Just before Thanksgiving Alex and I made another trip to Michigan – this time with my BFF Ashley in tow, to show her where we grew up, spend time with our friends and family, and eat at all our favorite restaurants (of course). Driving around our old neighborhoods brought back a lot of memories (some good, some bad) and made me stop and think about how much my hometown shaped who I am.
One afternoon at my parents’ house, my mom brought out a few boxes of old photographs. We sat on the couch laughing at changing hairstyles and silly faces, reminiscing about family members we’ve lost over the years, smiling as we remembered family vacations and holidays together. It was beautiful to share those moments with my husband and best friend, showing them a little more about who I am, where I came from.
Even though my family ties are much different now, I look at those photos and hold the memories dear. I’m thankful for those memories and grateful for the people I share them with, even if they aren’t an active part of my life any longer.
Below is one of my favorite family vacation photos (minus my mom, who was frequently our photographer). It was during a small hike in the Smoky Mountains, we stopped to wade in a creek.
I remember celebrating Thanksgiving when I was a kid, so excited because it meant we could finally put up our Christmas tree (dad’s rule). Not that we didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving (we did, my family loves to eat), but I just thought of it as a kick-off to my favorite time of year. As many cookies as I could eat, presents, time with family, Christmas songs on the radio all day, every day…
It wasn’t until I moved away from my family that I realized how much I treasured our Thanksgiving Day traditions. I try to sprinkle them in now, as we start to develop our own family traditions. Here’s what I’m looking forward to next week:
Getting out just a few Christmas decorations (I’ve decided that tree-trimming deserves its own special day)
Looking over my to-do list above, I’m grateful I have a job that doesn’t require me to work on Thanksgiving (or the day after, for that matter). Because I spent many holidays away from my family due to a work schedule, I am more careful about how I support companies that have open hours on holidays. I get the fun of Black Friday shopping, but when you think about a mom who had to go to bed early on Thanksgiving so she could be awake at 4am to get to work the next day… 50% off a TV doesn’t really seem to matter. At least to me, I guess. Remember to laugh, love, and be thankful next week – even if your crazy uncle gets on your nerves.
It’s a bit too early for New Year’s Resolutions, but a big focus for me in 2015 will be being better at keeping in touch with friends and family. More texts, more phone calls, more trips… and more letter writing. As technology has given us instant access to every person we’ve ever met, we’ve in turn forgotten the art of handwriting letters. Who wouldn’t swoon if they received a beautiful, handwritten love letter?
In spirit of this month’s theme, I thought it would be a great project to write thank-you notes and notes of gratitude to get started in the letter writing business. We have another trip to Michigan coming up, so why not send a handwritten thank-you to our hosts once we get back? With Veteran’s Day on Wednesday, I plan on writing a letter of thanks for one or two of our service men/women, as part of Operation Gratitude.
I remember writing our thank-you postcards after our wedding. It was important for us to write each one by hand and specifically thank each guest for their contribution to our special day. Here are my tips for writing the perfect thank you:
Get the greeting right. Always triple-check your spelling of names, use nicknames when appropriate (my sister will always be “wee-butt” to me), include everyone from the household who contributed to your gift/good fortune.
Begin withthank you. Focus on the purpose of the letter or note, why the recipient(s) are receiving your note. Thank you for the lovely glass bowl… or I can’t thank you enough for attending my birthday party…
Include details. Describe how you’re going to enjoy your gift – or better yet, include a picture of it in use! If you received cash or a gift card, tell them what you plan on spending it on (if appropriate, of course!). If they showed up for an event, thank them for being a part of an important day for you. A small sentence of gratitude can pack a big punch.
Make plans. If you will see this person in the near future, include that you are looking forward to spending time them again soon. If it’s a long-distance friend or family member, tell them you miss them and are thinking of them.
Go out with a bang. I’m still working on my signature sign-off (so far, love+light is the frontrunner), but you don’t need one to end on a happy note. A good ole’ with love or many thanks will do the job.
I plan on making my own stationary, but there are plenty of options out there for beautiful paper products. I’m most excited about the new Happy Mail monthly subscription from A Beautiful Mess + Studio Calico. I pre-ordered the first month’s kit and think it’s such a sweet idea – a little motivation to help me maintain my year of staying connected. Do you still send letters or are you all digital? I’m curious if anyone out there is keeping an old tradition alive!
Of course I’m thankful for having an apartment to shelter me, a husband who loves me, friends who support me, a job that challenges me, etc. But it’s easy to overlook the small, every day things that make my life better (or easier). I thought it would be a fun project to document 30 simple things that have made me smile in the past month, things I’m grateful/thankful for. What about you – what are you grateful for this month?
Having no more laundry to do… for at least a week
Learning a new word
Eating a ridiculously good meal
Having everything in its place
Getting a nice foot massage
Drinking red wine on a weeknight
Unpacking and organizing the last box from our last move
Going on a good morning run
Having a girls night
Waking up to sunshine
Working from home
Making time for date night
Handwriting notes and to-do lists
Listening to a music
Practicing the piano
Laughing with my friends
Finishing an amazing book
Enjoying a new book
Preparing a nice meal
Planning an trip
Playing a board game
Cuddling on the couch
Texting with my sisters and mom
Getting a Sophie pic
Watching a fantastic new movie
Reading all my saved Feedly articles
Goofing off on Pinterest
Getting a thank you card in the mail
Wearing a pair of flattering jeans
When writing this list, knowing I could look around and be happy about something
If you are paying any attention to TV ads or have been into any store lately, you’d think it was Christmas already. Don’t get me wrong, Christmas is my favorite holiday season and I will celebrate it to the fullest – starting the day after Thanksgiving.
Even though I’m not celebrating a successful harvest, Thanksgiving is a wonderful tradition – it refocuses me on being present in the moment and being grateful for the life I have. It’s easy to be stressed – life is full of little mishaps and big shake-ups that can add negativity… if you let it. Sure you got a flat tire on the way home, but you can be grateful for the fact you don’t have to take the bus every day. Or maybe a close friend passed away, but you can reflect on the time you had together and be grateful for the relationship. Perspective is everything, and it’s something I have to remind myself of every day.
Part of my journey is writing a few days a week here (if I can swing it). It’s not a journal and I am making a conscience effort to keep it positive – not because I want people who stumble upon this space to think I don’t have fights with my friends or get sad… negativity inspires personal growth and I embrace opportunities to make myself a better person. But being grateful every day for the blessings you have can reset your mind to react to situations differently and generally make you a happier person. Who doesn’t want that?
This month I want to explore living gratefully, whether it’s through meditation, volunteering, connecting with friends and family, or celebrating a holiday with good food and great company.
I want to sign off with a TedTalk that has inspired me, and I hope it does the same for you.