Five things I’m grateful for: Bloganuary Entry #9

Gratitude, as defined, is the quality of being thankful.

And it is truly the key to life.

I love the current movement towards finding reasons to be grateful and ways to express gratitude daily. Sometimes I feel like it’s all too easy to forget that there are so many things in every single day that we should be grateful for. The simple act of waking up every morning is a gift. It’s an underappreciated gift. It’s a gift that is often taken for granted, and sometimes it’s not even acknowledged at all.

Last year, I bought a gratitude journal. Every entry was devoted to the things in that day that I felt gratitude for. I felt like it was super easy to think of every bad thing going on around me, but I truly needed to see the brighter and bigger picture, and I needed to realize that I had so much to be grateful for. Sadly, I was hot and heavy with my entries in the beginning, but things slowed down over time. So I’m happy that this prompt came up, because it’s a great reminder to get back to acknowledging everything that I have to be grateful for. Which is a lot.

So here is what would be in my gratitude journal entry today. Today I am grateful for…:

Medical care: I could go on and on about this one. Reliable, affordable, competent medical care is just hard to quantify or even explain, so all I can say is that I’m extremely grateful to have it.

Supportive and loving family: My family is just awesome. I am grateful that I feel this way about my family, because not everyone is able to say that about theirs.

My devoted partner: Whew chile! After what I’ve been through the last few months in addition to the pandemmy, lockdown, and the craziness of the last couple years…he has both driven me crazy and kept me sane all at the same time. And I legit would not have it any other way. I am so extremely grateful for him.

Delivery services: I cannot say enough about the way that delivery services has gotten me (and the world) through the past two years. USPS, Fedex, UPS, Amazon, food and grocery delivery, and any of the shipping partners that aren’t mentioned…they have truly stepped up in these crazy and scary times. I could go on and on and on and on about their sacrifices and their hard work in a time when things are uncertain and terrifying.

Animals: I don’t currently have a pet, but that doesn’t mean that animals have not been therapeutic in my life. I swear, I can watch animal videos all day if you let me! They brighten my day, make me laugh, and just bring me entirely too much joy.

So now that I’ve made this post and this list, it’s time to pull out my journal and get back into the practice of making sure I fully acknowledge all of the wonderful things, big or small, happening around me each day. There is entirely too much to be grateful for, and when it’s super easy to talk about what’s wrong in the world, I need to just as easily remember the good things around me.

If you had to pick something that you are grateful for today, no matter what scale it’s on, what would it be? I’d love to hear it!

Kindness Matters. Always.

I woke up this morning with a buzz in my ear…and here it is.

Kindness. Matters.

Once more.

Kindness. Matters.

You may have seen on my social media, on my etsy shop and on my blog that I call myself a kindness advocate.  Let me explain a little.  Judging comes very easy to me.  Always has.  Expectations and opinions flow through my veins.  It is only through some serious growth, and a few hard lessons, that I realized that I’m not always right and kindness truly matters. 

Giving the benefit of the doubt matters. 

Understanding that everyone is different matters. 

Realizing that everyone’s circumstances are different, their backgrounds are different, their response mechanisms are different, their support systems are different…and that all of that matters.

It took me well into my 30s before I realized that how I think, how I react, and what I do is not always right.  That was a hard pill to swallow.  Lol.  I realized I’m not always the smartest person in the room and that I’m definitely not always right.  I don’t always have the answers, and there are other ways of doing and thinking that are better than the way I do it.

I realized that you really have to hear where a person comes from and how they got to where they are in life before you can really understand their position, their mentality, and their actions. 

Maybe you would have done things differently if faced with the same set of circumstances, but maybe not.  I had to really examine how many times I’ve made a bad decision, one that others in my exact situation wouldn’t have made, and how I had to learn from the mistake to truly appreciate just how bad of a decision it was.  Most of the time, the decisions were things I could recover from.  But some did change my life in more permanent ways. But should I be judged or should someone be mean to me because I chose a wrong path or because I made a decision they wouldn’t have made? I don’t think so.

But every interaction may not afford you the opportunity for a deep dive into people’s lives so that you can understand exactly how they got to that street corner, or wound up in a financial bind, or whatever.  It may only be seconds of time out of your life that your path crosses with someone.  And that’s when you have to decide.  Would I rather spend these seconds judging, being mean, ignoring, or getting riled up?  Or would I rather realize this is a human being that got here by means of which I do not know, and that this person could use a couple of dollars, a sweater, a drink, a meal, a smile, or at the very least, for someone to not add to the weight on their shoulders by being mean to them?

My choice is compassion.  Or rather, the choice I hope I make each time is compassion.  Kindness.  Generosity.  I’m working each day to train myself to make that choice, and to advocate for people to consider compassion as their choice.  It’s not always easy, and it doesn’t come naturally all the time.  But that’s what I am working towards each day.  Kindness always.  Even when it’s really, really, really hard.

Through my apparel, I try to emphasize positivity and good vibes.  I try to always smile, and I try to see the good in every person I interact with either in person or on social media.  I’m not always successful, trust me.  But it is something I actively strive for each day.

These days we are all coping with unprecedented stress. We are in a situation we may not see again in our lifetime. We are all figuring it out and we are all trying our best. And we all deserve a little kindness.

Do you have a personal attribute that you are working on? What made you realize it was time to work on that particular quality? What do you do to motivate yourself to work on it? Do you have any tips?

Supporting Small Businesses – A Real World Example

This pandemic has led me to an interesting point in my life. Because of my indefinite telework schedule and the end of my apartment lease, I found myself at a decision point–where should I live?

I looked at apartments and rental homes, and found that nothing was really blowing my skirt up. So in a blog post I haven’t yet written, I will tell you all about how I put my stuff in storage, took up a hobo lifestyle (by choice), and decided to airbnb it for a while. In a future post, I’ll write about all of the how’s and why’s that went into my decision, and what I’ve learned from this experience thus far.

For now, this post is about supporting small (and minority-owned) businesses and a real world example of how this played out for me recently.

Without going into the mundane minutia behind deciding on my temporary rental location, let’s just say I found an airbnb to rent for a month. On move-in day, I had to check out of one home in North Carolina and drive to this next home in Virginia. That morning, I received a text from the host asking when I planned to arrive, and I told them I’d be there at 4pm, which was the posted check-in time for the home. Because I had to vacate the airbnb I had been staying in for the previous month by 10am, I would actually arrive in the area of my new home around 2pm and I planned to pass the time by grabbing some lunch.

As 4pm came, I received a text from the host saying they hated doing this, but they needed another 30 minutes. Something came up at the property, and it wouldn’t be ready on time. I was tired from the drive and a little disappointed, and had already blown some time…but…what’s another half hour? I decided to use the additional time to stock up on a few things at the grocery store.

At 4:30pm, I pull up to the home. The owner came out and apologized and said he needed another few minutes to finish up his last-minute cleaning. I told him I understood, and just waited in the car. This is the point where a lot of people would whip our their notepad and start jotting down bullets for their scathing review. And I suppose they would be well within their rights to do so.

Once I’m finally allowed in, the place was ok at best. He definitely could have used a little more time to do some final fixes and dusting. There was a light fixture that still needed a cover, there was a spot on the floor that could use some swiffering, and a few other odds and ends that weren’t refined. He felt so bad and said he wanted to have a welcome packet for me but it just wasn’t ready. I also felt a little misled by the area and the outward appearance of the home. But…I realized at this point, I had a decision to make. I could be irritated and angered by the hosts and by my disappointment, I could chalk this up to a learning experience, or I could grant the kindness and graciousness I’d want extended to me if I was a small business owner trying to work out the unexpected kinks in the airbnb industry. I decided irritation and anger served no purpose, and opted to use this as an opportunity to learn as well as a chance to let the owners find their way and figure out their processes in a new business.

But this is the point where supporting small and minority-owned businesses comes into play. A meme I had recently seen flashed into my mind at this very moment.

The meme says something like…”if McDonalds messes up your order, you will still buy from McDonald’s. If a small business messes up your order, or if there are delays beyond their control, you take to social media, trash the business and vow to never give them another dime of your money.”

How true is that statement?? Why are we so forgiving of businesses that have the means to get by with or without our support, but we trash those that are making errors as they launch? Or those that can’t control unprecedented backups at the post office? Or those that just simply missed the mark unknowingly?

Cancel culture ruins small businesses that are just trying to figure things out. Behind small businesses are moms and dads working full-time jobs trying to figure out that second income stream. Small businesses are made up of people that scraped together funds to put out a product that may just need a little customer input to make great. How do you claim to support small businesses in one moment and then cancel them at the smallest mistake or inconvenience in next? Support is support. Support is understanding. Support is encouragement. Support is NOT trashing a business because the shirt isn’t sized how you expected or because the icing on your cupcakes wasn’t the exact shade of pink that you wanted.

But I digress. Here’s what happened, what I learned, and my mindset going forward.

1. Was the airbnb what I expected? Actually yes. The problem is that, I did some delayed research, and lowered what I expected from the property after I had already booked it. Going forward, I will determine my “must-haves” and only book properties that meet those criteria.

2. Were the pictures accurate? Yes. The problem was that I booked it without seeing pics of the outside. That was my bad. Going forward, I will only book homes that have pictures of the inside and outside of the property.

3. Was it a smooth check-in? Not exactly. However I could blame my uncharacteristic promptness. For the previous airbnb, I checked in two days late. More about that another time. For this one, I arrived almost two hours early. If this weren’t covid times, I would have easily amused myself by shopping or perusing the area but the pandemic compounded by the local traffic that was flaring up just didn’t entice me to want to do anything but sit still in the car. Going forward, I will lay out my timing with the owners a day or two prior to arrival, and manage my expectations should I arrive earlier.

Part of why I chose to do this hobo thing is because I felt like I wanted peace, I wanted joy, and I wanted to have some unique experiences. I did not do this because I wanted to be mean, crotchetty, and annoyed at every inconvenience. This lifestyle doesn’t lend itself to precision and specificity. If I’m not willing to go with the flow and laugh and be kind, then I’m just going to find myself irritated and mad and stressed.

I have to realize people are trying their best and if I was an owner trying to do something for the first time, I’d love someone to give me the benefit of the doubt. To support me instead of write me off. To tell me what I could do better next time instead of telling me all the things they hated. I would want someone to support me by giving grace and understanding and kindness and encouragement. And that’s the way I plan to support small and minority-owned businesses.

How do you support local, small, minority-owned businesses? Do you have a story to share? I’d love to hear it!