What makes you grateful?

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I’m grateful this morning for a cool breeze at my keyboard, after days of steamy weather.

Oceanside artist, La Jolla, CA. (Hadi Dadashian photo)

Capturing the Pacific on canvas: plein air artist, La Jolla, CA. (Hadi Dadashian photo)

I’m grateful for the fragrance of coffee brewing, and for the anticipation of a bright day ahead.

I’m grateful to be living in peace.

I’m grateful to be alive, now, in this place and at this time.  I’m ever-thankful for the freedom to write — to write near the Pacific Ocean, and to write whatever, however, whenever I please.

Hadi and I have been traveling the West Coast for the past decade, and we’re thankful to have met so many creative, wonderful people.

We’re grateful to work here, and to enjoy the company of good friends here.

Our gratitude stretches to the Canadian coast, where our family lives.  And it spreads across country from this Washington to our family in that other Washington, D.C.

Our gratitude stretches across Canada, my home country — the place where we wed — and to other continents, where more family and friends live.  It’s the love of family and friends that saved us, and holds us, always.

We’re grateful to live in love, here, and far.

I began this blog two years ago, on the eve of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, to share gratitude.  I wanted to share the joy so many others share with us.

Today, I’m ending it to concentrate on spreading gratitude.

We hope you’ll join us in sharing gratitude, and giving thanks, at our new WordPress blog: planet gratitude.

With gratitude, Kathleen Kenna

On 9/11, concentrating on one word: Thanks

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I’m spending this day, 9/11, our national day of remembrance, in gratitude.

I am being mindful of all that has happened to this country, and to other nations since 2001.

I am giving thanks. blogging our blessings©

I’m giving thanks for those who gave their lives to save others on 9/11, 2001.  Some call them first responders.  Let’s just call them heroes.

I’m giving thanks for the selflessness of so many who helped that day, and for the many who have helped this nation rebuild since then.

I’m grateful for those who helped us heal.

I’m thankful for those who have kept us safe, for the many people whose identities are never known to the public, who work tirelessly to protect this country.  They sacrifice much; we don’t often give them much thought.

As I begin this National Day of Service and Remembrance, I promise to serve.

I promise to be mindful that the women and men I’ll meet today — wounded warriors — risk everything to protect us, and keep this country safe.

I am mindful today, as always, of the many who saved my life in post-9/11 Afghanistan — from Army medics and soldiers to Air Force officers to some of the best trauma surgeons in the world.

Those Americans are the reason I’m here.  They gave my family hope, and that’s why I live in gratitude, every day.

On 9/11, I am concentrating on one of the best words in any language:  Thanks.

Kathleen Kenna is a rehabilitation counselor who works with wounded warriors.

Welcome, Finland, welcome! And Malaysia and Paraguay …

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Noticed Finland was among the countries checking in yesterday, and I was thrilled — thrilled! 

Of the dozens of countries that have located this blog since it began two years ago, we haven’t had many readers from Finland.

Oman and Kenya check in occasionally.  India, most days.  Australia, Switzerland, Indonesia, and the Philippines are regular observers.

So is Bhutan.

Qatar, once. Oman, Chad and Rwanda –once each.  Afghanistan, Italy and the United Kingdom, many times.

The U.S. and Canada, every day — I’m bicultural, binational, and live about 150 miles from the border.  I have family on both sides of the 49th parallel, including my “adopted military family.”

I used to log reader locations faithfully, because it was such an honor to know my words were reaching the other side of the world.

Gratitude shared.

For awhile, I tracked every country, logging nations from Peru to Papua (the latter, just last month).  Just counted them tonight: 99 countries since September, 2011.

I always wonder how these readers had found living in gratitude, and wondered if they, too, were living in “a state of grateful.”

I hoped each reader was finding peace, by being mindful about thankfulness.

My goal since I began this blog:  Spreading gratitude, one reader at a time.

Whenever I notice new countries on my daily WordPress chart, I hope that those readers have much to be thankful for.  I hope they’re living in abundance — however anyone defines that — and I hope they’re safe, in a supportive community.  I hope they’re surrounded by love.

I hope they’re living in peace.

And if they’re not, I hope gratitude finds them.  I hope their daily wants are answered, whether it’s fresh, clean water or spiritual rest or freedom.  (Freedom from fear, freedom to speak out, freedom from pain, freedom to be healthy, freedom to write …)

I hope that we, the people — all over the world — listen to those in need, and do something, however small, to help.

Spread gratitude, please.

Dear students: Thanks for your inspiration

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Tomorrow is the first day of school for a precious five-year-old, and I’m inspired by her joy. Blogging our Blessings©

I’m grateful for her excitement about finally going to school — her Mom says she’s been waiting and waiting.

I’m grateful for this enthusiasm about education:  This tiny generation likely will go to school for a lifetime, and for that, I am especially thankful.

I’m grateful for my nieces who are in college, university, and grad school in two countries.  I’m grateful for their dedication to their studies — and their social and community life too.  I’m grateful for their volunteering, for the way they help others.

They’re changing the world already, these students.  They teach us, every day.  Just sharing their excitement about the start of this term gives me hope.

One grad student is studying ancient languages, following her intellectual passion and rightly ignoring the voices who don’t understand this pursuit.

One RN just graduated with a Bachelor of Science (she wouldn’t attend ceremonies, doesn’t want any fuss).  When she’s not saving lives every day as an emergency room nurse, she’s traveling the world.

They’re making a difference, these students.

Another friend has returned to school this month for a big career switch.  She moved across country for romance, and found a new path in life.  Her first degree was only the foundation for following a new passion.

Follow your hearts, students.  Your elders offer plenty of advice, and some of it might be worth heeding.  But you know, as deep as cell memory, where you are called.

Show us!

I’m inspired, always, by your dedication to learning, and discovering the world.

Thank you.

Life in 5 lines or less: Fishing and grace

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Ocean Shores fishing in the Pacific. (Hadi Dadashian photo)

Fishing in the Pacific, at Ocean Shores, WA. (Hadi Dadashian photo)

Living on the West Coast means saying grace all day long.

I give thanks for those who brave extreme weather to fish.

I give thanks for everyone who brings wild salmon from as far away as Alaska to our century-old, neighborhood market.

Saying grace all day long, I’m thankful for everyone who protects these waters.

Life in 5 lines or less© celebrates life here on Saturdays.

 

 

 

Letter to a sweet niece, on turning 13

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We are so very proud of you, sweet 13-year-old.

living in gratitude©

living in gratitude©

We won’t embarrass you with baby pictures, but we remember your birth with soul clarity:  You were born just before we were married.  (That’s why your dad traveled thousands of miles in the snow to be at our wedding; your Mom was occupied with you, sweet girl.)

Your arrival was one of the best moments in our family’s life.  A baby girl!  A daughter! A third granddaughter!  Our niece … it had been some time since there had been a baby in our family, and we were all lovestruck at once.

I am grateful for the way those big dark eyes welcomed us all.  I’m grateful for the way you snuggled in our arms.  I am most grateful for the way my husband looked when he held you — nothing is so precious as that.

You brought wonder into our lives, sweet niece.

You have always brought us joy, each of us, and it was with heavy hearts that we kissed you, that day by the waterfront, and left for India.

Love has a way of bringing us home.

I am ever-grateful we came back to you, to your cousins, to all the nieces and nephews who enrich our lives in so many ways.

Happy birthday, 13-year-old.  Thank for you being such a delightful niece.  Thanks, especially, for keeping the wonder in our lives.

(And we’re still “scared” of you, martial arts instructor!)

 

 

 

Living in a place called UP: Pondering optimism

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I’ve been asked so much lately about the source of my optimism, that I’ve decided it’s because we live in a place called UP.

Yes, there is a city called UP. (Kathleen Kenna photo)

Yes, Washington has a city called UP. (Kathleen Kenna photo)

Truly.

We moved here in May when I began training in Seattle and the resident photographer searched for a new home in Tacoma

“Found the best place for you!” he said over the phone.

And then, as a lover offering the best gift of all, he added, “You’ll have your own library.”

I’m grateful that we live across the street from a new, public library.  It’s always busy, especially on Sunday afternoons when we borrow books.

The city of UP suits us:  It’s small (31,144 residents — add two); growing modestly (570 newcomers in five years — plus two); and has almost everything we need within a quick walk (yes, we search for apartments based on the location of Trader Joe’s).

Checking out Chambers Bay, WA. (Kathleen Kenna photo)

Dad and son on public walkway at Chambers Bay, WA. (Kathleen Kenna photo)

On land, UP covers only 8.56 miles.  Best of all, it’s blessed by water.

Sunsets here are spectacular.

The western boundary of UP is Puget Sound, with sandy beaches, rocky shores and sweet kayaking.  We walk by the Sound almost every day, and on weekends, do a 5- to 7-mile hike from our front door to water’s edge.

The southern boundary is Chambers Creek, not easily accessible.  It frames part of Chambers Bay Golf Course, a sprawling, public course used by more walkers, joggers, dog owners, and families with kites, than golfers.

It’s the jewel of UP, an emerald at the edge of the city, with industrial ruins — a one-time lumber operation turned gravel mine — and scenery that rivals Pebble Beach in Carmel.  I’m filled with gratitude just to stand there, drinking in the sight of Puget Sound.

Chambers Bay Golf Course was developed from industrial ruins. (Kathleen Kenna photo)

Walkers and golfers amid industrial ruins at Chambers Bay Golf Course. (Kathleen Kenna photo)

UP’s northern boundary includes Crystal Creek, near an urban wetlands park.  Its eastern boundary is residential, bordered by highways.  Commuting in this part of the Pacific Northwest is the most common complaint of locals.

We try not to use our little Kia too much, because we’re commuters already.

While declining taxes have led to major cutbacks in public transit in Pierce County, the regular routes in our neighborhood have been spared.  We can go to the movie theater, two malls, and most services on one bus.   There’s a covered bus shelter stop at the end of our drive.

We can walk to the police station, and a new fire hall. The UP parks and recreation department is in the same building as the library.  This being the northwest, the library is separated from the parks offices by a big, double-sided fireplace.

City hall is a generous word for a small, older center that is less than a block away. (That’s where we found the City of UP sign above.)

I walk to the doctor’s office and the physiotherapy clinic.  We walk to the post office, the grocery store (there are five within two blocks, so that’s easy), yoga studio, and a couple of neighborhood eateries.  There’s a gym I’m considering joining when the rainy season starts. (It shares space with a spa and a chiropractor’s clinic.) We’re searching for a local dentist and optometrist within walking distance too.

Biggest business news in UP?  Starbucks expanded, moving to a new storefront building that seemed to have been erected in weeks.  The drive-through opened this weekend.

South Puget Sound, WA beach. (Kathleen Kenna photo)

Resident photographer walks our neighborhood beach. (Kathleen Kenna photo)

We’re surrounded by small parks, including a public rhododendron garden in the woods.

Most of the original forest in this part of the Pacific Northwest is gone, but our neighborhood is graced by many old trees, from redwoods to Pacific madrones.  Private gardeners are ambitious (you should see their roof-climbing roses!).

We have an old orchard originally planted by settlers. The annual cider squeeze at Curran Apple Orchard is next weekend.

UP is blessed with bald eagles, herons, osprey, woodpeckers, hummingbirds, and more.  We sometimes see deer.  Yesterday, a skunk sprayed our backyard.  A flock of Canadian geese honked overhead this morning, flying north.

The neighbors’ cats entertain everyone in our small neighborhood, from daybreak to sundown.  They spend much of their day sunning on the roof of a row of townhouses nearby.  One tabby knows how to open a patio door; no matter how many times we see her reach on her back legs and use one paw to swat at the door, I’m grateful.

Chambers Bay, WA beach. (Kathleen Kenna photo)

Taking the new baby to the beach at Chambers Bay, WA. (Kathleen Kenna photo)

Almost everyone we’ve met in UP is friendly.  Teens hold doors for adults and many have good manners.  Children get off their bicycles on sidewalks to let others pass.

Elders appear to be respected here.  Everyone seems to fuss over all the new babies.  Strangers still speak to each other in UP, confident that this is a safe city.

Dog owners share their pets with the pet-less.  Yesterday, a little dog named Molly climbed all over my legs when I asked her owner if he would mind sharing.

“It’s our pleasure,” he said, as I petted her for a few minutes.

Exploring our neighborhood this long weekend, the elder’s words remind me why I’m so optimistic:  I’m living in a place called UP.

(UP was first named University Place in the mid-1800s, when founders of then-University of Puget Sound bought 420 acres of land for their first campus.  Financial woes forced them to forfeit the property in 1893, but the name stuck.  While it expanded from cottages to modest suburbs, low-rise apartment blocks, and waterfront mansions, University Place wasn’t incorporated until 1995. There is still no university in this small city; Tacoma Community College sits at the border of UP.)

Celebrating urban wildlife at the start of September

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Chipmunk near South Puget Sound. (Kathleen Kenna photo)

Chipmunk in the woods. (Kathleen Kenna photo)

I’ve always welcomed September — start of school, often the start of new jobs — and it appears our urban wildlife do too.

Weekends are for walking in our neighborhood, and we’ve been blessed recently with more wildlife.

Guess we’re all preparing for the rainy season.

The days are still hot enough for kids to play in the fountains in front of the public library, and for dogs to splash in the Sound.  Just hearing them fills me with joy.

There’s a giddiness to this weekend, as we approach Labor Day.  Some are complaining this is the end of summer, and they’re bracing for the cold, months away.

Hello, neighbor! (Kathleen Kenna photo)

Hello, neighbor! (Kathleen Kenna photo)

I’m just grateful to be walking for hours in bliss, soaking up the rays in 80˚ temps.

We walk and walk, exploring our neighborhood.  Many seem to have left town for this long weekend.

(Friday’s traffic jams suggested this, so we’re not using our car at all for three days.)

Urban neighborhoods are quiet, except for the classic cars motoring through.  We’re certain Washington must have more rebuilt muscle cars, hot rods and antique cars than any other state, because we see so many on the roads, especially in the countryside.

Afternoon guest, Chambers Bay Golf Course, WA. (Kathleen Kenna photo)

Afternoon guest at Chambers Bay Golf Course. (Kathleen Kenna photo)

It’s so peaceful, we’re celebrating crickets chirping in the afternoon heat.  It’s the sound of summer …

I keep a little camera tucked in my pack for these long walks, hoping we’ll see deer.  Not this day — just squirrels and chipmunks and a few rabbits.

I’m celebrating each and every one, grateful for their company at the start of September.

 

Life in 5 lines or less: Spreading gratitude on water

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Kayaker searches map of Puget Sound, WA. (Hadi Dadashian photo)

Kayakers’ dream: Me, checking an outdoor map of Puget Sound waterways. (Hadi Dadashian photo)

So much water to paddle, so little time.

Puget Sound stretches 100 miles from north to south, but its watershed — all those rivers, inlets, bays and more — covers 12,138 square miles.

This is why I’m at home here.

I am spreading gratitude on the water, one stroke at a time.

Life in 5 lines or less© spreads gratitude, here, on Saturdays.

 

‘I’m too busy to be grateful’ and other common excuses

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Popular bar in San Diego, CA. (Hadi Dadashian photo)

Popular streetfront bar and restaurant in San Diego, CA says it all. (Hadi Dadashian photo)

The most common excuse we hear at the start of a gratitude practice:  ‘I’m too busy.’

Anyone who says that could pause and be grateful, then, in that moment, for all that makes life so busy.

Is it the children? a large, extended family?  Lots to be grateful for.

Friends, neighbors — even the most demanding ones?  Pick one and think why you’re grateful s/he is part of your life.

A job?  Volunteer work?  Sports, fitness, other fun?  Plenty of gratitude material.

Just a split-second pause for gratitude is a baby step on the way to true mindfulness in all we do, no matter how frantic life seems.

Grabbing at gratitude

Another of the most common excuses:  ‘I just don’t feel it.’

In 16 or more waking hours, there is not one thing that grabs your gratitude?

Try this:  Analyze the first move you make in the day.  Are you grateful for fresh water to drink? a warm shower? good food? a safe home?

Skip the mirror and the scales if you’re too self-critical and just live.  Breathe deeply and be grateful for this breath, then the next.  Give yourself permission to enjoy the way you look, the way you are, this moment, this day.

Is it quiet and you like that? Give thanks.

Is the family too noisy?  Give thanks for their commotion — and for the tranquility you might find later.

I was thinking of all this when making the bed this morning, recalling that I often grumble about how much I hate housework.  Yet even tossing the sheets is a pleasure, because I like our bed so much.  I’m recovering from insomnia, so I’m thankful we have a good mattress, and bright sheets from Ikea.

I’m grateful for the way it all fits together each morning, and for the rest it promises at day’s end.

 

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