Gratitude for Great Friends

This year has taught me, amongst many other things, how thankful I am to have some really great friends. My husband has always said that he sees God in people––when they’re being kind and compassionate––and I’d have to agree.

Thinking back through the last year, I’ve considered how each friend helped me make it through. A friend I’d meet for a weekly coffee shop visit where we’d discuss how those old theories we held about doing good and getting rewarded or the concept of “deserving” things seem to be nonexistent in real life. A friend and a hike where we talked about how old the trees were and how many women had gone through something like I had and, while I still felt lonely in my time, I felt like I had company in those struggling in the past. A friend who would sit with me on my porch and listen to my gray, hopeless, angry expressions on what beliefs I was abandoning while the spring still went on with its warm sunshine and bright colors. A friend who admitted, “I can’t imagine what you’re going through and I don’t know what to say to you.” And while the words were sad, they were honest and comforting. A friend that visits for chats over dinner and understands when one minute I’m on the verge of tears talking about the daughter I’ve lost and the next my hand is on my belly and I’m beaming about the daughter that’s moving about. A friend that has endured a similar loss at around the same time and whose emails reach across the states to help me feel like I’m not completely alone. A sister-in-law and friend that listens to the new worry each week of pregnancy brings and helps out with research and optimism. A mother and friend who has been struggling in her own way throughout the year but has taught me the important part is not giving up the fight. A husband and friend that consoled me in the middle of the night when I thought my own heart would stop beating and I’d be an empty shell of a woman. He still talks to me each night about my fears, frustrations, sorrow until I can fall asleep with some peace.

I know it’s hard for them all. I know I talk about things people would rather not think about. But I’m so thankful for the friends who are patient with me. That are willing to go down a dark road of discussion. That forgive me when I seem like four or five people crammed into one body. That listen and love and show me pieces of kindness and heart.

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Books for Healing

October was declared Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month in the US with a Presidential Proclamation from Ronald Reagan in 1988. The purpose is to bring awareness to the issues of miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death, SIDS and all infant deaths along with remembering and honoring the babies we’ve lost.

While I understand it’s a topic many of us want to avoid, it’s a life-changing, permeating experience for some of us. In honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, I wanted to share some of the books that have been helping me and a few excerpts that I find particularly healing.

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination
Elizabeth McCracken

“I don’t want those footprints framed on the wall, but I don’t want to hide them beneath the false bottom of a trunk. I don’t want to wear my heart on my sleeve or put it away in cold storage. I don’t want to fetishize, I don’t want to repress, I want his death to be what it is: a fact. Something people know without me having to explain it. I don’t feel the need to tell my story to everyone, but when people ask, Is this your first child? I can’t bear any of the possible answers. I’m not ready for my first child to fade into history” (15).

“At first I was worried I’d stay in bed weeping, and then I thought: If I remember everything, I’m done for. If I remember, I will walk to the nearest hospital and ask for a nice bed in the psychiatric wing, I promise to be quiet, I promise I will not ask for narcotics, just keep me, nurse, for a few months. In May you can transfer me to maternity. I am not crazy, but I am just being careful: I am not crazy, but if I’m not careful I will take a wrong step and end up in the forest. Sometimes I can feel it happening: my memory, my bad memory, my untrained memory. It creeps toward that time” (56).

“When I was a teenager in Boston, a man on the subway handed me a card printed with tiny pictures of hands spelling out the alphabet in sign language. I have thought of that card ever since, during difficult times, mine or someone else’s: surely when tragedy has struck you dumb, you should be given a stack of cards that explain it for you. I wanted my stack. I still want it. My first child was stillborn, it would say on the front. It remains the hardest thing for me to explain, even now, or maybe I mean especially now––now that his death feels like a non sequitur. My first child was stillborn. I want people to know but I don’t want to say it aloud. People don’t like to hear it but I think they might not mind reading it on a card” (73).

[On sitting in the ob-gyn practice after the loss:] “A younger woman tugged at her low-slung maternity jeans as she backed into the chair, and then she patted her stomach. ‘When are you due?’ asked the already mother, and the young woman answered, ‘Friday. Can’t wait.’ I have nothing in common with you, I thought. That shows I had already forgotten the one lesson I’d vowed to learn: you can never guess at the complicated history of strangers” (111).

“I wanted Hold Your Horses Magazine. Don’t Count Your Chickens for Women. Pregnant for the Time Being Monthly. [. . .] What I wanted, scrawled across my chart in shaky physician’s cursive: NOTE: do not blow sunshine up patient’s ass” (114).

“Once you’ve been on the losing side of great odds, you never find statistics comforting again” (115).

“Twice now I have heard the story of someone who knows someone who’s had a stillborn child since Pudding has died, and it’s all I can do not to book a flight immediately, to show up somewhere I’m not wanted, just so that I can say, It happened to me, too, because it meant so much to me to hear it. It happened to me, too meant: It’s not your fault. And You are not a freak of nature. And This does not have to be a secret” (136).

“Time had bent again. Time had developed a serious kink. Our old life––the one where we planned our existence around the son we were expecting––had ended, but our new life––the one where we tried to figure out how to live without him––couldn’t start yet. We were stuck in a chronological bubble” (165).

“I find myself thankful for large and small things, in the way of people who’ve lost two limbs and are glad not to have lost four” (172).

The Deeper Wound
Deepak Copra

“Out of suffering can come love. Love is the hidden message within all fear and pain, no matter how horrible they make you feel. The idea that suffering contains a spiritual message goes beyond fatalism and idealism both, because the distinction between inner and outer, physical and mental is erased” (62).

“It is also true that suffering ennobles people, teaches us lessons, guides us toward insight, and purifies our nature. Suffering is a paradox” (63).

Empty Cradle, Broken Heart
Deborah L. Davis, Ph.D.

“Eventually, when you are ready, you may recognize something positive from the experiences surrounding your loss. Perhaps you will find you have a strengthened marriage, deepened friendships, increased personal awareness, greater confidence or better understanding of and willingness to help others who experience loss” (90).

[Suggestions for others encountering the grieving:] “Refrain from statements that belittle their grief such as, ‘It’s really for the best.’ They can only find the silver linings for themselves at their own pace, and even then, these will not banish their grief. Instead of offering solutions or platitudes, simply tell them how sorry you are and that you are thinking of them. Knowing that you care makes a difference” (242).

Still to be Born
Pat Schwiebert, RN
Paul Kirk, MD

“Letting go does not mean that I will forget my child. Letting go means only that I accept that my child really is dead and that no amount of wanting and yearning and thinking about my child will bring him back. Letting go is accepting life as it really is without pretending that I can make it otherwise. It is also deciding that I can indeed be a happy person with my new and different life. It’s allowing yourself to reinvest your energy and interest into something or someone else” (22).

[On a subsequent pregnancy:] “Instead of reveling in the joy of an unfolding miracle, you may find yourself treading cautiously and fearfully––one step at a time––feeling nothing but relief as each step brings you closer to the end” (79).

Pregnancy After a Loss
Carol Cirulli Lanham

“Now we had gone through so much and still had no baby. So even though I was scared to death of another pregnancy, I still wanted a baby to take care of and to nurture. I needed that. Not as a replacement, but to fill that need I had for a baby. For all of those reasons, I had to try again. I likened it to climbing this huge mountain and getting three-fourths of the way up. Now which would you rather do? Fight three-fourths of the way back down or go ahead and finish? I felt like we had to keep going” (63).

“I was pretty upset worrying about the enormousness of it all. But after that, I adopted an attitude that worrying about it wasn’t going to make me or the baby live two minutes longer. And if, God forbid, something bad happened, I would have plenty of time afterward to be devastated” (110).

“If you’re like most women who are pregnant after a loss, you prepare yourself for nine months of contradictions. There’s elation over knowing that you’re expecting another baby, and sadness over the one that you lost. There’s excitement over what’s to come, and trepidation about what each day may bring. There’s the hope that comes with another chance, and despair that it may all be in vain” (113).

“Even though I was overwhelmed with happiness and gratitude, I couldn’t help but feel sad and even resentful over my loss. I looked forward to each passing month because it would bring me closer to the day when I might bring home a healthy baby. And yet I feared every minute because I knew that this new life might slip away, too. I tried to maintain a positive attitude and believe with all my heart that, this time, everything would be all right, and yet many times I could not help but worry the worst would happen again” (113).

“I am so tired of being afraid all the time. I wish I could just go to sleep and wake up seven months from now with a live healthy baby in my arms” (193).

These five books have provided me with a tremendous sense of comfort, understanding, and reassurance. If nothing else, it helps to know I’m not the only person who has ever felt this way. I hope they can help others as well.

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Love Can Be Scary

When people ask what I’ve been up to this summer, I reply writing, reading, gardening, crafting. But that’s really just a nicety. What I really want to say is I’ve been trudging through hell and back. I’ve been trying to make it through the worst tragedy I’ve ever experienced. I’ve been deploying every coping mechanism in my arsenal. I have been thinking hard about what life is all about and what I should give and take from it. I’ve been having talks with close friends that get me out of my tangled head and give me perspective. I’ve been trying to figure out what this all means for my belief systems. I’ve been trying to navigate what my new self is like and feel a little more comfortable in her skin. I’ve been learning how much sorrow there is in the world and consciously practicing more compassion.

And I’ve been growing a baby. It’s been so incredibly scary, but we’ve realized all the more how ready we are to start a family. The last 21 weeks have been filled with moments of excitement, terror, heartbreak, and hope. In the end, we’re trying to stay positive and patient. We want to thank all of our good friends that have, and continue to, support us through this emotional time. 

Each week I think I’ll be less scared, but it doesn’t change much. If this big bump on my belly wasn’t so obvious, I don’t think I’d tell people until the baby was here. I’ve said “if all goes well” about a million times already and I’m still worried that we’ll be blindsided by another obscure statistic. I’ve learned not to waste my breath explaining the feeling to those that say “This time everything’ll be fine.” because no one could understand the backlash of what we’ve been through without experiencing it themselves––and I hope they never have to. But what’s been cycling through my head the last several months has been “Love can be scary, but it’s always been worth it.” I’d rather live with a heart that’s full and get it broken than live a half life.

We’ll always miss Hope and have a very special spot in our hearts for her. No one could ever fill that space. She has taught us so much and has made us who we are now. And while our grieving is far from over, we’re ready to let a little light shine in on our souls.

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It was two weeks later and instead of getting better, I was getting worse. Way worse. I thought I was losing my mind. I thought I was giving in to sadness. I thought I had forgotten how to count my blessings and be grateful. But I realized I was just grieving.

And I had to be honest that before all this happened, I was still struggling from losing my job just two months before. I had been writing for an agency for a year and a half with excellent feedback on projects only to be “terminated” two weeks after informing HR I was pregnant. Life was already feeling pretty unfair, and it just got a whole lot more unfair. While that loss wasn’t even comparable, with these two events only a couple months apart, it was even harder to be resilient. It was a mild case of grieving under a very severe case.

Learning How to Grieve

I was racing through the stages of grieving like I’d get some shiny, golden star at the end of the level––like if I could quickly fight the spiderwebs in my mind, it would all be over and I could move on to the next stage. But grief doesn’t work that way.

While grieving may be a process, it’s definitely not a linear one. One of my many problems was that I was trying to identify the steps and rush through: “That was the denial. Then the anger set in. Depression for sure. Is this empty feeling acceptance?”

Just like in life, in grieving everything is constantly changing. One day I’ll think I know how I want to remember Hope and what I want to do with this experience. But the next day all of that just doesn’t work. Maybe it’s a matter of letting yourself deal with it how you need to at the time and being open to that changing.

What I’m Learning:

1. It’s okay to be grateful and consider how the situation could have been worse. But it’s also necessary to acknowledge what actually happened.

2. This isn’t a time to be a people pleaser. Take time to let yourself heal. If you’re not up to certain social events or seeing certain people, just say no.

3. Maybe this is an opportunity for me to accept that I can’t control everything and to even find some peace in the lack of control as I move forward.

What It All Means

I mentioned my struggles to a couple of good friends and they brought up a good point: Americans are impatient. We rush through things. And some of us feel like we don’t have time to grieve or that we need to heal quickly. But let’s not put that pressure on each other. We need to give ourselves permission to fall apart and not call it weakness, not call it craziness, just call it grieving.

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Crash Course in Loss and Love

Empty-handed and empty-hearted

As my heart dropped when the ultrasound tech said she couldn’t find the heartbeat, my world started spinning. My brain just went blank for a minute. And then I felt my husband’s and mother’s head on my chest. We were all sobbing together, already asking, “How? Why?” I immediately felt like the only woman who had ever experienced this loss. The nurse that admitted me told me she lost her first baby at 24 weeks. I always knew my mother lost her first baby, but I didn’t know how far into the pregnancy. When the tech gave us the terrible news, she finally admitted she was 20 weeks. In the weeks leading up, when my biggest fear was miscarriage, my mother had kept answering, “Oh, not far along.” when I had asked her what week she lost her first. It was to ease my mind as my pregnancy progressed into the weeks. It worked. After all, what can you do but hope for the best? There are some things that are completely out of your hands and you can’t spend your entire pregnancy worrying what could be.

And I don’t want this post to scare. I want it to inform, to help, to comfort, to provide peace. When the nurses told me they lost their babies over halfway through, I thought about how no one ever talks about this. Which makes you feel more alone. 22 weeks. I didn’t really think it was possible. I truly thought I was out of the woods after that 12 week mark. So, while this is to help me get it all out, it’s also for couples to know they’re not alone. And it’s hard on the husbands, too. I know this. So, ladies, let your husband support you, and as he’s supporting you, support right back. All of those excess hormones will make you want to take care of something and this time is more important than ever to stick together and love, love, love.

And don’t forget your joy. I enjoyed every minute of my almost six months of pregnancy. I loved watching my belly grow, thinking of what it meant, planning for her to arrive, writing to her weekly, spending late nights discussing what she might be like with my husband. I loved it all. And I still cherish it all. While we don’t have a baby to swaddle up and sing to, we do still have all the love that got us here. And we can only hope that we’ll still get to use that excess love on a little being someday. Someday when we’re healed.

So, even though she showed us our hearts have the capacity for a lot of pain, she also showed us they have a tremendous capacity for love. She showed us we’re more than ready and it’s what we want more than anything in the world. And she showed us how strong our marriage is and that when we love and support each other, we can make it through anything.

How it feels and what might help

Here’s what I experienced and here’s what helped. But keep in mind everyone is different and you have to do what’s right for you. Be honest with yourself and feel your feelings.

At first: pain. My brain hurt. I just saw her healthy and perfect at the 20 week ultrasound. It was only two weeks later. How could her heart have stopped beating? It didn’t make sense. And I thought I was just being too perceptive at first. She hadn’t moved in a couple of days, but everything I read said this was completely normal. So it was a battle between my head and heart.

More pain: heart. I had grown so attached to this little girl that was growing inside of me. It wasn’t just the nearly 23 weeks we spent together, it was the possible 50 years or more she’d be our daughter and we’d be a family that really filled my thoughts every day of the pregnancy. It is so, so hard to let go of that when you’ve been building it up for so long.

Even more pain: faith. How could God do this to us? We waited four years of marriage until it was strong. We wanted a baby more than anything. I watched everything I ate, drank, breathed. I bought the best prenatal vitamin and air purifier. There were couples out there that were devastated when they discovered when they were pregnant. We were ecstatic. Why us? And why this? A 1% fluke of a cord wrapped around a neck? Something completely out of our control after we made all the conditions perfect for everything within our control. Did God hate us? What did we do? Was it chance? Was I wasting my time praying for strength and serenity?

Yet more pain: physical. I had to deliver her. 12 hours of labor. Contractions more intense than normal because my body was confused. I was trying to stifle my grief because I knew a successful delivery would make everything healthier in the end. But it was hard to put all those emotions on hold to get through labor and delivery. I was actually relieved when she finally came because it meant I could finally acknowledge my feelings.

And a day later: more pain. Engorgement. How badly I wanted to use them for what they’re for! But I had no baby. I had to patiently wait for the pain to subside.

More pain: not sure how to label this one. For babies born after 20 weeks, you have to get a birth and death certificate. Which means you should name him or her. This was something we were definitely not prepared for. As I lying there in labor, I was struggling for names. My husband and I agreed on Hope. As tremendously awful as this experience was, we knew we had to keep hope in our hearts.

So, those were the issues. How did we find comfort? This part’s important and if just one of these helps just one couple, this post will be worthwhile.

Cry when you need to. Talk when you need to. Write when you need to. It’s tempting to push it back and try to move on, but it’s so important to acknowledge everything. I always felt better after any of the above.

You’re going to feel like a baby, yourself. Let yourself be coddled. Sometimes the words aren’t there, but some snuggling helps ease the pain.

Comedy. When it all seemed too much, and we needed to take a break from reality, we’d sit together and watch some stand-up, a sitcom, anything funny (some old SNLs and Jim Gaffigan, specifically). It may seem impossible to laugh, but it felt nice to just let my heart be light for a half hour or so.

Good food. Your nervous system functions best with good nutrition. Don’t deny yourself healthy, regular meals now. Give your body what it needs so it can cope.

Lots of hugs, kisses and I love yous. We’d stop every hour or so and do one of the above.

Read before bed. It helped me stop cycling my thoughts and get out of my head. I was glad I was reading a funny collection of essays (I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley).

Plan a trip. And don’t feel guilty. So much feels out of your hands that it’s nice to make some decisions and feel more in control. And to look forward to a change in scenery.

Your family and friends are going to want to take care of you. Let them. They feel just as helpless as you and need any opportunity to support you.

Accept that there might not be any answers. I spent hours trying to find out what I could’ve done to get her tangled in her cord. What I ate? Exercise? Stress? The reality is she probably tangled herself while I was fast asleep. I had to accept it was nothing I had done. Which was, and still is, so hard.

Think about the future. While it feels like the world has stopped spinning and it will never start spinning again, it will. It’s okay to let yourself feel the pain for today, but it’s also okay to have a little hope for the future.

Does this seem like a lot to process in a few days? It is. But you’ll be stuck in your head for almost every waking minute. Use it to your advantage. Don’t use it to cycle self-hating thoughts or boundless pessimism. Feel your feelings but don’t let them consume you.

Am I done grieving? Not even close. I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about her and wishing she were still here. Commercials with babies make me tearful one minute, angry the next. I struggle with a whole host of negative emotions. But in the hospital, as it all settled in, my husband and I made a pact to not let our hearts get hard. They can’t. We’ve got to love, love, love.

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Fashion for the First Few Months

While I’m incredibly grateful for what this bump means, it’s made dressing a little difficult. Pre-pregnancy I wore a lot of high-waisted jeans and snug cardigans, but within the second month, the jeans wouldn’t zip up and the cardigans wouldn’t button down. So! I needed to look around my wardrobe and see how I could make those first few months work. The bump wasn’t that obvious yet, but my waist was definitely gone and my cinch-belt fall-back wasn’t an option anymore.

Some of the things I’m finding work well (and are very comfortable):

1. Leggings, leggings, leggings.
After hitting 3 or 4 in the afternoon, sitting in my cubicle, having to unbutton my pants and wriggle around in my chair uncomfortably, I realized it was time to retire most of my jeans. Leggings have been a welcome change. 

2. Long sweaters or sweater dresses
Some of the long, plain sweaters or striped sweater dresses went well with my leggings and boots.

3. Lots of black
In the beginning, my belly just looked weird. Of course I was proud of my bump, but it was hard to figure out what shirts to wear. Simple black shirts worked well. And then I could jazz them up with big necklaces or earrings. 

4. Empire-waist dresses
These hit high enough that they weren’t squishing my rapidly-growing waistline. And they were great with tights and boots. 

5. Roomy shirts
Old Navy was a great resource for stretchy, roomy shirts that gave my bump plenty of room to grow. And I could also dress them up with a cinch belt up high. 

6. Long dresses
I already had a bunch of these in my closet. They washed back to their original size. 

What did you like to dress in during your first few months?

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Gift of Recollection

I’m a firm believer that experiences make the best gifts. But the next best thing? Something that recollects those experiences.

One of my favorite gifts is an ode to our trips and hikes. My husband took a piece of recycled wood, stained it with my favorite color (turquoise), and ordered Hipstamatic pictures he had taken in our travels.

Every time I look at it, I remember hiking around a nearby lake on a Black Friday, sitting on the dock in Tennessee watching the sunset, marveling at Haystack Rock in Oregon, and standing in amazement in front of Multnomah Falls.

It’s a great project to complete for yourself––or maybe for a special someone for a birthday or anniversary.

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Why I’m Not Drinking

So, we’re pregnant. And I didn’t want to let the cat out of the bag until things were a bit less precarious (the first few months of pregnancy can be risky). It was a concern: how do I respond when people ask why I’m not drinking or if I want to try their beer or insist on taking a shot together? Well, that last one’s not too out-of-character because I hate taking shots and usually say no, anyway. But! I love a good beer and I’m not one to turn it down. How could I get through the first few months of keeping it under wraps without people discovering the no-drinking cue?

I started to write reasons in case people called me out. I was trying to come up with stuff that wasn’t a lie, but didn’t give it away. Stuff like:

1. My stomach kinda hurts. Alcohol wouldn’t help.

2. I feel like I might be coming down with something, so I better not drink.

3. I just don’t feel like drinking tonight.

I gotta say it was a big relief when I could finally exclaim, “Because there’s a baby in there!” What are some of the responses you used when in the same bind?

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Key Hopping

We had a few criteria for our last trip:

1.) Warmest, sunniest (but cheapest) place in the US
2.) Lots of state parks
3.) Lots of history

The southernmost point of America was the obvious choice: Key West, Florida. But! There isn’t much hiking on the island, so we decided to explore all the Keys while we were down there. It’s also worth noting that flying into Fort Lauderdale cut the plane tickets in half and that the drive through the Keys is a really pretty one, overlooking mangroves and old trestles.

We started out in Key Largo. One of our first stops was the Wild Bird Refuge. While there, we saw different species of hawks and owls up close and egrets and brown pelicans were everywhere.

As we traveled down the Keys, we stopped at parks to explore. Some of our favorites:
Anne’s Beach on Islamorada

Long Key State Park

Watson Trail on Big Pine Key

We hit the marinas to have truly local seafood, and all the fish we had was delicious:
The Wharf on Summerland Key
Keys Fisheries and Marina on Marathon
Buzzard’s Roost on Key Largo
Eaton Street Seafood Market on Key West

Of course we also visited the historical homes. I enjoyed chasing the cats around the Hemingway Home and seeing his studio.

The Audubon House was gorgeous and had such interesting plants in its gardens.

Another beautiful place was the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory. As expected, lots of butterflies, but some brightly-hued finches too. And the docents really knew their plants, butterflies, and birds.

Favorite part of Key West? Fort Zachary Taylor. You can wander through a fort built in 1845. While we were there, right under an American flag, a bald eagle flew about 10 feet over our heads. Pretty epic! Also, the best beach (in my opinion) is in this same park. There’s an area filled with Australian Pines and Palm Trees, which made for a pretty combination.

Another neat area is Bahia Honda State Park. Its beaches were voted in the top 10 for the nation, and they were nice to walk, but the really memorable part was an old trestle where you can walk out over the ocean. In this spot, an osprey flew right over our heads. Oh! Which brings me to, if you like birds, the Keys are a great place to go. Hawks and osprey and herons and egrets abound!

Something worth noting is that nearly all parks charge a fee. We usually base our trips around nature because it’s typically free, but not so in this case.

In Key Largo, we stayed in Azul del Mar and in Key West, we stayed in The Popular House. Both were extremely clean, well-decorated, and wonderfully helpful.

My biggest suggestion for Key West would be to take a Danger tour. We opted for the half-day, and it included sailing, kayaking, and snorkeling. And it felt like taking a college course in marine biology. We sailed out to a preserve called Mule Key and learned lots about the types of trees, reef, sponges, and fish that live in that area.

All in all, it felt pretty tropical without the super-expensive plane tickets. We visited Kauai in February, so we had that terrain to compare to. And while we missed the mountains, in some of the state parks, it was just as lush.

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A Year of Gratitude

I’m always looking for ways to disregard the bad and acknowledge the good, so this sounded like a project that would promote that way of thinking. I found this idea on Pinterest and knew it would be a great way to begin the year.

Here’s how it works: you start the year with an empty jar and fill it with notes about any good things that happen. Then, on New Year’s Eve, empty the jar and re-read all your happy happenings from that year.

In the hustle and bustle of getting through the day, week, month, year, we sometimes forget to stop and appreciate the positive points or moments. With this simple jar you can start a tradition. Take time to write down and remember the good things, as they happen, and then recall them on New Year’s Day when you read them together.

For mine, I chose a big, glass, wide-mouthed jar; wrapped a ribbon around it; and hole-punched a tag to loop through the ribbon. One of my personal mantras is “Be great & be grateful,” so that’s how I labeled my jar. I thought it would be pretty to use some of our favorite colors for the papers inside.

January isn’t over yet. It’s not too late to start the year off in gratitude. So, go ahead and start a gratefulness jar for yourself or your family.

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