Monday, November 12, 2012

On Being Thankful When the Glass is Half-Empty

Winter 2010. Who is that masked man?
Don't know for sure. One of my boys.

Some might call me a “glass half-empty” kinda girl. And I can’t deny it. I am certainly bent in that direction.

When a school activity theme dictates blue Jell-O for snack, I can’t really get excited. Know why? Because I’m too busy filing through my mental index of laundry cleaners to determine which one best removes blue Jell-O from white shirts.

And when it snows in November it’s hard to think of anything but the five months of winter weather ahead.

But I've had some practice being thankful in my “half-empty” moments.

For example, if the glass is half empty, I’m thankful there’s only half the mess to clean up when it spills.

And when 4 laundry cleaners fail to get blue Jell-O out of a white shirt, I'm thankful I have an extra cleaning rag.

So when it snowed on Saturday, and I’m staring down at least 5 months of winter weather, I came up with a few reasons to be thankful even in the “half-empty” moment.

I’m thankful for snow in November because…

1. I’m now in the mood for Christmas music.
2. No more sweaty summer hat  (Not to worry. Bad hair days can be disguised with a stocking hat).
3. I can skip exercise on the days I shovel snow.
4. With all the snow pants, hats and gloves in the dryer, there is more room in our storage closet.
5. I love four-wheel-drive.

To be honest, because I’m all about being honest, I had a hard time coming up with those. Would anyone care to add a few more to the list?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sender's Remorse

My proposed "unsend" button
would replace the straight arrow with
the iconic "left-curving arrow."

You've heard of buyer’s remorse--that sick feeling which plagues a consumer after the big purchase.

As you might have guessed from reading previous posts, I’m a cheap, tight-wad. So I rarely (dare I say never?) have buyer’s remorse.

However, I have often suffered from Sender’s Remorse.

You know that sick feeling after you've sent an important email and realized that every time you meant to type the word “propose” you accidentally typed the word “purpose.” And since you’re such a stellar speller, spell-check gave you the big green light and you sent that email off into cyberspace with no way to reel it back in.


Or how about the instant after you hit “send” when the little hourglass indicates it’s taking two nanoseconds to deploy your personal musings to another inbox. In that fleeting moment your glance at the “To:” field and notice that you have not sent the email to your sister but to a local business owner.


We can send a man to space and retrieve him from space, but we can’t retrieve electronic words from cyberspace? Where are our priorities!?

Oh that they would invent the “unsend” button. If you can “undo edits” and “undo formatting” and “unlike” and “unfriend” then why, oh why, can’t we “unsend” with just the click of a left-curving arrow?

Have any big electronic “oops” moments you want to share? I’d appreciate the chuckle…and the company.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Growing Gratitude and Generosity

I was milling around the fourth grade classroom trying to give off that I’m-a-nice- substitute-but-don’t-try-to-pull-anything-with-me look. It was serving me well as the only sounds were the squeaks and scratches of markers and pencils.

With only a few weeks of school remaining students were putting the finishing touches on their individual yearbook pages. There were pages detailing their likes and dislikes, goals and fears, handwriting samples and illustrations. And sprinkled throughout the pages were thought provoking questions like this one:

What would you do with a million dollars?

I’m pretty sure my fourth-grade-self would have written, “I’d buy a lifetime supply of K-Swiss shoes, 3,000 Cabbage Patch Kids, a Swatch Watch with 465 hues of interchangeable wrist bands and an underground swimming pool.” Then all would be well.

But what would would be the heart's desire of a fourth grader in 2012?

Peeking over the shoulder of one boy I read, “I would buy all the video games in the world.”

I smiled and nodded knowingly. Oh the bliss of being able to choose from $1,000,000 worth of video games! Mario and Luigi would practically be family!

Weaving my way between desks I stopped beside a girl who’d attended another school where I had subbed earlier in the year. I remembered her mostly because her little sister was adorably chatty, while she seemed quiet and sober.

Little Sister freely rattled off details of their situation. They were living in the domestic violence shelter, and their mom was looking for a place with a fence so they could play outside. I hated to imagine what had brought them to that place, but since she was attending school in a different part of town I hoped they’d found that place with a fence.

Curiously, I peered over her shoulder to see what she would do with $1,000,000. In her best cursive she had written, “I would buy food for all the hungry people.”

I would buy food.

No wish for lunch with Taylor Swift.
No blathering about Justin Bieber paraphernalia. 
Not even a wish for a plastic Swiss time piece.

What would make a fourth grader want to buy food for all the hungry people? I could only assume she’d been one of them.  

My heart broke and then was strangely instructed:

Generosity and gratitude grow more quickly in the soil of need 
than in the suffocating overgrowth of abundance.

It’s a sweet blessing when all we “need” is a few more video games or a plastic watch.

Most of us lack nothing necessary. Sometimes, I can’t even conceive of a gift to buy my own children. When that is the case, as it is for most everyone reading this, gratitude and generosity must be modeled and cultivated repeatedly.

But I suspect that in the barren place of need, generosity and gratitude grow unhindered by the entanglements of abundance.

If you’re looking for a way to model and cultivate generosity and gratitude, come join a whole bunch of people for “Feed MyStarving Children.” Check out the details here.