Gratitude Changes Everything

This year did not go according to plan—at all. On the contrary, it deviated greatly from the voted upon and accepted schedule (pronounced “shed-jewel”) proposed in January, when I had such grand delusions of a completed manuscript by year’s end.

But God had other plans. How dare He.

Of course I jest, and I’m not going to rehash things previously mentioned, but suffice it to say, this was a period of time I found it difficult to be grateful for much of anything. My world wore black.

Box Helping Box
Photo: blentley via photopin cc

However, it’s during these trials in life that it’s imperative to remember the grace we’ve been given. “Count your blessings” isn’t an old wives tale for nothing, and they mean to do just that—make a gratitude list.

So I did.

Not immediately, mind you, and when I did, it wasn’t easy. The first list consisted of the bare necessities: a roof over my head, food in my mouth, and money to pay the bills. Each day I’d review it, and each day, it remained the same.

After awhile, I began to add things: good health, supportive friends, my family, and creature comforts like heat in the winter, and in time, the warmth and comfort from above. In the darkness of heartache, gratitude brought light.

And then my sister’s health was threatened.

Needless to say, I freaked, at least initially, but continued listing the good, dismissing the bad, and seeking direction and comfort for both. I’m grateful to be here for her, as she’s always been there for me.

I’m not saying that all was well with my soul, nor am I professing to know much about anything—the whys, what-fors, and how-comes of it all—for mighty and mysterious is the universe, and I’m not privy to its secrets.

What I am saying, though, is the attitude of gratitude (oh, crap—how clich鍍 ), along with the positive thinking I wrote about in an earlier post strengthened this questioning man’s faith and pulled me through a most difficult time. It also readied me for the next battle, and the future entanglements that come with…well…life. 

SSThanksgivingSo I guess this is my Obligatory Thanksgiving Day Post, but I hope you see it for much more than that—more than the remembrance of a three-day feast for an abundant harvest, shared with the lucky Native Americans who survived the smallpox we brought over and gave us their land in exchange for future casinos.

This Thursday, take with you the feeling of family and gratitude you have and apply it to all the days of your life. Unplug from the negative; plug into the positive. You’ll be the better person for it, I assure you.

A Special Thank You

And on that note, I’d like to thank all of you for your support during such a trying year; for reading my bellyaching and seeing me through the heartache, some of you holding my hand in the process. I am extremely grateful. To list you by name is unnecessary, it’s all of you reading this—and then some.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank two special people who’ve recently honored me with the gift of acknowledgement:

Sunshine AwardFirst, thank you, Liz Blocker, for The Sunshine Award, which she gave after reading the positivity post mentioned above. Usually I only pick one of the questions, but this is an easy one, and since Liz is relatively new and doesn’t know too much about me, I’ll answer them all in one fell swoop.

  • My favorite color is earth tones. Serious. Give me something in the greens and yellows, oranges and umbers and I’m good to go.
  • As for animals, I’m a dog-lover first and foremost, but as far as exotics go, giraffes and koalas. They look sweet and cuddly and make for good stuffed animals, but can probably put a hurtin’ on your butt when cornered.
  • My favorite numbers are like my sins—cardinal and irrational.
  • I’m a Proud Pepper, seeing as though my favorite non-alcoholic drink is Dr. Pepper. Wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper, too?
  • My favorite alcoholic drink is “On The House,” and at times, “The Next One.”
  • When it comes to Facebook or Twitter, I lean towards FB; I’m usually wordier than 140 characters. But Twitter teaches me to be succinct. Needless to say, I need to spend a little more time there.
  • My passions are for all of the fine arts…and a respect for those at which I’ve tried my hand. I’m in awe of all the masters of each medium.
  • I’m a giver by nature, so anytime I get something, I’m happy.
  • My favorite city has been San Diego. It’s a big ol’ city with a small-town appeal—beautiful neighborhoods, museums, and parks, with a modern-day downtown of fantastic skyscrapers. There’s always something to do, and did I mention it’s on the west coast?
  • I’m a child of the TV generation and grew up with wholesome role models like the Bradys and the Partridges, and vaguely remember Romper Room and H.R. Puff’n’stuff. There have been too many good TV shows over the years to pick a favorite, but I am partial to sit-coms (not a bunch of laugh lines), and have had a weakness for supernatural shows ever since the days of Dark Shadows.

Make sure to check out Liz’s ramblings at her blog. I do, and she has some excellent stories to share on her journey to publication. She’s a spit-fire gal with a zest for life who’s a real joy to watch and follow.

Golden Scale Award

And this past Sunday, Al Diaz, from Father Dragon Writes, bestowed upon me (and I don’t use that term loosely) The Golden Scale Award, for which I’m extremely honored. It’s been a pleasure to get to know Al over the year, and if you know anything about dragons, they have the biggest hearts around, but are very selective about who receives one of their scales. Thank you, Al—it’s beautiful, as are you.

My wishes for you this Thanksgiving weekend are good food, great health, safe journeys, and wonderful new memories made with friends and family.

And gratitude—unplug the negative; plug in the positive.

Could you pass the gravy, please?

Peace,

ML Swift

MikeBeachML Swift is a writer of Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Adult fiction, although he dabbles in many genres.

An Alzheimer’s caregiver for the past ten years, he has published several articles on The Alzheimer’s Reading Room, the largest online website catering to that community, and plans to write a novel about his experience in caregiving.

He resides in Florida with his dogs, Rameses and Buster, attempting to reclaim his side of the bed.

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41 thoughts on “Gratitude Changes Everything

  1. When our world falls apart, often all we have is faith. God is our Rock when all else crumbles.
    Congratulations on the awards. We obviously grew up in the same era, judging from the shows you listed.
    Have a great Thanksgiving, Mike.

  2. I’m grateful for the whole world and everything in it! But then, I might be part border-collie, I’m easily pleased. Seriously, I’m grateful for you Mike and your awesome blog.
    Sorry, the gravy jug is empty. *wipes back of hand across mouth and give innocent eyes.

    1. You are part border collie, Charmaine. Don’t you know that we choose dogs similar to our nature? Eventually, the way I understand it, we will look like them, too. You’ll be black and white, like Cruella De Ville.

      I knew not to sit you by the gravy. 😉

    1. Amen, Julie.

      In the spirit of family, I’d like to share a nonsensical little ditty we would say that followed an affirming amen:

      “‘Amen, brother Ben,’ said the rooster to the hen and the hen crossed the road and got killed.”

      Don’t ask me from where it came or what it means, but I love it. Happy Thanksgiving. 🙂

  3. Don’t forget Mr. Rogers and Captain Kangaroo. 🙂

    With some of the stuff I’ve gone through over the past couple years, I’ve had to remind myself to count my blessings, too. Don’t kick yourself for listing the ‘bare necessities.’ In this economy, having food, funds, and a roof over your head is no small thing.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Mike.

    1. Definitely cannot forget the Sweater Man and Capt. Crunch of the TV (I always thought they were the same fellow).

      I know you and many of us have experienced difficulties this year…so glad that we have each other with whom to see it through.

      Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, too, Melissa.

  4. Thanks so much for answering the questions!!! I know it’s time-consuming, but I loved reading your answers. And you really did deserve that award – that post was a beautiful ray of light. You’re right, I am pretty new and I don’t know you well (yet) – I don’t know all of the little quirks and traits that make up a person’s day-to-day personality – but I will say that your posts are so honest and heartfelt that I feel like I know a lot about YOU, the real you; your spirit and heart. And that’s entirely because you share that with us every week.

    This post is another one of those shafts of light, and another insight into who you are. Perhaps gratitude is cliche on Thanksgiving, but I’m grateful for your presence in my online life. You always bring light, honesty, generosity, and humor. Thank you 🙂

    1. Hey Liz!

      One time (at band camp)…but seriously, some of the awards come with a lot of tasks to do, and one time I had a few stacked up on me (for which I was grateful), but I would’ve ended up having to do 52 things and pass them on to 52 people. After that, I do one, and pass it to one person. I’ll have to give some thought on who gets the Sunshine Award…awards are special to me.

      Thank you for the compliment, and I’m sure we’ll be getting to know each other well enough to complement each other! I learned a long time ago, one of the best adages to come along is: Know Thyself (and to that self, be true). I try to do that with every post…be who I am and hope people like me anyway.

      You are a real winner, Liz, and I’m grateful to have met you.

    1. Yeah…no matter what, there always seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Those Old Wives sure knew a lot!

      It’s great to see you, Gwen, and may you also have a wonderful Thanksgiving. 🙂

  5. Hi ML, this is a wonderful Thanksgiving post. Not many years go by and turn out as planned, some for the better, some, obviously, not so much. I’m sorry for your pain this year but not for the blessings and lessons that come from hard times! Sending wishes of peace and continued gratitude. Hope you have a peaceful and love filled Thanksgiving 🙂

    1. Lexie! It is wonderful to see you!

      I was just thinking of you the other day…somehow you came to mind, probably about PBC. Gotta get an email out to everybody concerning that.

      Everything in life is a lesson…every person you encounter, a teacher, put there to point out something new for you to learn. That’s how I look at it. Some of those people cause pain in their lessons, some of the lessons are painful all on their own. But they’re lessons, nonetheless. The thing to do is step out of yourself long enough to remove the blinding emotion and see them for what they are.

      Thank you for coming by, Lexie. May you and yours also have a wonderful holiday feast.

  6. Awesome post! I feel like such a whiner when my biggest complaints are a dirty house and busy kids. I have to sometimes stop myself and remind little old me that there are problems in this world, mine are just inconveniences. Prayers and hugs for your sister!
    (I think it’s also comforting that someone else remembers HR Puff N Stuff…he’s there when things get rough…and so are we! Belly ache away friend, we’re here for you!)

    1. Hey Elizabeth,

      You know, stress is stress; it comes in many forms and affects people differently. So your little inconveniences are not unstressful, for they cause the same electrical connections in the brain, and the same chemicals are set off.

      And that’s why counting your blessings works…it reroutes the line of thinking, causing different connections to be made and new, more euphoric chemicals to be released.

      I learned that somewhere along the way, but can’t really quote anyone. 😉

      And those were the days of good, kid friendly TV. When the adult shows of yesteryear get G ratings in this day and age…well, you couldn’t get more wholesome than that. 🙂

      Happy Thanksgiving, Elizabeth.

  7. You’ve had a lot happen to you. It’s been a trying year, to say the least. But you’ve maintained a positive outlook and a great sense of humor, which says so much about who you are as a person.

    I’m thankful that so much of what tried me, what hell I went through – well, what I put myself through, frankly – is all in the past. This year has been a good year, and I’m thankful myself and my family are in good health and in good spirits.

    All the best to you, my friend.

    1. You know, my friend, it has been a pretty happening year for you, hasn’t it? You’ve published, and with good results, too, your following has increased, you’ve moved, weathered school for your wife, and just seem to have an overall good vibe to you. Hope I didn’t just jinx it.

      Throughout life, sometimes the only thing I had going for me to get out of a rough spot was a good sense of humor. And to remember to look at life and appreciate all its idiosyncrasies. It can be a downright scream if you let it.

      Have a great day with the fam, Gus.

  8. Your favorite numbers gotta be my favorite part, you just made me laugh. There’s a reason why you and I are good friends. I find a deep message in what you write and the way you write it. I empathize and then I just feel like giving you a huge powerful dragon hug. You’re like another brother to me. I have missed several of your posts but recently I dreamed of you. I was in a beach and I saw you approaching. I told you “I know it’s hard, but you must keep on going, Mike. Giving up is just not in your essence and only victory will give you peace.” Then I hugged you and I woke up. I don’t know if it means anything but I really believe you’re the warrior type. I truly do. Happy Thanksgiving and dragon hugs!

    1. What you said in your dream to me is what I want to say to you, as well, my friend. I know you’ve had a great deal to contend with and a lot of questions about direction, and I pray you receive your answer.

      I know your art is so important to you, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to leave the online world. I follow a couple of art and photography blogs. Like I said above, I appreciate all of the fine arts, and am enriched in my writing by the muses of the other media.

      I really need to send you an email…need to do a lot of things and the holiday season is upon us. But your post on Sunday made me fear that you’d be leaving and I don’t want you to be there one day and gone the next.

      I think we’re both the warrior types.

      Thank you for your generous spirit and friendship. 🙂

  9. I’ve always loved Thanksgiving, but I’ll admit, it’s not easy celebrating when you live overseas and have no family to share it with. Cooking a big meal for 4 when I’m the only American at the table is kinda depressing. However, I’ve found a way I can make this day special and still teach the importance of Thanksgiving to my kids, (thanks to Sara Bowers’s post about her paper Thanksgiving tree). It’s important to put things back into perspective and give thanks. Life can be hard, it can be down right shitty, but finding things we can be thankful for helps us get through the muck.

    “And gratitude—unplug the negative; plug in the positive.” Yes.

    Happy Thanksgiving. (:

    1. Happy Thanksgiving to you, too, Elise. As a matter of fact, your comment brings up something I’ve always wondered…how do you happen to be an American in Paris? What took you there? Are you being held hostage by French Terrorists? Do they make you wear a beret? Voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir)?

      Inquiring minds want to know. 🙂

      1. I was kidnapped by aliens who are working for the French government. They want me to create a mutation in escargot DNA that triggers the formation of three plump legs on either side of the animal. The idea is to create legs that would be ideal for eating and dipping in sauces because lets face it, there’s not much to chew on when eating normal escargot. So anyway, I’ve been trying to combine alien DNA with escargot DNA but my last attempt ended in the creation of zombiefied escargot that cannibalized each other, shell and all. Anyway, the aliens tell me (telepathically of course) that the French are very strict on this point: I cannot return to America until the legged escargots have been successfully developed. As for tonight, I’d have to ask the aliens.

      2. I thought it was something like that.

        So you’re making tripods. Tri – GASTRO – pods! Hahahahaha! I kill me.

        You’re too funny, Elise. Glad you stopped by. 😉

  10. Hi Michael,

    Well said and you will know I heartily concur. Adversity can bring out the best in us. We realise there are choices. Be overwhelmed, or find the positive in want may seem such a daunting negative.

    You speak of a truth I embrace. Better to live life with realistic positive anticipation, rather than negative speculation. Hearty congrats on the awards. Now that I’m also out of North America, I do miss Canadian Thanksgiving. However, I have a quiet reflective meal with my son. Happy American Thanksgiving to you.

    Gary 🙂

    1. Enjoy your last Thursday of November. At least we all share that!

      Thanks for your laughs these last few months, Gary, and glad to hear you are having a quiet, reflective meal with the son. Make time to have as many of those as possible this coming year, and all the days of your lives.

      Stay positive, my friend. 🙂

  11. Oh, dear. I see you’re serving Big Bird for dinner. Did I neglect to tell you I’m (suddenly) a vegetarian? 😉

    I thank you, Mike, for being my friend. It’s been a difficult, thought-provoking year for many of us, like herding writers through the barbed wire with cattle prods. I have loved our impromptu stories on FaceBook and having friends like you makes life more meaningful.

    I’m so glad your sister has you there for her. Bless you both.

    1. Bless you, River, and thank you for being my friend. It has been a joy volleying ideas back and forth until some silly story has developed. Seriously. A blast. It’s little things like that that let you get to know a person. And, you know, I like you. 😉

      Take care…and don’t worry, Big Bird only ate corn, so that’s vegetarian.

  12. Amen, brother. My trials are different, as in I’m not the caregiver, but the one being cared for, and I can easily say that 2013 has been the hardest year of my life. And then it got worse. Yet in it all, God is faithful. I forget that in my take-charge fix-it-myself personality. “Sit still and know that I am God.” Been working on that. And doing more listening instead of talking while praying…I’m a wordy girl, as you’ve probably noticed.
    Glad you can be grateful in the midst of all of this. You’re in my prayers and I don’t say that lightly. You’re my inhaler friend. Perhaps this post will help, if you’re curious.

    http://kmdlifeisgood.blogspot.com/2012/02/of-brevity-and-chapstick-friends.html

    Tina @ Life is Good

    1. Hey Tina. Good to see you. You put it nicely, for I too, am a take-charge, fix-it-myself kind of guy. Be still. Yep. Listen. Another yep. In the midst of trials, gratitude doesn’t seem like the natural thing to do, which is precisely why we should do it. It is supernatural—a divine trait that we must work toward to obtain peace. I will check out this post, because you do have my curiosity up.

    1. Annalisa,

      Dare I say things can only get better? Or is that tempting fate? Because I guess things could get worse, but I sure don’t want to see it!

      Yes, keeping track of the blessings leads to a better disposition in the grand scheme of things. Thanks for coming by. 🙂

  13. Hey, Mike. Hang in there, man. We’ll add one more cliche to your list: What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger — unless it’s malaria, of course.

    Your recovering optimism and stamina will transcend the vicissitudes of the past year. Life eventually squirts its yellow trickle on somebody else for a change, and and we think your Jobian turn must be close to up!

  14. The year didn’t go according to plan AT ALL for me either. I totally concur the year deviated greatly from my voted upon and accepted schedule, too. It reminds me of a quote I heard that goes, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him YOUR plans.” Seems befitting, doesn’t it?

    You are so correct our trials ready us for our next battle and future entanglements. That’s so well said, my friend.

    Congrats on your awards (I remember those TV shows, too), you’re much deserving of them. Hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving.

  15. I bitch a lot about not having as much time to write as I would like, and heaven knows this year has not been a productive year for me at all, but overall I’m still thankful for everything that I have. Perhaps writing will go more smoothly next year. Happy Thanksgiving.

    1. Hey Nina, and thanks for coming over. Yes…such an affirming action, and it is indeed taking action. We can lament about our woes all we want; that’s doing nothing but sitting there and feeling victimized. Or we can take action. Unplug from that thinking…change the mind’s circuitry from the unpleasant to the pleasant. Makes quite a difference in our outlook and behavior.

      Thanks again for the visit, and I hope your Thanksgiving was excellent.

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