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Posts Tagged ‘gratitude’

This morning I washed my car. It’s been a while, and it was dog-dirty. I have a Mustang convertible, and I rarely drive it with the top up. That in itself attracts a lot of dust and leaves. Then there’s the dog. I regularly drive her to the forest for stick chasing, creek swimming, and dirt gathering. It took several hours to get my sweet ride looking properly cool once again.

While I was busy detailing, I listened to ‘60s and ‘70s music on Sirius Radio, and my mind began to wander. I was listening to the soundtrack of my high school years. With certain songs, it feels like I’m time traveling. Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” takes me back to a morning ride to school, my car filled with friends, and all of us singing and swaying to that song. Good times never felt so good. I swear, I could almost hear my girlfriends laughing and singing.

During my stroll down memory lane, I remembered it was 50 years ago this month that I was excitedly anticipating my 16th birthday. I was so dead sure that my parents were going to buy me a Mustang convertible. I had been dropping hints for moths, maybe for a year. I had plans to get my driver’s license on my birthday, and I imagined driving off in my brand new Mustang.

Mom kept telling me, emphatically, that I was not getting a car. She gave me loads of reasons, mostly financial ones, but I didn’t believe her. I was so sure that she and Dad were just saying no so that it would be a surprise. How could they refuse me? It was my biggest dream ever! It was my 16th birthday! I was certain it was happening. As the days passed, my excitement was barely containable. I could hardly stand it. When the day arrived, I was determined to act cool, to be totally surprised.

I was surprised, all right. A cake, a bottle of nail polish, and some new clothes. That was it. I nearly cried, but I didn’t. I took every ounce of my disappointment and buried it deep, deep inside myself. There was no way I was going to appear ungrateful. After all, Mom had told me time and again there would be no car.

Fast forward to this morning: me happily scrubbing down my car, singing along to the oldies and fondly remembering my youth. Suddenly, I felt my 16-year-old self looking over my shoulder, wide-eyed and thrilled, screaming with delight. The 50-year-old disappointment melted, and I heard myself saying aloud, “I bought it for you, Sweetie. Happy Birthday!” And then that 16-year-old hopeful optimist who had been so determined to act cool and totally surprised, broke down in tears of gratitude.

I have never been so happy with my car as I was this morning, nor have I ever enjoyed washing it quite that much.

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Around my 40th year, I heard a speaker on the topic of prosperity consciousness. A new way of thinking about money began changing my life for the better, and I am still regularly engaged in many of the practices that emerged a quarter of a century ago.

One of those was making a spiritual practice out of the routine task of paying bills. Way back then, I wrote many checks each month. As I signed them, I wrote the word “Gladly,” above my signature. As I did so, I carefully considered the reason I was glad to be sending my money to the water company, the gas company, the Internal Revenue Service, etc. Every time I wrote a check, I found a reason to be grateful: for a reliable supply of clean water, for heat throughout my home all winter long, and for the National Parks Service.

You see, I decided every last penny of federal tax I would ever pay would go directly to supporting the National Parks Service. On the memo line, I used to write, “For the National Parks.” I feel ownership every time I enter one of the parks, walk the trails, or attend a ranger led hike. Whenever I feel like I’m sending a lot of money to Washington, I think about just how much it takes to operate my beloved national parks, and then I realize how small my contribution is in comparison.

Paychecks to my employees were signed “Gladly.” All personal and business checks were almost always signed “Gladly.” Those that weren’t, represented my decision to pay grudgingly. When I made that choice, I also took responsibility to do what needed to be done to change the situation. When I battled with my cell phone company over incorrect roaming charges, I did not pay gladly, but I did change cell phone carriers. If I can’t find a reason to be glad to circulate my money in one place, I will find a new place.

Since the ’90s, things have changed a lot. I rarely write checks anymore. Utilities, medical bills, and even taxes are all paid electronically. When I use my credit card at the store and sign my name with the “magic pen,” I usually scrawl the word “Gladly” as part of my signature. It continues to work as a reminder to be grateful for the opportunity to circulate financial energy.

Today I received an email from PayPal: “You’ve Got Money,” it said. It was from my son sending partial payment for a loan I made to him last year. The transaction details included a note from him: “May and June. Gladly! Love You!!”

Wow! Gladly is a powerful word. It can bring tears to my eyes and fill my heart with gratitude … writing it … and reading it.

Estimated Taxes Check

Signing checks gladly for 25 years

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This morning I had the privilege of speaking at Unity of Kanawha Valley. My topic was building spiritual strength and endurance through the use of spiritual practices.

The talk was streamed live on Unity’s FaceBook page. I’m including a link to that page: January 14, 2018 Talk 

My talk begins at 24 minutes. I encourage you to listen to the song that starts at 22 minutes. It’s beautiful!

If you’d like a copy of the handout (a list of 30 spiritual practices with resource links), you can find it here:

 

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Four years ago when my art teacher suggested that I publish a calendar, I immediately dismissed the idea. “I have no interest in doing that,” I said. “No one would want to buy such a thing!” Then a couple of days later, for no reason I could explain (even to myself) I decided to see if I could find 12 paintings good enough to include in a calendar that I could give away (since I was still pretty sure no one would want to buy it).

Within two weeks, I had changed my mind, picked the paintings, ordered the calendars, mentioned it on Facebook, and sold every single calendar. Wow. How did THAT happen?

Year two I hesitated. Could I really pull it off again? Yup. It happened again. And I was every bit as astonished as I was the first year.

Year three was tough. I chose 12 paintings and then one by one deleted them from the queue, convinced that they were all garbage and I couldn’t possibly expect to do this three years in row. Those who love me gently pushed. Once again, they sold out before Christmas.

This year has been easier. I didn’t spend long hours worrying whether this or that painting was “good enough.” I simply chose my favorites and placed my order. It all seemed routine and unemotional until the first email came from PayPal, “You’ve Got Money!” The six-year-old artist in me squealed with delight. She loves to paint. I love her paintings. And when someone else loves them, too, it makes me giddy. Every time. Not because someone approves of my work, but because a kindred spirit likes my “child’s” artwork.

Thank you to all who take the time to look at my paintings, buy calendars, and tell me what they see when they look at my artwork. It’s so much fun to share the process with enthusiastic supporters. And the money I get from selling the calendars? Well, I use that to buy paint, paper, and brushes . . . enough to keep the six-year-old artist in me busy and happy.

(For more information about the 2018 calendar, click here.)

 

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