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“Take the time to focus on yourself.  Appreciate and give thanks for your unique personality, skills and talents.”

Wow, where to start…

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One of the reasons I have been slam dunking this Gratitude Challenge:) is because it’s a topic that has been pretty central to our lives the past few months.  Let’s face it, my kids are going to grow up spoiled rotten – too much attention, too much resources, too much stuff.  Am I bitter because it’s so different than how I grew up – hell yeah I’m bitter!:)  In all seriousness, there’s just not much we can do to prevent the fact that kids in this area, in this day and age will grow up very differently than Polly or I did.  So a topic that’s been on our minds from the day our kids were born was how to raise them to be good people – since we can’t avoid spoiled kids, the least we can do is raise good citizens.

A few months ago, we started a dinnertime tradition because we were trying to teach Emily mostly how to truly be thankful and say thanks without a constant reminder.  We started a notebook and each night, all four of us had to answer 3 questions:

1  What was the nicest thing you did today?

2  What is the nicest think you did today?

3  What is your favorite memory from today?

Most days, pretty generic stuff and of course Cooper’s responses were downright non-sensical or hilarious.  But some days, Emily would say something that was mindblowing.  Anyway, I diverge from the main point – I’ve been knocking the cover off the ball on this Gratitude Challenge…

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So with the idea of giving thanks already squarely in our cross hairs before the Gratitude Challenge, my one thing, person, place or moment that I’m writing about today to give thanks to (Day 14 blog Challenge) is Second Harvest.  Great organization we’ve been involved with for awhile – if you don’t know much about it, I encourage you to click through and read for yourself.  Anyway, about a year ago, we started participating in their family day – once every 3 months or so, they hold a family sort day on a Saturday where you can bring kids 4 years or older to sort food.  It’s as much educational as it is actually helpful as you can imagine with often time 10-15 small kids running around.

They show you a video of how hunger is a problem in our area, and how Second Harvest volunteers can help.  They encourage parents to explain what they’re doing in advance of the sort and make the entire experience educational.  So while Cooper is still a couple of years away from being able to help, we’ve been dragging him along since Emily turned 4.  Each time we go, we try to incorporate more complex ideas of helping.

This past Saturday was another family sort, and the night before, Emily took out $7.41 from her piggy bank for the “kiddies on TV” as she says it.  We brought it with us in a ziplock bag to the sorting facility, and she handed it over after she was done sorting food for about an hour.  So, for today’s Challenge, I am grateful for Second Harvest and other organizations that take time, money and resources away from their day to day to help educate the next generation of givers – an investment that may not pay off for decades but one that is truly an important investment in our future.

My formidable Challenger had tasked me with focusing on one of my 5 senses for the day and discovering the many gifts through that one portal.

whiteboard

I am a highly visible person – I’ll sit in meetings where I have no idea what is going on until someone writes it down or draws it out on the whiteboard – yes, I did just implicate my own IQ.  You come to my house and you’ll see all kinds of photos, kids art and other reminders of memories tacked up everywhere.  I also am a fairly physical person (with certain people).  But for the past 12 or so hours, I decided to take myself out of my comfort element and focus on the least utilized sense – taste.

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Least utilized because I associate taste with food – I would venture most do.  But here is how I would describe my palette.  Since we’ve been in our office (about a year), I’ve had probably 100 Roger’s Deli ultimate combo breakfast sandwiches (same everytime) for lunch, on a daring day, I might try the tuna melt.  I’ve had another at least 100 Subway flatbread toasted Italian sandwiches also.  And if I had to, no let me take that back, it would be my pleasure to have a Chipotle carnitas bowl with pinto, pico de gallo, medium salsa, cheese, sour cream, guacamole (extra) and lettuce 3x a day, 365 days a year for the rest of my life.  Point is, I really do not care what I eat – never have, likely never will.  So I thought it would be fun to focus on taste for the day to see if there was any way I could discover gifts through this sense.

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Here’s how my morning began – Cooper, still fasting.  Just sitting there at the breakfast table doing everything but eating.  I got so fed up, I took him into his room where he proceeded to cry after I shut the door and left for work.  So a bit removed from taste but meal-related.  I felt horrible the whole morning.  But what is the gift?  The gift was regret – a reminder to myself to control my temper, to remember that a 2 year old who doesn’t want to eat is doing so to piss me off or because he is not hungry.  Not because he is sick nor because we aren’t able to put nutritious food on the table – for that I should be grateful.

Next came lunch – I had an opportunity to skip the Roger’s Deli sandwich and have lunch with a former colleague and someone that also worked with me at my wife’s company several years ago.  Over a salad, it reminded me memories that hadn’t surfaced in years and the appreciation of friendship and working together for someone I hadn’t seen in over 3 years.  Again, bit of a stretch, but meal-related.

End of the day finished off with a pizza party at my wife’s new office, which luckily is 2 buildings down from our office now.  Over pizza and beers for a quick stopover to congratulate the team, I felt grateful for all of the accomplishments of another start-up dream that continues, one where people are able to be proud of moving into a much needed larger space and of course having that family and my wife closer to me during the day.

Back home for dinner, Cooper is taking a break from his fast, which is always a celebration for Polly and me.  But as I consume the wonderful dinner on the table, because I am focusing on taste, I’m reminded again how amazing it is that Polly takes such great care of us and enjoys replenishing our bodies with nutrition and taste.  It’s also a reminder of how lucky we are to be able to sit together over a meal.  I think of families who can’t – because they live far apart, because they have to work multiple jobs, because someone is sick and can’t be with them, because they don’t like each other.  Sure at that exact same time as we were having dinner, hundreds of millions of people around the world probably were doing the same thing, but that doesn’t take away from the specialness.  In my little ecosystem, a simple meal where everyone is healthy, present and hopefully eating is heaven.

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I felt so bad from the morning, I had decided on my way to the office that I’d scarf down dinner and throw the kids in the pool.  Cooper and Emily were ecstatic.  While the three of us were horsing around in the water, as I often do I swallowed a small amount of water accidentally.  The warm, salty water (perhaps Cooper had just finished heating the pool the natural way?), was once again a reminder of my Challenge and it heightened the sense of gratitude – gratitude on again having 2 healthy kids that share the love of water that I have, how a simple everyday moment like a quick dip in the pool could me feel like there was nowhere else on the planet I’d rather be.

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All this writing and thinking about taste is making me thirsty, I think I’ll finish off the assignment with a beer…

Badge of Honor Earned

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Day 7 – Video Post

Record how these past 2 weeks have affected my life.  Many have told me that I have a face for radio, so I’m bending the rules a bit here and attaching one of my all time favorite videos – of my kids of course.  Cooper just turned 2 and Emily is 4 here…

Click here to watch this short clip of my kids kneeling for their nightly prayer.  Now, I’m not your put on a suit and go to church every Sunday morning kind of guy.  In fact, we go to church about once a year on Easter.  But I have a pretty strong faith and equally strong views on religion – somewhat unorthodox probably, like the rest of my views.  So this wasn’t an attempt to convert my kids, I just think it’s important for them to learn to be thankful to even those they can’t see.  So we’ve had this habit of saying this particular prayer every single night, we call it our thank you Jesus prayer.

Now that they’ve been saying this prayer word for word, they’ve started to improvise (e.g., the big bad wolf part of the video).  Some nights, they’re down right hilarious.  Other times, like when one of them is sick and the other without prompting asks Jesus to help their sibling feel all better, it brings tears to my eyes.  We should take lesson from these toddlers to take a few seconds at least once a day to give thanks.

As far as how the Challenge has changed my life?  Not much really – I’ve always gone through life thankful for all that I’m blessed with.  Has it made me more considerate and thoughtful?  I hope not, I hope I was considerate and thoughtful before the exercise, but writing my thoughts down or blogging or calling someone on the specific mission of saying thanks – it’s been nice to have such wonderful acts so front and center where daily life can get pretty hectic.  Not to toot my own horn here, but I think I’m pretty much kicking this Challenge’s butt so far.

As for what I’m thankful for today?  Remember that vegetable garden from my staycation?  First green shoots – maybe we will get the combines out to harvest our veggies after all!

Something I appreciate about what I have.  This could be broadly interpreted, and in theme with the Challenge, I’ll be talking about something near and dear to my heart.  Sure I could talk about my most cherished things in life – family, work, health, yada yada.  But what I want to talk about is a treasured material possession…

My mini-van.  It’s not meant to be funny – this epitome of post-modern automobile innovation has changed my life.

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Just take a look at this shining example of luxury, comfort and utility.  Words escape me, but I shall try.  It drives like an ultimate driving machine (sort of), is as comfortable as my living room, hauls like an 18-wheeler and looks killer on the road.  Sure there are some downsides – the constant barrage of mini-van jokes from friends and family.  But I chalk this up to inexperience – once you drive one, you’re the converted.  In all seriousness, this is an amazing possession when you have two high maintence kids that have to travel with half their bedrooms wherever they go.  And the thing I appreciate most – it transports my family (extended in many cases) comfortably and safely, what more could I ask for.