Gratitude in 2011

Over the past couple weeks, my mom shared a big secret with me.  So, I thought I’d share it with the internet.  Seems only right.

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She told me that for the past three years, she has had the same, secret New Year’s resolution.  Three years ago, she decided that she wanted her New Years resolution to be to do a routine act of kindness.  But she wasn’t going to tell anyone about it.  She figured if she told people, she’d get praise for the act and that would defeat the whole purpose of being kind.  So, in secret, she decided on a random act of kindness she could do routinely on a day-to-day basis that would help someone.  She didn’t want it to be anything huge that she would have trouble fulfilling, but she wanted it to be something just inconvenient enough that she had to go out of her way to do it.

She decided that she would straighten the grocery carts in the parking lot stalls every time she returned her cart somewhere.  She couldn’t just put her cart away, she had to straighten however many carts were there.  She did it at the grocery store, Target, while out running errands…  Everywhere she went, she’d put her cart away and then hook together all the other carts in that particular stall.  She said it wasn’t a huge thing, but she was sure it made a difference to the employees who had to corral all those carts every day.

For three years, she made this same resolution and for three years she continued to silently straighten the shopping carts in parking lots.

“But,” she confided in my this past week, “I think I’m going to have to pick another task for this year.”

“How come?” I asked.

“Well, I have started to become a little obsessive about shopping carts.  I’ve noticed that I’ve started sort of…well…yelling at people about putting their carts away!”

Turns out, my mom has grown tired of people dropping carts all over the parking lots because SHE’S the one who now has to go collect them.  So whenever she sees someone drop the cart somewhere other than the stall, she barks out something like, “You know, someone has to clean that up!”

“It’s sort of defeating the purpose of my New Year’s resolution,” my Mom laughed.

I thought that was such a funny story!  I hadn’t know any of that about my mom and I thought it was such a simple, sweet gesture.  Normally, I don’t do a New Year’s resolution.  I think they are kind of silly, really.  But after hearing about how my mom had turned hers into a three-year habit, I decided that this year I wanted to try one.  And I wanted it to be something that, like my Mom’s, I could do every day.  Something small enough that I could keep it up, but something just enough of an inconvenience that I would be reminded each time of the act I had chosen.

2010 was not a good year for our family.  Actually, I think it was the worst year of my life.  And that’s not a dramatic statement.  That’s the plain truth.  But over the past couple months as I have been working to pull myself out of this season of depression, I have really tried to focus on all the GOOD things in my life.  Things that I have to be grateful for.  And, you know what?  There are a lot of things in my life that I am thankful for.  But I have the tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater (as my Grandma says).  When something goes wrong, I tend to think EVERYTHING has gone wrong and that NOTHING is good.

In 2011, I am going to make a conscious effort to be more grateful.  To acknowledge every day things that are good in my life.  I got the idea of a gratitude journal from my friend, Ann, who actually suggested it in a comment on my blog.  When I first shared about my depression here, she suggested that I start keeping a gratitude journal to remind myself every day of the good in my life.  I have tossed that idea around since she mentioned it.  I love that idea.  But I knew I couldn’t take on anything else in my daily routine.  The idea of working, taking care of Bean (and soon Gracie), writing blog posts every day, and THEN keeping a journal was just too much.  So, for the past couple months I have been trying to think about how I could incorporate a gratitude journal into my current daily life.

And here’s what I came up with…

Starting today, at the bottom of every Confessions post that I do, there will be one sentence in italics.  It will say, “Today I am grateful for _______.” And that’s it.  No explanation.  No elaboration.  Just a one-sentence, daily reminder to me of something I am grateful for in my life that day.  Since I’m already posting every day, it won’t take any extra time for me to just stop and think for a minute about what I’m thankful for that day and throw it into a sentence, but it will make me stop and think about it.  It may or it may not be related to the post I do that day.  It may be something big, like God’s presence in my life, or it may be something small, like my dishwasher.  But every day, there will be something listed that I am grateful for as a reminder to me of the good in my life.

2010 was rough.  But 2011 already holds such promise for good things.  But even if 2011 doesn’t come through – even if life gets EVEN HARDER for some reason than it has been, I know that there will still be things in my life that are good. And this year, I’m going to make sure a day doesn’t pass without me being thankful for those things.

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Today I am grateful for new beginnings.

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28 Thoughts to “Gratitude in 2011”

  1. Dani

    Here, here!

    Happy New Years Brown Family.

  2. Jessica

    Great resolution. I’ve had that same issue in my life, so I’m going to quit sweating the small stuff and remember the important stuff. Thanks Katie and mom!

  3. Ashley

    Thanks so much for sharing your mom’s story…how sweet is she? And I love your idea about putting that at the end of your posts! Maybe I could do that with my blog or facebook status…love the idea.

  4. Nate's Mom

    LOVE IT! Gratitude shouldn’t be a chore but a blessing. Can’t wait to count my blessings with you in 2011. 🙂

  5. Tressa

    EXCELLENT idea! I can’t wait to read all of them!! I’m grateful for you and your blog! Honestly, you open my eyes to things I don’t see myself sometimes. Thank you!! Happy New Year!

  6. dyanna

    Love this idea and love the story about your Mom. Happy New Year!!!

  7. Happy New Year to you all, it has ‘bean’ a pleasure reading your blog and i look forward to it next yr and many more to come, god bless x

  8. Nate's Mom

    Oh…and to join you in the gratitude – Today, I am grateful to own a dustbuster. It’s a hard job raising a toddler without one. 🙂

  9. Sarah H.

    Excellent! We keep a sheet on our fridge, one for each month….and each day we write one thing we are thankful for. It is list form..numbered 1 to 31. It is so fun to go back and read them at the end of the month or year!

  10. Aw, I think that’s a great idea! Recognizing the small blessings in your life is always helpful when you feel down or that nothing is good in your life. I hope 2011 brings you many many blessings…I know it already will with Gracie coming! Happy New Year!

  11. Lisa

    Amen to that. 2010 wasn’t exactly the greatest for me either but I am going into 2011 focusing on the good things in my life!

  12. Love it! Fabulous idea. Happy New Year to you and your adorable family.

  13. I love your idea, in fact I shared/challenged my (few) blog readers to the same thing. Don’t worry…I credited it all back to you!

  14. Regina

    Katie, I just wanted to delurk and say I love your blog and your family. Your mom reminds me of Colleen Dewhurst (who was a very classy lady imho). Hope 2011 is a wonderful year for you all! You seem to be off to a great start.

  15. Sarah

    That is a great resolution! I love the idea. I thought of doing a gratitude journal myself but never followed through. Resolutions are only silly if you don’t follow through with them. My hubby and I have been making and following through on our new year’s resolutions for several years now. We’ve gone entire years without soda, fast food, candy, swearing (for me), buying or hosting home parties (also for me). It’s difficult but much easier when someone else is as committed as you are to sticking with it. I don’t want to be the one to fail!

  16. sarah

    My husband is also crazy about shopping carts. It’s his #1 pet peeve when people don’t put their shopping carts away. When we go shopping not only does he have to put our cart away when we’re done but he goes out of his way to find a cart in the wrong spot before we go in a store.

  17. there’s a bible verse about God making all things new. It’s Isaiah 43:18,19 “forget the former things, and do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing, even now it springs forth”. I love that verse….ESPECIALLY after an incredibly rough season. I love that God works in seasons. There’s always going to be seasons of winter, it’s a necessity, but then…eventually, it’ll end and springtime will come! Pretty exciting stuff! Here’s to a fabulous 2011 for you and your family!

  18. I love this! I may just have to do the same thing on my facebook page. I throw the baby out with the bathwater sometimes soon and this daily reminder is such a great idea! Thanks and happy new year brown family!

  19. HeatherN

    I think this is a great idea! Don’t be afraid to keep it real in the process. Some days it’s okay to say “Thank you God for giving my baby such strong lungs that he CAN cry this loud.” I think it’s important to use gratitude to change your way of looking at a difficult situation, rather than simply using it as a substitute or distraction to make you think about the unrelated good things in your life & ignore the difficult things.
    I look forward to reading your daily dose of gratitude! Happy New Year!

  20. halcuri

    2010 was a horrible year for my family as well. The biggest crisis we have ever faced – my postpartum depression after the birth of my son – was terrifying for everyone. I thank God every day for pulling me through and I promised to use my experience to help other moms whenever he gave me the opportunity to share my story. I also am looking forward to 2011, specifically in terms of my spiritual growth. My resolution is to acknowledge God’s hand in everything. To trust Him completely and to remember that His plan is always perfect, even when I don’t understand it. I do want to second the gratitude resolution. I was grocery shopping today and as I was checking out, I heard the woman in the line next to me ask the cashier how much the bill was. She said she was purchasing the food for a women’s shelter and she was on a budget. I had to close my eyes for a moment and thank God that I had a roof over my head, a great job and supportive family. I couldn’t imagine spending New Year’s in a shelter. Even now, thinking about it makes me want to cry. Good for you for recognizing the importance of being thankful. God bless you and yours in 2011!

  21. Jess

    Hi Katie– 2011 will bring you lots of fun things. My husband and I keep a jar on our kitchen counter and I leave scrap paper beside it. At least once a week (and more!) we write little things we are thankful for because we often forget to tell each other– daily life, a toddler and house stuff keeps us busy too! I’ll write: putting away the dishes or taking our crazy dogs for a walk. We’ll read them on a quiet Friday night, after a long week, to remember WHY our week was successful or why we appreciate each other/things, even when we may forget to tell each other. 🙂

  22. 1) I like your resolution.
    2) I like that you have a plan to implement it.
    3) I LOVE that it means you’ll be posting every day. 🙂

  23. First off, your mom is awesome. And hilarious. I love the random act of kindness. Second, I’m with your about blowing up one bad thing into “my world is crumbling around me and nobody loves me.” Yeah, ok, maybe you’re not that bad but that’s how I do it lol. And thirdly, I LOOOOOOVVVEEEE the new “grateful” line idea. LOTS. Happy 2011 Katie and the fam. Can’t wait to see what it brings for you (all things good of course).

  24. Ann G-B

    Katie- I am surprised to see you write that 2010 was one of the worst years. You and your husband both quit your jobs and found new ones, sold your house in a dismal market and are blessed with a little baby girl about to hatch. I can’t wait to see what a “good” year looks for you!

  25. What a great attitude, heading into the new year. Sometimes it is really hard to see all that we have to be thankful for when the hard stuff is just so apparent!

  26. 2010 was hard for us too. I am SO GLAD it is over!

    For most of last year, a few of my friends and I started to exchange “I’m grateful for…” emails everyday. Everyday, we would take the time to write down 10 things we were grateful for that day and share them with each other. It really helped put things in perspective for all of us–all three of us very different people who went to high school together. The daily messages helped us to support one another too. I recommend it!

  27. Ashley

    I have been doing this SAME THING for about two years now. I do not write them down but every night when I say my prayers, I take time out to say a specific prayer for what I am thankful for that day! It vary’s from food to hair dryers and even things like working kidney’s. I love doing it!

  28. This is a great story. I don’t really like resolutions either, but doing something small everyday is something that easily can be done and is good for someone else and for you. I’ve seriously had the winter blues this season, but I think doing a gratitude journal really will help open my eyes to what is good in my life at the moment instead of always focusing on the bad. Thank you for posting your Mom’s secret and your resolution. Very good idea that I am definitely going to copy! 🙂

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