Heart in the Clouds

Sunday, November 20, 2011


It was a crazy week, but here I am on a Sunday evening. I'm freshly bubble-bathed and already cozy in my pajamas. I'm looking forward to the next three weeks because they will be busy, but "fun busy", which is the BEST kind of busy. So I'm taking my last evening of non-busyness and chillaxin'.

I'm grateful for...

1. Pushing through it. I did NOT feel like exercising today. In fact, I spent all morning and some of the afternoon in my PJs, just sitting on the couch and not moving. To me that's the nice thing about a Sunday. But I knew that I should be getting at least a little exercise, so I jogged on out of here and took a 45 minute run/walk. It was a good thing that I did. Exercise is good for the mind, as well as the body and it got me moving. After I got back, I ended up going out to do some grocery shopping because I had energy. Good times.

2. A discussion about gratitude. Last night's discussion at church was about gratitude. It's my favorite subject and it was really cool to hear everyone's take on it.

3. Roof insurance. Glad we have it. Glad they're paying for two new roofs for us (our house and House #2). Hail damage...didn't know we had any, but I'm glad we asked about it.

4. Thinking before I speak. Sometimes I don't and I always regret it. God is teaching me just to shut my pie hole sometimes and let HIM do the talking instead. He's better at it anyway.

5. Stuff to look forward to. The next three weeks have a lot in store--Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday); a visit from Norrain, our friend from across the ocean; I'm going to Kansas City to visit Jai and all my other friends there; my oldest child will be turning 9 and starting his last year of single digits (sniff sniff); and I'm going on a trip with my dad to attend his brother's memorial service in Austin--not a happy occasion, but I am glad I can go along with him to offer support.


Gratitude is so important for so many reasons and I hope you're able to get yourself to experience it often. For me, gratitude is humbling because it makes me realize how much I've been given, even though I don't deserve it. I know I don't. But that's the beauty of the love of God. It's lavish and extravagant and pours out blessings on a wretched, rotten person like me. I KNOW I don't deserve it and I never will.

I have darkness inside me and I don't often do or say the things I should. I'm not always a good example of a Christian. I'm not always a good mother. I'm not always a good wife, a good friend...or a good person, for that matter. I'm selfish. I'm prone to holding grudges. But God isn't...and I'm so very grateful for that. He always accepts me with open arms and holds me there next to his heart, no matter how many times I've pushed him away in the past. I'll never be able to repay Jesus for what he did for me, but I'm grateful that he doesn't expect me to. His gifts are always free.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

How Gratitude Improves Your Health

I found this article very interesting. There have actually been studies done about how the act of being grateful (and it IS a real act) is shown to improve your health. Check it out and tell me what you think.


Counting Your Blessings: How Gratitude Improves Your Health

Gratitude has long been extolled by religion and in recent years, has drawn attention through books such as The Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude. Now, thanks to new research, there is scientific evidence that gratitude produces health benefits.
The research is summarized in Robert Emmons' new book Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier (Houghton Mifflin, 2007). Emmons and his colleagues at the University of California at Davis are among the pioneers in research on gratitude, part of a larger movement called positive psychology. Positive psychology, instead of focusing on illness and emotional problems, studies health-promoting behavior and the pleasurable parts of life.
Emmons' book reports on several studies. In the first, he and his colleagues divided participants into three groups, each of which made weekly entries in a journal. One group wrote five things they were grateful for. Another group described five daily hassles and a control group listed five events that had affected them in some way. Those in the gratitude group felt better about their lives overall, were more optimistic about the future, and reported fewer health problems than the other participants. Results from a second study suggested that daily writing led to a greater increase in gratitude than weekly practice.
A third study reproduced the results among a group of people suffering from various neuromuscular diseases, including post-polio syndrome, which has symptoms similar to those in CFS. People using daily gratitude journals reported more satisfaction with their lives and were more optimistic about the future than the control group. Interestingly, the gratitude group also reported getting more sleep, spending less time awake before falling asleep and feeling more refreshed in the morning.
In a related study, researchers at the University of Connecticut found that gratitude can have a protective effect against heart attacks. Studying people who had experienced one heart attack, the researchers found that those patients who saw benefits and gains from their heart attack, such as becoming more appreciative of life, experienced a lower risk of having another heart attack.
The research on gratitude challenges the idea of a "set point" for happiness, a belief that, just as our body has a set point for weight, each person may have a genetically-determined level of happiness. The set point concept is supported by research that shows that people return to a characteristic level of happiness a short time after both unusually good and unusually bad events. But the research on gratitude suggests that people can move their set point upward to some degree, enough to have a measurable effect on both their outlook and their health.
Summarizing the findings from studies to date, Emmons says that those who practice grateful thinking "reap emotional, physical and interpersonal benefits." People who regularly keep a gratitude journal report fewer illness symptoms, feel better about their lives as a whole, and are more optimistic about the future. Emmons conclusion is that gratitude is a choice, one possible response to our life experiences.

Getting Started

If you would like to increase the level of gratitude in your life, here are five suggestions for getting started.

1) Keep a Daily Gratitude Journal

This is probably the most effective strategy for increasing your level of gratitude. Set aside time daily to record several things that you are grateful for. (Typically, people list three to five.) You can write when you get up or at the end of the day. Pick a time that you will consistently have available. You can use a book like the Journal of Gratitude or write on loose-leaf paper or a notebook. The important thing is to establish the daily practice of paying attention to gratitude-inspiring events and to write them down. In Emmons' words, the act of writing "allows you to see the meaning of events going on around you and create meaning in your own life." For an example of the use of a gratitude journal, see Joan Buchman's article The Healing Power of Gratitude.

2) Use Visual Reminders

Two obstacles to being grateful are forgetfulness and lack of awareness. You can counter them by giving yourself visual cues that trigger thoughts of gratitude. Emmons says he puts Post-It notes listing his blessings in many places, including on his refrigerator, mirrors and the steering wheel of his car. Another strategy is to set a pager, computer or PDA to signal you at random times during the day and to use the signal to pause and count blessings.

3) Have a Gratitude Partner

Social support encourages healthy behaviors, because we often lack the discipline to do things on our own. Just as you may be more likely to exercise if you have an exercise partner or participate in a class, you may be able to maintain the discipline of gratitude more easily if you have a partner with whom to share gratitude lists and to discuss the effects of gratitude in your life. Emmons says, "If we hang out with ungrateful people, we will ‘catch' one set of emotions; if we choose to associate with more grateful individuals, the influence will be in another direction. Find a grateful person and spend more time with him or her."

4) Make a Public Commitment

We feel accountable when we make commitments to others. In our self-help course, we have people set weekly goals for themselves. The fact that the goal is made publicly to a group, makes it more likely that people will follow through. For a discussion of how to achieve short-term goals, see the Chapter 6 in our course textbook: Goals and Targets.

5) Change Your Self-Talk

We all carry on an inner dialogue with ourselves that is often called "self-talk." When this inner conversation is negative, our mood is usually low. Research has shown that we can change our mood by changing the tone of the things we say to ourselves. For an introduction to this approach, called cognitive therapy, and a description of a three-step process to change your self-talk, see the article "Taming Stressful Thoughts" (reference below).  

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It may be too soon, but the kids were begging...so we gave in and put up the Christmas trees.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Gratitudes of the Day! 11/11/11

Thank you to all of the men and women who have served our country, as well as those who are currently serving. This nation would no longer exist if it were not for all of those who have fought and all those who have laid their lives down. The history of this country is one of struggle and I am so grateful that so many men and women thought my future, and the future of each of us, was important enough to pay for it with their own lives.

I will never be able to repay you all for your bravery and sacrifice. But I will try in my own way by paying respect to your love of your country and your families; by remembering how much I have to be grateful for with thanks, in large part, to all of you; and by doing what I can, though I am only one person, to be a good steward of the country you fought for.

My grandpa, Air Force Lt. Col. Vinton A. Fish (back row, 2nd from right)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gratitudes of the Day!

Today I'm thankful for...

1. Last night's girls night. We went to Persichetti's Restaurant in Jeannette, PA for Wednesday night wings. Best wings on the planet and 17 flavors to choose from. So good, as always. Great time with friends and a lovely evening.

2. A surprise date night with my husband. Last night, he told me he wanted to take me out tonight and he had already arranged for my parents to watch the kids all evening. That's every woman's dream, to not have to plan dates herself...am I right? I'm blessed to have a good man who thinks of things like that. We went out to dinner, did some shopping and enjoyed each other's company. My love language is "Quality Time", so I am a happy girl after tonight.

3. Making better choices. In many ways I find I'm gradually growing into a person who makes better choices, especially about food. I have my occasional times where I really want something greasy or something sugary, but generally I've begun to shy away from eating things that I know won't make me feel good. That's a good thing. It means I'm finally learning from at least some of my mistakes. (Although, I did finish off the night with a Peppermint Chocolate Chip milkshake...mmmm. Won't do that again for a long time, but the discomfort was worth the mintyness.)

4. My kids' laughter. Today, during a little break in school time, we were taking funny photos on my iPhone and they were laughing those loud, gutteral laughs. I love to make them laugh because it warms my heart to hear it. I think God feels that way when we laugh.

5. Having the right words at the right time. It doesn't feel like it happens often for me, but when it does it's awesome. Sometimes people need encouragement or an uplifting word at critical moment...I know I do. So it's amazing to see the results when God points you toward someone who needs his love and you are able to let it flow through you. I want to try to be ready for those moments more often.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Gratitudes of the Day!

Today I'm grateful for...

1. Warm, sunny weather. It felt like Spring today. On the coldest Winter days, I will think back to how lovely this day was, and remember that the warmer weather will be here again sooner than I think.

2. Happy boys. Last night I bought them another little pig for their Angry Birds plush toys collection. They earned it. The deal was that they had to earn $25 in Colligan Cash in order to get their small pig. They earned their Colligan Cash by doing chores, showing a good attitude during school, listening the first time they were asked to do something, etc. Anyway, I didn't sleep well last night, but this morning I heard excited whispering downstairs and realized they'd found the pig. I heard the pitter-patter of their little feet coming upstairs and they came into my room to thank me, trying hard not to squeal. Then Brendan excitedly whispered, "Mama, you're the best mama in space!!!" That was his way of saying that I pretty much rock the universe. Can't beat that.

3. Getting our roofs repaired. Our home insurance company came through and it looks like we will not only get our home's roof replaced from the hail damage we sustained in the spring, but we will also have the rental house roof replaced! Yay! The guys who are renting the house will be happy to have a new, well-insulated roof on their place.

4. Conan. He and Ellen make me laugh. You know how I feel about sparkly people and they make me happy. It's a true gift to be able to make people laugh, and it requires a keen sense of timing and a quick-wittedness that not a lot of people have. I appreciate people who make me laugh.

5. Letting it go. You know, it would be really easy to give in to worry, but I'm choosing to listen to the still, small voice that's saying, "Peace, be still." I will be okay. God is in control.

Morning Me

Monday, November 7, 2011

Gratitudes of the Day!

In the spirit of continuing my November daily gratitudes and practicing my thankfulness, here goes!

Today I'm grateful for...

1. A beautiful sunrise. It was a frosty morning and I stood outside in my bare feet watching the orange clouds roll by. It was a nice, quiet moment.

2. Alone time this evening. It's been a while since I've been out of the house alone, so I enjoyed every minute of it. I ran errands, I took my time at Gabriel Brothers (my favorite discount clothing store), I got the kids a new Angry Birds pig that I know they'll scream about when they wake up. Just a nice evening. I needed that.

3. Knowing it could be worse. I got a not-so-good result on one of the blood tests that the rheumatologist took. It said my thyroid antibodies are elevated...I wasn't sure what that meant, but it didn't sound good. But after hearing from a few friends and from my cousin, who is a nurse, I feel a lot better. Seriously, there are worse things and I'm keeping my perspective this time around.

4. Encouragement. God encourages us in many ways, directly or indirectly, but it's mean to uplift us and help us to lift our heads. If you're feeling or hearing something that is the opposite of encouragement, it ain't God talkin', honey. Ignore it and speak the truth over yourself.

5. Not knowing what to pray. I like knowing that God knows my heart and he hears even the things I can't bring myself to utter. There's nothing wrong with not saying anything. Often the best way to hear from God is to shut up.

Romans 8:26 -
"Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans."

Friday, November 4, 2011

Gratitudes of the Day!

It's the little things.

1. My coughing is more "productive" today. (Disgusting and TMI, but it's something, right?)

2. Sunshine and blue sky. Once November hits, if you live in Pennsylvania you'll take every sunny day you can get!

3. Girls Night Out!

4. Some of my photos have been used in an ebook by Frank Viola . Pretty cool! Check it out!

5. Veggies. Whenever I don't eat them as much, my body lets me know it's not happy. Veggies are yum.

6. I'm gradually learning to be a better person. Thank you, God, for teaching me every day, no matter how many mistakes or missteps I make. I want to be like You.

7. My parents. They are always so helpful to us in so many ways, and they get along really well with my husband. I know not everyone can say the same of their parents, so I'm grateful for that.

8. Cough drops. I should buy stock in Halls.

9. Hoodie sweatshirts.

10. Flavored coffee creamer. Although I'm trying to continue to go sugar-free as much as possible, the occasional spot of Peppermint Mocha in my daily decaf is lovely.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

November is Gratitude Month!

Gratitudes of the Day (in no particular order):

1. Seeing the sun rise. It means I'm alive.

2. I can breathe out of one nostril now instead of none. :)

3. I have awesome friends, near and far.

4. I agree with a friend of mine...the raspy voice does sound kind of sexy if you ignore the 

sinusy/nasally aspect.

5. God is always teaching me if I'm open to learning.

6. A lull in the busy-ness.

7. One more day until GIRLS' NIGHT at Embassy Suites! Hot tub, snacks, Say Yes to the

Dress, making crafty cards and eating a huge, free breakfast the next morning.

8. My husband. 'Nuff said.

9. Hot coffee. Feels great on my throat...ah.

10. PA Cyber. Though there are days where I feel like I want to take a fork to my eyeball, 

it's one of the best decisions we've made thus far in regards to our children's education.