  It affects our health with improved sleep and increased energy.  It affects us socially because having a grateful heart deepens relationships, makes us kinder, and increases our friendships.  Those who show gratitude make better managers at work, have increased productivity, and improved decision making skills.  In all these areas of life, when there is gratitude, happiness follows.  Gratitude is talked about a lot in 12-step groups, because it takes the focus off our dysfunctions, and puts the focus where it should be, and we start the healing process.

At the end of this month we will be celebrating Thanksgiving in the United States. It is a day where we feast with those we love, but it is really a day that we should take time out and be grateful for all our blessings. We get so busy doing life, we forget to just sit back and take in all the great things that have happened in our life. Now is the time. Start making your list. Who and what are you grateful for?

Andrea gratitude2

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