Grateful for knowledge

 

Last night I turFullSizeRender 6ned in my final assignment for the semester, my first semester as a grad student in creative writing. There was quite a bit of celebrating as I hit the submit button, I admit, but also a bit of sadness.

This semester has been a mixture of emotions. I have been out of school for several years, since having earned my MBA. Working at an educational institution, I caught the thirst for knowledge again and decided to pursue another degree — creative writing — while working my full-time job in marketing. I took two classes this semester — one online and one in person. I remember my first class and a wave of gratitude came over me for the knowledge I had the privilege of acquiring. And, believe me, I know what a privilege it is to be able to learn.

Then, reality set in. Assignments started to pile up and I evenings and weekends were consumed with reading, writing and researching. I admit the gratitude waned a bit and I started to have a love-hate relationship with my classes (as most students do). I even dubbed my homework spot in my house “the cave.”

But, as the semester wrapped up, I started to feel sad. I’ll never get a “first semester back” with these classes and my fellow students again. Yes, there will be another semester, but none will ever be quite the same.

I’m so grateful.

To my cheerleaders who had to listen to me groan as I spent hours in my cave, thank you.

I’m so grateful for the gift of knowledge and so grateful for the semesters to come.

The passing of a pen pal

IMG_2736“Dear Brandy, I am sorry to tell you that your mail art friend Andrea, has passed away…”

Today, upon arriving home from work a letter was waiting for me. I’m sitting here at my computer tearfully typing out this post — a beautiful soul left this earth. Her wit, humor and creativity will never arrive in my mailbox again.

My first communication with Andrea was in 2009 when we were matched as pen pals on a letter-writing site. I remember how carefully I wrote my letter — all formal and stuff and then hers arrived a short while later, a colorfully-decorated envelope arrived from Andrea, who lived in Staten Island. Inside she had written on a series of six sticky notes and the letter started out like this “Dear Brandy, oh wow … a new pen pal! My God — Kansas! The only thing I know about Kansas I learned from the Wizard of Oz. I can’t even imagine Kansas!”

I knew right away I had crossed paths with someone truly special. We wrote back and forth from then on, exchanging life stories, tid bits about ourselves, all while supporting the United States Post Office through the art of handwritten letters. Even though we never met in person we were friends — and we learned so much about one another by putting pen to paper.

In one letter she inquired about living next to a corn field “I can’t imagine living next door to a corn field,” she exclaimed and she wanted more details about what it’s like to live next to corn. In another letter she sent me cut outs from a poetry book she bought for $1 at a church store — it was really bad poetry to which she captioned “holy shit!”

She had a dog named “loose fur,” because it was always shedding. I remember when Loose Fur died — how even she was able to apply some humor to Loose Fur’s passing stating that she was still finding his fur all over the place. It’s funny how you can share so much in letters.

A couple of years ago I received a postcard that she had Leukemia. Her wit even came through on that postcard when she ranted about the pharmaceutical companies and the cost of her medication. I had no idea at the time, that in less than two years she’d be gone.

Andrea wrote her own obit, according to her kind friend who wrote me. In that obit she wrote, “I wish I’d get a disease with an easier spelling.” Typical humor from her. She has a monument where she’ll be buried later, which reads “Wish you were here.” I can totally see her writing that.

My heart is heavy tonight as I type this. She will be missed so much by so many and I can’t believe I’ll never be able to write her again. I saved every single piece of mail I received from her and I’m truly glad I did.

Andrea Jay, 69. Teacher. Writer. Vegan. Mail artist. Friend. I’ll miss you.

P.S. I’m going to try that sesame seed tofu ball recipe you sent me in 2012 in your honor.

Kindness. Matters.

img_2288Today, while in a restaurant that was busier than normal due to a weather-related event cancelation, I witnessed several scenes that made me realize just how much kindness matters in this world we live in.

We managed to claim a booth in the seat-yourself restaurant, which had not been cleaned up yet. The diners before us left the worst mess possible. I felt sad for the waitress as she came over looking frantic trying to make sure we had a clean place to eat. I could tell it had already been a rough breakfast shift for her and the others. It took a while to get drinks and much longer than that for food, but, I knew this was going to be the case. I didn’t mind. I took the opportunity to take a break from the cold rain, the hustle of homework and just enjoy the company I had.

At a table in front of me I witnessed a lady yell at a waitress because her food took too long. The waitress politely apologized and walked away. The lady continued to sit at the table looking angry. I turned to my own waitress, thanked her for her hard work to which she replied “thank you. It’s people like you that are understanding that make this bearable.”

Kindness.

Similar scenes like this continued to play out — I wondered what would happen if every table was a little more understanding. Or if the circumstances were reversed and they were the ones having to deal with people just like them.

Another scene played out at a table across from me where a customer was very loudly airing his political beliefs, making sure as many people heard him as possible, even looking around to see who might be paying attention. I won’t go into detail as I do not want to polarize my blog, but his words were very unkind, inhumane and insulting. And it made me so sad. I do not understand the need to spout hate, sending a series poisoned arrows out to see how many people you can hurt. What is the purpose of that? What kind of person do you have to be on the inside? I believe it must be a very dark head space in which to live in…But, that’s not really what I came to write about.

Moments like these remind of who I do NOT want to be — it reaffirms why I do what I do — by writing handwritten thank you notes, by leaving my gratitude cards in places like that busy restaurant and other random acts of kindness that I choose to do quietly without anyone knowing. People that I encountered and listened to today are my inspiration for spreading kindness.

I hope if you’re reading this you’ll consider performing a random act of kindness or simply saying thank you to your busy waitress or anyone else who is in the service industry. Reach out to someone who is hurting. Take chocolate to a coworker having a hard day. Send an email to a friend you haven’t heard from in a while. Or a host of other kind acts.

Friday, I wrote a thank-you note to a colleague who had sent popcorn to our office. She emailed me, thanked me and said the note wasn’t necessary. To which I replied “it was TOTALLY necessary.” What I didn’t include on this email is kindness, which took the form of that thank-you note in response to her popcorn she sent, is absolutely necessary in this world.  Kindness matters. It really matters.

The power of gratitude

img_2288Thank-you note writing has become a way of life for me — therapy after a hard day, a way for me to focus on what’s good in the world. In a world that harbors so much darkness, writing a quick thank-you note for anything from the ordinary to the extraordinary is my way of spreading joy in this world.

Lately I’ve found myself overwhelmed between grad school, a full-time career and just life in general. To say things are busy is an understatement, so I haven’t been taking as much time to sit down and write my thank-you notes. And I can tell the difference.

When I stop taking time for gratitude — something that has become so integral in my life — I can tell the difference in my attitude and my outlook.

Gratitude helps me be thankful for what I have. After all, that’s what gratitude is — being thankful. Even on the horrible days, there’s always something to be thankful for.

So, tonight, I am writing thank-you notes. I’m taking a break from everything else that’s been going on and thanking some people. I can already feel the difference, I already feel lighter.

And if you’re reading this, I’m grateful for you! Thank you for being a reader!

Gratefully yours,

Brandy

I see you

wpid-20150517_112813.jpgToday I wanted to focus on the people who get things done — in the background — ensuring we have things like clean floors, clean bathrooms and clean offices.

When you walk into a building and the floors are polished until they shine and the carpet is vacuumed — that doesn’t happen by itself. When you walk into your office with the trash dumped overnight — that doesn’t happen by itself either. Your fresh, clean hotel room? Nope, doesn’t happen by itself. A well-maintained building doesn’t just happen either.

To the people who work tirelessly in the background, I see you. To the person who makes sure the floors are mopped, the toilets are clean, I see you. I see you in the hallway, in the background, when everyone rushes by, not noticing the contribution you make to our lives. I see you. And I appreciate you. 

To all reading this, take time today to stop and thank the people behind the scenes. From the housekeeper to the maintenance employees. Their contribution to our daily lives is huge.

 

Kindness in a drive-thru

wp-1482785284567.jpgToday, I found kindness in a drive-thru, at our local Hardee’s in Emporia, Kansas.

Today, after being off work and grad school for a week, I found myself stressed out as I was trying to wrap up a couple of projects that are due right after returning to work and class this week.

As I pulled up to the drive-thru I was distracted, cranky and feeling stressed, my to-do list running rampant and un-checked in my mind. I ordered my Diet Dr. Pepper and was greeted by a kind, upbeat voice. She thanked me and I pulled around to the window, where I was again greeted by the kind crew member, who again thanked me and told me to have a nice day.

Her positive, upbeat attitude made a huge difference in mine and it really stuck with me all the way to my office, where I caught up on my homework for this week. It’s funny how that simple act of kindness helped me re-focus.

I just finished writing a thank-you note to the restaurant and included my original receipt — just hoping she gets the recognition at work that she deserves. Kindness is especially rare these days, and when you find it, it is certainly worth recognizing.

My closing thought: don’t underestimate kindness. Don’t underestimate the impact you’ll have on someone just by being that kind person. It doesn’t take much and can be as simple as a thank-you and a smile.

Been a while … still going strong

cropped-image1.jpegIts been a long while since I’ve posted on this blog. Life, grad school and my wonderful job have all taken my time.

Much of the gratitude postings I do now are either on my Facebook page or through hand-written notes (which are still being mailed out quite frequently).

This is a quick check-in. Life is going well. I’m very blessed on so many levels.

I hope this finds every reader well and happy. I am grateful for you!

 

So many blessings

wp-1482785284567.jpgOne of the greatest blessings in my life is gratitude. My project, 1,000 thank you notes, is going nicely. With that said, here is a bit of an update.

I spent the holiday weekend with my grandmother and visiting family. I kept a running list of who I needed to thank for various things over the weekend. The list kept growing from family members who hosted the gatherings, to gift-givers and to random kind strangers.

One young man from the local pizza parlor in Parsons drove to my grandmother’s home to return her checkbook she left there.

On Christmas Eve I woke up with vertigo that ended up being the result of a sinus infection and fluid in my ears. The staff at the local urgent care clinic was kind and I was able to enjoy the holiday with some antibiotics on board.

The day I left to go home, my grandma and I ate at a local diner. Food was good and the staff was very kind. Grandma says she’ll frequent that place now.

So many of my family members cooked amazing food over the holiday and gave so much to each other.

I went through an entire packet of thank-you cards today and almost an entire book of stamps. I wrote each note feeling a wealth of gratitude. When you get to go through an entire packet of notes in one sitting, you know you are richly blessed.

 

1,000 thank you notes update

wp-1478367299645.jpgThis week the first several thank-you notes have gone out for the 1,000 thank you notes project.

Each time I head to the mailbox and drop that thank-you card in it, I feel my own heart expanding in joy and gratitude. I know how much it means to receive a thank-you note — much more than the sender realizes.

I’m thanking people for big things, for small things, for everyday things, for extraordinary things. And everything in between.

As I go about each day I think of things I’m grateful for — and who to add to my thank-you list. In the past couple of weeks that I’ve been compiling my list, I am constantly looking for opportunities for gratitude. There are so many people to thank for so many reasons. And just by simply thinking in those terms and making that list, I am already amazed how much of a difference it makes in my thought process.

As always, thank you to everyone who is supportive of me and this project. I’m excited to be on this journey and to bring joy to others, one thank-you note at a time.

With gratitude,

B.

 

 

 

1,000 days of thankfuls

imageToday I hit my 1,000th day of posting what I’m grateful for on Facebook. And on Thanksgiving too!

One. Thousand. Days.

That’s a huge number — over three years of gratitude posting. See this post for an explanation of the project.

My journey began on Nov. 1, 2013, when I decided to start posting what I was grateful for during the month of November. One thousand posts later — I have no intention of stopping.

As I sit here reflecting on the past 1,000-plus days of my life, I feel a mixture of emotions. I feel joy, happiness, gratefulness and also some sadness. Three years is a lot of living and a lot of change.

It’s difficult to quantify the last 1,000 days of my life — so I’ll simply say this. I am so grateful I chose to keep going with this. I am thankful for each and every person who has read the posts. And I’m thankful for the project that I will now embark on — 1,000 thank-you notes. 

In a sense it feels like I’m starting over as I enter the four-digit mark for thankfuls. Embarking on another three years.

To my family and friends, thank you. You encouraged me to keep going and keep pushing toward this day. In posting about gratitude, I found a new way of thinking — taking even the most painful aspects of my life and finding gratitude. image

The following quote says it best:

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” Melody Beattie

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.