Tell Me Good Things to Think About

Don't worry, be happy

“Tell me good things to think about while I fall asleep.” For years, this was the near nightly request of my firstborn, a sensitive and anxious child.

I’d prop myself up with Firstborn’s head against me, my hand resting on their back, as I murmured a recitation of everything good in the world that my brain could conjure at that moment. I would talk about puppies and kittens, individual varieties of colorful flowers, the interesting shapes of clouds, fun games and toys, whatever books and movies my kid was interested in at the time, their friends, comfortable clothes, lightning bugs. The list would go on and on. I’d keep talking, my voice soft, until I heard the rhythm of breathing that announced the arrival of sleep. The prime years for this were between the ages of four and eight, though the request still came at less frequent intervals right up to about age fourteen.

Being un-churched, I suppose this was the form of our evening devotion. It started as a way to help an anxious child calm enough to sleep. But it also became a comforting ritual for me.

I know the advice to count your blessings seems hackneyed. But if I really do it, it helps with my own anxiety and depression (my offspring come by this trait honestly.) The key is, though, I can’t just think of one or two things and flip a switch inside. For me, for it to be effective, I have to keep thinking and adding to the list, literally for as long as I can until I run out of ideas or fall asleep. Usually, it’s fall asleep. Because this is how I’m now soothing myself at night when the problems of the world loom. I tell myself good things to think about while I fall asleep.

In helping someone else, I inadvertently created a gratitude practice of benefit to myself. Funny how that works.

Thanking Those Who Came Before

group of people making toast
Photo by fauxels on

Where would I be without, well, everyone else? My goal for this Thanksgiving day is to notice and appreciate on a continual basis, to realize how much of what I have, what allows me to survive and thrive and experience joy and convenience is due to all of the people who came before me.

Take my home. The land where my home is built once was part of the Osage region. I am grateful to the centuries of people who maintained the land and area, keeping it healthy and in balance for generations to come. I am thankful to the builders of my house, both the family that paid for it to be built more than 100 years ago and the workers who provided the labor. I’m thankful to the other owners and residents of the home, who did maintenance and made improvements through the years before we came to live here.

When I took a hot shower this morning, I thought of the folks who planned and built our city’s infrastructure, allowing us to have water come right into our house with the turn of a tap. I also thought of my husband, who recently replaced a valve after we weren’t getting hot water in the shower.

I put on my jeans, mindful of the fact that someone invented jeans, other someones sewed this very pair, and somewhere along in the course of human history, somebody designed the first zipper, which caught on and made for a very convenient item of clothing.

The brussels sprouts I’m roasting in the oven as I type were grown and harvested by others, and I thank them. They were transported and put on the store shelf by other people. The baking sheet I’m using was manufactured by someone somewhere.

Almost every last thing I have and do was made possible by the efforts of other people who came before me somewhere in the process. And the air I breathe is supplied to a large extent by trees. So I thank the trees, too.

If anyone reads this, thank you for reading, connecting and contributing to the world in whatever ways you do.

Thankful for Quiet Holidays

IMG_4052This Thanksgiving marks my first major holiday as a mom spent apart from one of my children. My firstborn won’t be home to visit until the end of next week. It’ll be just me, my husband and the six-foot-tall kid who lives with us.

We could have gone somewhere, but chose not to. We could have invited people, but didn’t. I haven’t dusted, or anything similar. Honestly, I’m looking forward to a quiet day.

I had so many years of busyness, of overwhelming to do lists, of making the holidays into something. As much as I enjoyed a lot about those times, I got worn out. I’m depleted. I find myself now just wanting to rest from more than two decades of being on.

I have a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner planned. Homemade minestrone. Rolls. Mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes. Steamed asparagus. Cranberry Sauce. Pumpkin pie. We’ll probably play a board game. Maybe take a walk, weather permitting. We’ll say what we’re thankful for.

This year, I’m thankful for the prospect of a quiet, low-stress holiday.

Looks peaceful, doesn’t it? Just like my vision for Thanksgiving.

Gratitude App

Some time back, I put a journaling app on my phone. Then I discovered I don’t like writing much on my phone. It’s tedious and slow and I have fat thumbs. I make even more mistakes than I do on my laptop and have a harder time correcting them.

But I’ve put the app to good use, nonetheless. I’ve come to think of it as my gratitude app. I don’t compose long accounts of what’s going on in my life. But it’s a good place to note, on a regular basis, my appreciation for my blessings, big and small. I find a small note of gratitude is the exact right amount of phone typing for me.

Often it’s as short as “New shoes.” Sometimes it’s longer. “It’s good to have a safe place to sleep at night. Bed, pillows, blankets.” Once I mentioned fresh fruit and then noticed I’d done the same thing only a couple of days before. And I had an epiphany. It’s okay to express gratitude more than once for the same thing. I’m allowed to feel appreciation every single time I eat fruit. In fact, it’s good if I do.

So, looking back, what has merited my appreciation this year? A partial list:

*We need this rain.

*Husband repairing the bedroom door hinge.



*My journaling app has begun to stalk me. It’s a little creepy. (Oh, okay, not so much gratitude there. I ran an update and suddenly every evening at 8:00 my phone dinged and asked me “How was your day?” Just fine, HAL)

*Figured out how to change setting on journaling app so it doesn’t creep me. Yay!

*It’s nice to have glasses rather than stumbling around, groping my way through life.

*My $5 bread machine and thrift stores.

*Citizens who care about society

*Piano tuned!

*My old lady cat is thirteen years old and still going strong

Old lady cat.

*I discovered a TV show called “The Librarians”

*Fresh garden spinach

*My weigela are loaded with flowers







*Fun game of Crazy 8’s with my mom and my oldest kid

*Found eight forever stamps I forgot I had

*Everyone got along on vacation

*I have a huge supply of ink pens

*Good checkup at the dentist’s today

*At work, I sometimes get paid to write

*I could have cake later if I want. I mean, the option is there.

Isn’t always a day to be grateful when you know you could have cake? Seriously. Happy Thanksgiving.


I’ve been floundering lately, feeling overwhelmed and undercompetent a lot. I’m glad for the Thanksgiving holiday to help me escape the funk. What a great idea – a holiday about gratitude. I do have so much to celebrate.

So many people say I’m grateful for my family, and I truly am. But that seems so general. For the ones I see all the time, there are specific things I appreciate about each of them.

My mom: First, I’m thankful she’s here to celebrate another holiday with us. We have our differences of opinion, but I’m happy I learned from her the value of doing your best to figure out what’s right and do it. You don’t really see your parents in context until you’re grown and you find out how differently some other people were raised.

There were things I didn’t know to be thankful for when I was growing up, but I do now. My mom never criticized my appearance. She had her ideas about appropriate clothing as far as modesty and I have different standards now, but beyond that, she never said a bad word about my weight, my hair, my complexion, any of it. I took this for granted, not knowing at the time how many girls were developing terrible self-images based on their parents’ critical remarks. Sure, I got plenty of it from society at large, but not getting it from my mom helped me not internalize it. In fact, my mom has never criticized anyone based on looks, or even commented on looks much at all, except for the occasional compliment on a new hairstyle or saying “That color looks good on you.” I’m thankful I was taught by example not to judge someone on appearances.

My husband: I recently read an article about a study of cities in the U.S. that said our little city is one of the hardest-working. My immediate response was “That’s because my husband lives here. He skews the results.” He’s always been willing to work however many hours it takes to get a job done, and is currently doing freelance projects on the side in addition to his day job.

My firstborn (18 years old now): I appreciate her enthusiasm. When she enjoys something – a book, movie, tv show, pet, food – she enjoys it thoroughly and without embarrassment. And she loves to see others enjoying things in equal measure, even if it’s not the same things. She embraces diversity of tastes. And she finds fun ways to share the excitement over her interests. The other day, when I got out of the shower, the mirror was all steamed up. There in the condensation clearly appeared the words “Welcome to Night Vale.” I have one suspect. One. I’m going to miss these little happenings when she eventually moves out.

My younger child (now 15): He has incredible focus and stamina when he’s working on a project. His two big interests are music and computer programming. In either area, he can work for hours on end. There may be an attention span deficit in his generation, but he doesn’t contribute. And then I get new music in my life. So what’s not to like.

I’m leaving now to pick up my mom and bring her to our house for the day. Happy Thanksgiving!