The Nature of Gratitude

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Today has been a grumpy day.  My little girl has been grumpy – in bed too late last night and up too early this morning, plus she’s teething.  I have been grumpy – in bed too late last night and up too early this morning, but not teething (thank goodness).  Everywhere I look in my house, I’m surrounded by outstanding chores or tasks that need to be done, but I’m just too tired.  So, a glass of wine and some writing seemed to be in order.

There was a brief period of time today when I felt the opposite of grumpy – not sure what that is exactly, but I think I’ll call it “Grateful”.  We went out for lunch to an organic, vegan restaurant called Café Gratitude.   It wasn’t until we were seated with our menus that I remembered it was vegan.  My honey is the opposite of vegan – he threatened to leave us at our table and hop across the parking lot for what was advertised as Marin’s Best Burger!  But he stayed and we ordered.

The server, upon discovering it was our first visit, explained the whole organic/vegan thing to us, and instructed us on how to order from the menu.  For example, if you want the quesadillas (mashed black beans and some sort of tomato/tofu-cheese spread in a flax-seed tortilla), you say, “I Am Wise” (the name of the dish).  To which the server replies, “You ARE wise, today.  Good choice”.  And it WAS a good choice – served with a yummy cabbage slaw, fresh pico de gallo and some very tasty guacamole.  My dining partner was Trusting today, which was a good thing because his tamale and the salsa verde that came with it were also full of flavour.   

The servers and hostess were calm and friendly, and gave off very positive vibes.  I felt good being there.  And just spending time in a place where I had to say something good about myself to order my food made me feel more like the person I wish I had been all day.

So what is it about the atmosphere in a place called Café Gratitude that can make a person feel more grateful?  How can it be that just the presence of positive people can make such a difference?  Many years ago, Oprah made famous the idea of a gratitude journal – a book where you write, daily, about what you are grateful for.  And I think that concept is what answers my question.  Gratitude is something that needs to be practiced consciously.  Like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self control (Galatians 5:22), gratitude is not a state of being that is ever-present.  In order to keep it around, you need to choose to be grateful.  Just like sometimes – when you have an argument with your spouse, for example – you may have to choose to be loving or kind even if you don’t feel like it.  So when the server sets down your meals and says, “You are wise”, and “You are trusting”, it makes a person more conscious of those ideas, and maybe more willing to choose to emulate them. 

I don’t know – maybe I’m just grasping at straws today because being tired and grumpy feels like such a waste of a beautiful sunny day.  But whatever it takes, right? 

So, for the record…today I am grateful for:

  • A sweet baby who is rarely grumpy – today is the exception not the rule;
  • A loving husband who indulges my exploration into strange themed restaurants without too much complaint;
  • A new experience, which I hope to repeat with friends who are more into the whole organic vegan idea;
  • A sunny day; and
  • A reminder to be grateful, because I really do have so much going for me.

What are YOU grateful for today?

I Have a Confession…

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I have a confession.  I didn’t post a blog article last week because I was too busy reading the Hunger Games trilogy.  Yes, it was that good.  It wasn’t as gory as I expected, the story was just riveting.  I haven’t devoured a book (or series) this quickly since Harry Potter.  There were some themes: The oppression of the weak for the benefit of the strong; the willingness of people to accept cruelty to others in the name of entertainment; and the tendency of some people to follow the opinions of politicians or the media without question.  But I usually don’t let myself get too caught up in all of that – in fact, I so desperately wanted to know what happened next that I only consciously picked up those underlying themes upon reflection afterward.  Yes, I minored in English in college, but when I’m reading for fun I don’t want to have to pick the book apart like I’m writing an essay.   These books were an easy read – classified as “young adult fiction” – and they were totally enthralling, if a little grim at times.  If you have some time on your hands…you’re going on a beach vacation, for example…pick up this trilogy and let it take you along for the ride. 

Okay, now on to the rest of the post…which I’m hoping will come to me as I write.  Not much of interest happened to me this week because it rained so much that I felt practically house-bound.  Swimming practice on Thursday was pretty uncomfortable – swimming in an outdoor pool in 5⁰C air when fat, cold raindrops are landing on my head, face and back is not my idea of a great time.  The coach didn’t even bother to come out to give instruction.  So I swam my tush off for 40 minutes and went home.  I ran on the treadmill twice this week because I couldn’t stomach the idea of getting all cold and wet out there.  I would much rather run outside, but not when it’s raining that hard, and especially not when it’s hailing like it did on Wednesday.  I’m in awe of the flooding on some of the roads – I guess they’re just not set up for that kind of rain around here.  There was also snow on Mount  Tamalpais today.  From all the excitement about it, I don’t think that happens very often. 

Of course Valentine’s Day was on Monday, and I spent a quiet evening at home with my dear husband and some great Thai food.   He surprised me with a beautiful photo book of some of his best shots of our daughter.  There’s even a smaller copy that I can keep in my purse to show off to my friends.  I love it! 

In other news…okay, there really isn’t any other news.  It IS a long weekend in the US, though, so hopefully we’ll do something fun so I have something to write about next week! 

Oh, and apparently, Vancouver had their first homicide of 2011 this week.  Really?  It took that long?  Good for them!  I think Surrey (where we lived before moving to California) has had a few already. 

On the Kindle: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson

This is the third book in another trilogy that has been rocking the Best Seller lists.  Starting with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and then The Girl Who Played with Fire, this trilogy is another worth picking up.  It follows the story of Lisbeth Salander, a strange, antisocial young woman who has amazing computer skills and a talent for rooting out the truth.  In the first book, she helps solve a murder mystery using her incredible and mysterious expertise.  In the second, we learn more about who she is and where she came from, and it’s not very pretty.  She’s slandered by the media and is being hunted by the police for three murders that she didn’t commit.  In the third, I sure hope all the people who have been abusing and taking advantage of her since her childhood will get their just desserts (or comeuppance – I couldn’t decide which was more fun to say).

New Year’s Resolution #3 – Get my butt to Weight Watchers Meetings

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Yes, I know, nearly everyone vows to lose weight come January 1 of each and every year.  I usually try not to make this a New Year’s Resolution because I know how poorly most people (including me) stick to it. But I think I’m finally ready to make a permanent change in how I eat. 

I’ve spent a lot of time with some very healthy people here in Northern California, and I have learned a lot about eating the right kinds of food.  I’m making a real effort to remove as many processed foods from our diet as possible.  Of course, that’s easier said than done.  When we ARE eating packaged foods, we try to choose the ones that are most natural – less preservatives, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, weird oils like cottonseed oil (doesn’t the idea of cottonseed oil make you feel like you’re gagging on a throat full of fluff?), and anything hydrogenated. 

If you’re wondering why I’ve chosen Weight Watchers (WW)* instead of some other program, there are several reasons.  For one, WW has worked so well for me in the past – it’s not their fault I stopped following the plan and gained all my weight back.  Secondly, they’ve always encouraged a moderate approach to weight loss that includes exercise, portion control, a balanced diet, AND figuring out the psychological/emotional reasons why you have a weight problem in the first place.  I’m sure I’ve got quite a few of the latter. 

My third reason is their new program.  Weight Watchers just released a new version of their program that focuses much more on what they call “power foods”, exactly what I’ve been trying to do with my family.  They have taken into account more of the nutritional information when they assign “POINTS” to a food – carbs, protein, fat, and fiber, instead of just calories, fat, and fiber.  And I get to eat as much fruit as I want!  Weight Watchers does not make judgment calls on the chemicals that are in food, so they still encourage the consumption of fat-free, sugar-free pseudo-foods (note that I AM judging those poor food-like products).  But the beauty of the WW program is that it is so flexible that I can decide what food to include in my plan.   And fat free yogurt with aspartame and some unidentifiable fruit sauce is no longer in my plan.  Besides, it actually doesn’t taste very good after you’ve tried plain yogurt with honey and real fruit.  (Why did it take me so long to figure that out?)

I found a meeting on Saturday mornings with a leader that I LOVE.  She is really funny and down-to-earth, with lots of great ideas and advice on how to make healthy eating a lifestyle change instead of a diet.  She’s super popular – the meeting is down to standing room only by the time it starts, and there are still stragglers finding room at the back by the end of the meeting.  So it’s really not hard to want to be there at 8:30 on a Saturday morning.  I’m five weeks in, and have been doing well so far (19 lbs lost).  Of course, it helps that I’m exercising like crazy (see New Year’s Resolution #2: Swim, Bike, Run).  But I also feel good (for the most part) about the food choices I’m making.  I’m having fun trying new recipes and experimenting with new foods (case in point: celery root). 

And my jeans are getting way too loose on me.  

*Please note: I am not employed by Weight Watchers, nor am I getting any reward for talking about them.  I just actually believe that their program is a healthy, sustainable choice. 

 

On the Kindle: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

This book is set in a postapocalyptic United States (called Panem) where civilization has been gathered into territories and is controlled by the Capitol.  Every year, each of the 12 territories is forced to send two teenagers (a boy and a girl chosen by lottery) to the Capitol to fight to the death.  The games are billed as a festival and are broadcast throughout the country as entertainment.  However, they were initiated as punishment for an uprising against the Capitol many years before, and continue to be a reminder of the Capitol’s control.  Katniss is a 16 year old girl who has been keeping her impoverished mother and 12-year-old sister alive by hunting in the off-limits forest outside Territory 12.  She ends up being sent to the Capital to fight for her life  Since the book is the first of three in a series, you have to assume she does fairly well.  But I suppose we’ll see.

This book was recommended to me by a friend with the warning that if I started reading it, I’d better be sure I had some time on my hands.  I am definitely enjoying it, but I haven’t gotten to the fighting yet.  I have a feeling I’ll wish I could just peek through my fingers instead of watching all the gory details unfold in full colour in my mind.  I’ll let you know how it goes.