Day 12: Dear Bethany

*Today’s post is written by a frequent contributor, former co-worker, and wonderful friend, Debra Dickey. When Debra sent this to me yesterday, it surprised me, it humbled me, and it overwhelmed me with gratitude for HER. That’s the beautiful thing about gratitude–when someone expresses it to me and thanks me for being me, I naturally want to do the same in return, and to others as well.*

Dear Friend,

FriendHow are you?  Fine, I hope.  All’s well here.  Trust the same with you.  You know, the other day I was thinking about how fortunate I have been to know you, and that you should know how grateful I am for the generous opportunities that you have shared, and continue to share, with me that have been integral in the direction and flow of the path that a certain part of my life has taken.  Your unselfishness, exuberance, strength and integrity are beacons that shine clear and bright on any given day!  I enjoy conversations with you, as well as spending time with you – whenever our schedules allow for that.

This pretty much began when I first got to know you — your work ethic and positive personality impressed me right away!  And who wouldn’t notice your laughter and wonderful sense of humor!  All too soon you moved to a different position, and then, as now, I rarely saw you anymore.  Hmm, obviously there was a ‘plan’ already in place (imagine that!) — I just didn’t know it yet.    But I knew you were doing great things.   Although I was new and didn’t quite have my bearings yet, in time, you encouraged and supported me as I wrestled with the ‘loyalty vs. new setting’ decision to make the timely move to your office and begin working with you.  My friend, it was one of the best decisions I ever made!!!  I will always be grateful that you were the reason for that excellent opportunity.

BethanyI LOVED working with you!  You were fun, and made the job fun.  Not only did you teach me the practices and protocols for our essential job functions (while having fun!), but this was also the time frame when I got to know the extraordinary people who are so very important in my everyday work environment, as well as the ins and outs of this particular community to optimize those professional interactions that will always be so critical in creating efficiency and positive outcomes in my job.  Who could ask for better on-the-job training?  Awesome!

I will tell you that I initially wrestled with that decision because I was going through some dreadful mind-numbing stuff in my life and did not want that baggage to leak over and create issues in my work life … only later did I learn that you were struggling with your own heavy burdens and encumbrances that were creating a terrible heartache and sadness in your own life.   Incredibly, you still always gave 110%, and never failed to exemplify professionalism with your positive attitude, your innovative and creative ideas, and your daily acts of kindness.  I’m infinitely grateful for such a great work and mentoring experience.

Never to be the same, this association ended way too soon, as you were off to other places in pursuit of more suitable climates.  I understood, but I missed you!  However, in your graciousness, you continued to stay in touch with me, which almost made up for your absence.   I was very glad that you found time in your busy life to stay connected – so thoughtful!  It meant a lot to me.

My friend Debra with my daughter

My friend Debra with my daughter

After some ramblings combined with a wonderful new life, lo and behold, you are back, almost next door – Yay!  And continuing in your typical style of generosity, you are now allowing me the amazing opportunity to broaden my horizons yet again by accepting my attempts at creative writing to post on your blog. Thank you for this, before now, unrealized opportunity.  Another heartening endeavor for me at this point in my life.

I am grateful for all these things and more – I am grateful for you. I delight in your successes, I cherish how much you have shared with me, I am touched by your experiences, and I am your biggest cheerleader!

I appreciate your friendship through it all.  Thank you, Bethany,

Love, Debra

Day 11: Dear Peacemakers

*Big thanks to my friend and former college roommate, Sarah Donaghy, for sharing her grateful thoughts on Day 11 of the Dear Gratitude project.*

The hardest part about being a guest blogger this month was deciding to whom or what I should write my letter of gratitude. I dwell in gratitude. Even in times when nothing is going right, and I see challenges on every front, I still feel grateful. When I choose to sit in disappointment, anger, pain, or sadness, I still feel grateful. Living in gratitude is a choice, and it’s a practice that works for me. So, as I looked forward to writing this post, I’ve spent the last few days with lots of ideas rattling around my head… dear hugs, dear change, dear Mom, dear adventure, dear garden full of weeds, dear Mary Oliver, dear loss, dear name of friend, dear name of another friend, dear body, dear education, dear Louis CK, dear pets, dear modern appliances, and so on.

Over the past few days I have also received a number of reminders that Veteran’s Day is coming up. The first was when a member of the local food club asked if the Monday pick-up would be rescheduled due to the holiday. I looked at him blankly. “What holiday?” I thought. He read my mind. The second was when an aunt let me know that a package she mailed to me would arrive on Tuesday since the USPS won’t be making its rounds on Monday. The third was the cover of the Sunday newspaper’s magazine section promoting a special report inside titled, “What Did You Do in the War, Mommy?” about the challenges servicewomen who are mothers face in coming home after a deployment.

It then occurred to me that Bethany would be publishing my letter on Veteran’s Day. Thus began the second hardest part of my task… how to address my letter and what I would say in a letter expressing my gratitude.

 

Dear Veterans – Thank you.

 

Or

 

Dear Grandpa – You talked about “the war” like New Yorkers talk about “the city”… sure, there are other cities, but none of them compare to your city. The war defined you, and the war never really ended for you, and thus, the war is something that defined and never really ended for my mom and her siblings as well. A generation removed, the war – your war – certainly impacted my life as it was a major influence in the way my mother lived and parented. While I remember many an afternoon sitting on the blue sectional couch in front of the picture window looking at the Bridger Mountains and listening to your war stories, the first things that come to mind when I think of you as my grandpa are your grilled cheese sandwiches, the way your jeans hung on you, your love of ice cream, riding in your truck to check on the cows, your hugs, and your incredible generosity – to me and to complete strangers. I hope there are no wars wherever you are now.

 

Or

 

Dear Grandpa – I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing you directly but I know it was a pleasure for those who did, particularly your family. You were also in the war… the same war and yet, it seems it was an entirely different experience for you. You rarely, if ever, spoke of your experience. In fact, one of the few “war stories” recounted on that side of the family is about your wife, my Grandma Lulu, taking the train across the country – from New York City (the city) to Seattle – to see you when you were stateside, a visit during which, I think the story goes, my father, your first child, was planted. So while I’m sure the war had more of an impact on your life than you spoke about upon return, it’s not what comes to mind when I think of you as my grandpa, and I’m confident saying it’s not the first thing that comes to mind when your children think of you as their father. I hope that you and my dad are enjoying each other again, and I hope there are no wars wherever you guys are now.

 

Or

 

Dear Man I Met in a Bar a Few Months Ago – I only met you once, but you have the honor of being someone I will likely always remember because I was celebrating the launch of RadSab that night. I only remember a handful of things you told me about yourself, and I don’t recall if it was Iraq or Afghanistan or with what branch of the military, but you said you were there a few years ago. I couldn’t help but think of how that must have been for your daughters – I remember you have two of them, girls old enough to have known you were away and likely why you were away and how hard that must have been for them… how hard that must have been for you.

 

Or

 

Dear Couple I Recently Had the Opportunity to Reconnect With – You were amazingly open and honest with a group of mostly strangers, and having your participation was my favorite part of our discussion course. You guys are a reminder to me that people’s stories don’t start at the point where I meet them. Something I didn’t know about you, Mr., was that you were a Marine, and I appreciate what you shared about that experience. I’m not sure if that was before or after the Mrs. became such, but I couldn’t help but think of how that recent part of your young life must factor into your marriage. I love how brave you are with each other, and I look forward to knowing both of you more.

 

Those are all important things to say, especially thank you, to people who have touched my life in one way or another. And thank you is always enough, but it’s simply too short when Bethany the Blog Boss has asked for a page.

Drawing on some loosely planted Quaker roots, I’ve decided to go with…

 

Dear Peacemakers,

Thank you. You have my gratitude.

I think peace begins within each of us. For me, dwelling in gratitude, practicing mindfulness, and cultivating joy are essential.

 

The Peace of Wild Things

by Wendell Berry

 

014When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

 

With our voices, our wallets, our votes, and our service, we each have opportunities to sow seeds of peace in our communities, in our country, in our world.

Thank you, Peacemakers. You have my gratitude.

Love and good wishes,

Sarah

Day 10: Dear Caroline

*Day 10’s post comes from my college friend Kelly Williams Barnett, who has become a great mom of a beautiful little girl.*

Dear Caroline,

CarolineThank you for making most days crazy socks day.

Thank you for helping me avoid stepping on hot lava.

Thank you for placing the bookmark in my book before closing it and climbing into my lap.

Thank you for reintroducing me to the awesome art of Lisa Frank.

Thank you for giving the best hugs.

Thank you for enjoying going to the movies as much as I do.

Thank you for sharing your Halloween candy.

Thank you for choosing to drink water instead of cokes 99 percent of the time.

Thank you for loving hot pink boots, rainbow zebra print, peace signs and glitter lip gloss.

Thank you for thinking I’m always right.

Thank you for getting me back in church.

Thank you for loving school.

Thank you for your kind, caring heart.

Most of all, I thank you for bringing so much joy into my life. caroline 1

You are my favorite!

 

Day 9: Dear Pate

*Thanks to Mary Agrusa, a fellow blogger, for writing the entry for Day 9 of the Dear Gratitude project!*

I’m honored to contribute to Bethany’s blog this month. I dedicate this post to my sister.

Dear Pate,

Photo courtesy of Phoopla Photography at www.phoopla.com

Photo courtesy of Phoopla Photography at http://www.phoopla.com

As one of the two remaining members of our immediate family, I’m happy to spend these final chapters of my life with you. You’re amazing.

Opposites can attract; however, as kids we often withdrew to our respective corners to avoid the weird one. You’re probably right on this point. Today, our differences add depth and dimension to our relationship. I love you exactly the way you are.

Despite personal experiences to the contrary, you remain unswervingly devoted to your family. You’ve never been afraid to enter the arena and take the bull by the horns. I’m more apt to stay safely behind the wall to venture out only if and when the dust settles. You are one brave woman.

A true champion of the underdog, you’re willing to spend yourself and your resources to help others despite your own needs. You have the heart of a giver.

Circumstances beyond our control kept us apart for too many years. Mom’s death brought us back together. Although we can no longer traverse the Metro D.C. area as before, any time we spend together is priceless. You are a treasure.

I thank God for giving me a person of excellence, courage, determination, generosity and love for a sister. I am truly blessed.

I Love You,

Mary

 

 

Day 7: Dear women

*Thanks to my friend Kenton Adler (AKA Ken Doll) for utilizing his wit while writing this heartfelt post for Day 7 of the Dear Gratitude project this November.*

Dear Women,

Thank you.  Thank you VERY much.  I am not kidding.  I am so thankful for women; it’s kind of ridiculous.

Obviously, my mother was a woman.  I thank her for my very existence.  That’s a given I guess.  I also thank her for exposing me to so many things, like the car trip with her and my dad to South Dakota the summer between second and third grade in 1964.  I got to see the Great Plains, Dinosaur Park, Mt. Rushmore, and then we went down through Wyoming and Colorado where I saw the Rockies,  a volcano in New Mexico, and a different kind of desolation in north Texas.  I thank her for the trip to New York City around my 13th birthday, when we went up in the Empire State building, and later I got a copy of “Yellow Submarine.”  I thank her for letting me sit in the kitchen and play the latest Beatles song I’d learned on guitar while she cooked dinner after a long day at work. I’m thankful for the spring car trip with her and my brother in 1974 when we drove all over New Mexico and down to El Paso and Juarez.  My whole life she took me to parties with artists and crafts people from around the world.  She taught me manners, which I occasionally use, and a thing or two about good taste.  I thank her for putting me up on trips to Dallas in the early 1980s when she was living there.  Later in the ‘80s she sent me an airline ticket to San Francisco that accompanied tickets to the San Francisco Opera to see all four nights of Wagner’s “Ring Cycle” in one week.  She could be a little bit annoying at times because she liked to have everything her way, but overall she introduced me to a lot of remarkable things that a lot of other people I knew never experienced as I did growing up.  I thank her for talking frankly with me about her  terminal cancer when I was taking a class on death and dying in 1986.  She died at the age of 52 in 1988.  I’m nearly 58 now, and that weirds me out a little bit.

I’m thankful for my grandmother, Mam Ma Deaton.  She was my mom’s mom, and she taught me how to drink coffee.  We would often be the first ones up when I stayed at her house sometimes on weekends.  She was raised a farm girl and got up real early.  My coffee was mostly milk and sugar, with just enough coffee to turn it a little brown.  She would play country gospel on the radio, or sometimes sing herself as she fried sausage or bacon, or made eggs for breakfast.  She gave me my early love for harmony and fried food.  I’m also thankful for her teaching me about gardening by handing me a little shovel and letting me work with her in the dirt while she planted flowers and vegetables.  She let me go off and play in the woods down the street from her house, and she would hand me a hatchet and let me chop on an old stump on the side of the house until I was worn out.  Sometimes she would make me get a switch and would put a few welts on my calves.  I usually deserved it, and it made me a terrific dancer.  I thank her for nickels to take up to Mrs. Walker’s store, for MANY stories and songs and for unconditional love for the short time I knew her.  She died at the age of 60 in 1967.

I want to say thank you for every single girl I ever loved.  From kindergarten on, I always loved somebody.  I never really bought the whole, “Girls have Cooties,” thing.  Thanks to the little girl across the street who let me kiss her, even though my baseball cap kept whacking her in the forehead.   Thanks to the girl in third grade who didn’t die of embarrassment when I wrote a song about her and got the local radio station to record it and play it on the air.  She let me kiss her by the apartments up the street. Thank you to the little girl who liked me when we moved to Colorado, and let me walk her home from school and tell her about Batman and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. with my funny Arkansas accent.  I never did get to kiss her, and that bothers me a little, but I did sing songs to her over the phone.  I am thankful for my high school girlfriend who was a great kisser.   I’m even grateful for the girls who didn’t love me back, for whatever reason.  All of those I wrote love notes to that didn’t get answered, or those who already had a date to the dance, those who had to wash their hair on nights when they could have gone out with me, or those who met someone else and went away.  I learned something from every one of them.  Or at the very least had the pleasure of seeing them and appreciating whatever the beautiful thing about them was that fascinated me in the first place.  Thank you to every girl who ever kissed me in a car, or her front porch, or on the couch,  in the middle of a bridge, on a mountain pass, or out in the woods by the river, or wherever else we might have had a romantic moment or two.  To every woman who ever inspired a poem or a song to work its way out of me, whether happy or sad, I thank you.

I spent a year in 1978 and 1979 living on an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean.  There were no women there except for an occasional visitor.  I’m thankful for the singer from a USO band that had to stay over an extra night because of a mechanical problem on the transport plane.  She talked to me for over an hour at the radio station, just sitting on the floor in the hall outside the studio.  It was my birthday.  I’m also thankful for the governor’s administrative assistant on another island off the coast of Indonesia.  She was Australian, looked a bit like Olivia Newton John with dark hair, and even though she didn’t drag me off in the bushes, she told her friend that she wanted to.  That was quite a nice compliment.  Not being around women most of the time was really strange.  Not just because of the obvious, but because there was no feminine influence of any kind out there.  It made me appreciate even more the softness, or the different kind of strength, the emotion, and the nice smells that women bring to the table. Thanks for the nice smell that T.J. brought to the table after I got back to the U.S. and was out at a bar one night with my buddies.  She smelled really great.  It got to where I could find something wonderful about just about every woman met after that year.  Thanks to every woman who never realized that I appreciated some aspect of her being and just WAS.  Like the beautiful blonde girl on The Tube in London in 1989 who smiled at me when I gave up my seat to an older woman carrying shopping bags.  That girl validated what my mother had taught me.

Thank you especially to my beautiful, brilliant and talented wife who finally found me when I was about 48 and eventually agreed to marry me and be around all the time.  I enjoy looking at her pretty face, appreciate her wit, and relish her excellent ideas which inspire me to try harder to do cool things.  I enjoy her cooking, and her musical talent, and I am extremely thankful for her skills as a grammarian and editor.  She’s the world’s greatest traveling companion and musigator.  She’s off right now getting an advanced degree, and I will be thankful when she comes home and is able to keep me in the manner to which I would like to become accustomed.

I could go on all day.  I’ve known hundreds, or more likely thousands of women over the years.  Some friends, some fellow students, some co-workers, some bosses, some relatives, and finally one who is my wife.  I am thankful for every single one of you and what you brought to enrich my life.

Seriously.  Thanks.

Kenton

Day 6: Dear wonderful life

*I’m excited to post the second entry by a child this month written by Alexander Tenace. It warms my heart to read words of gratitude written by someone so young. Thanks to his mom and dad, Isabelle and Edward, for allowing him to participate in the Dear Gratitude project!*

TenaceI’m thankful for everything like my dad and my mom. Because without a mom or dad I would be poor and sad. I am thankful because my parents love me.

I am thankful for my camera because I can take photos. I am thankful for my spy phone because it can record people’s voices and I’m also thankful for my leap pad because I can play games on it.

I’m also thankful for a team! The team is the Baltimore Ravens. I like them because they have Joe Flacco. I am thankful for school because I can learn stuff like math and reading.

I am thankful for friends because they are nice to me.

Day 5: Dear Doctor

*Thanks to my friend Henry Petty for serving as Day 5’s writer during my Dear Gratitude project!*

404838_10200636179807744_1229644121_nSome will write letters about being thankful for parents, loved ones, moms, dads, clergy, what have you.  My letter of thanks is not to those types of people; this is a letter of thanks to the healthcare providers in my life.

These people don’t even require my thanks.  They have told me this point blank, and when I try thanking them for what they do, they tell me, “I don’t require any ‘thanks’– it’s my job.”  Outside of paying my co-payment/co-insurance/deductible, it just doesn’t seem like it’s enough.  And with the contracted rates they have with insurance companies, it DEFINITELY isn’t enough for what they do, and especially what they have done for me.

I have regular visits to my nurse practitioner, and through the years we have really grown closer.  I would even venture to call her a friend.  I’ve gone in with a bad knee after a run, and we will get to talking about how my financial portfolio is looking (she recently graduated from the Dave Ramsey financial classes), or how I’m managing stress at work.  We hug, and they’re the best hugs.  This is why I want to enter the field as a nurse practitioner or physicians’ assistant because they are more in tune with a patient’s long-term care than a regular M.D. who visits them for a few minutes then moves on to the next patient.

A sleep study doctor went over my sleep study results, and then he launched into a monologue about Zig Ziglar and how he teaches about looking at oneself in the mirror while repeating incantations to boost self-esteem–certainly nothing he learned in Medical School.  However, he still was compelled to teach me this.

My regular nurse practitioner has guided me through some tough times in my life. We have laughed and shed tears together. She has given me tough love tips, and she has guided me in a way that has helped me grow stronger internally and become a more confident man.  All the while, she has also managed my blood pressure down to a manageable number.

I recall a time I had come in for some lower back pain, and she told me the way I had been speaking it felt like chewing on tin foil, at how tensed up I was, and asked me what was wrong.  This wasn’t part of her “patient checkup.” This was something she noticed on the metaphysical side.  We talked for the next 30 minutes about life’s issues, and I worked through it.  And I got an Rx for ibuprofen for my back.

I am thankful to her for empowering me to be a better man.  I’m also thankful to have the means in order to seek care and take better care of myself, something I did not have the luxury or access to in my 20’s.

These people in the medical field are those we get to know through our lives.  Maybe it’s short-term, long enough to take care of that nagging cold, or maybe it’s long-term care.  But they are there for us, and I am truly grateful for their service.  These people really DO care for us in a much deeper way than an x-ray or lab work.  Believe that.