Friday, November 23, 2007

from Grumpies to Gratitude

On Thanksgiving Day The May Queen and I journeyed with a rather large group of people from my church to a shelter in the city. This shelter flooded during Katrina, and our congregation has been working hard to help them reopen their doors, which they did just about a month ago. The shelter takes in homeless women and their children, and works to help them get a job and a home. They provide childcare, education, job training, classes in cooking and parenting and money management. It is a small shelter, with strict restrictions on the residents. They expect a lot from those who use their services, but give a lot in return.

We had an embarrassing amount of people who wanted to go and help. It was a clear indicator that we need to provide more opportunities like this one. But no one minded that there were too many of us to fit in the kitchen. We played with the children in the nursery. We helped sort donations of clothes. We visited with the women and their children. Sometimes we just stood around, lost in our own thoughts. What would it be like to not have a home? To live in a place where you are at the mercy of others? To need the sort of help that these women need? What happens that these women and their children, these women with their pregnant bellies... what did life bring them that they now don't have anywhere else to go?

I felt so thankful for all that I have... even the money stresses and the husband out of town for the holiday.

Yet I got home and got the grumpies. I was lonely. I miss the holidays of my youth with lots of family, lots of laughter, a jigsaw puzzle on one table and a board game on another. The TV showing the parade and later football, but no one really watching. I was lonely in my house with just The May Queen and I. The blessings I had felt that morning were in my mind, but not so much in my heart.

So I decided to turn it around. If I'm thankful for it, I need to live that gratitude, right? So I announced that we would be eating dinner as a picnic in the living room. I spread out a blanket, turned on the gas fireplace (oh, how I miss real burning wood! but no, I would not dwell on the negative!), left the movie playing on the televison, and served leftovers on the floor. The May Queen thought this was delightful. Then I announced we would go for a walk. We bundled up and took the flashlight. The poor neighbors must have thought a drunk monkey was trying to shine a light in their windows as The May Queen pointed the flashlight at all the homes looking for the first signs of Christmas decorations. Then we held hands and skipped down the street. "This thanksgiving walk was a GREAT idea, Mama," she said. Perhaps the best compliment she has ever given me. I looked around and thanked God that I lived in a neighborhood where I felt safe taking my 5 year old for a skip around the block after dark. When we returned home we returned to the blanket in the living room for not one, but TWO servings of hot chocolate. "This hot chocolate was a GREAT idea, Mama," the May Queen enthused.

Two GREAT ideas in one night? Be still my heart.

It's amazing what a change in (gr)attitude will do. I didn't have a bustling family around me. I had a quiet evening with my lovely daughter. And I knew to be thankful for it, and acted like I was. And by the time I kissed her goodnight? Goodbye grumpies.


*******
Your Monday Mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write a post in the form of directions:
Step 1 - Curse Painted Maypole for keeping up this dratted Monday Mission thing
Step 2 - remember that you wanted to play along at some point
Step 3 - decide this week is just as good as any other lame Mission PM puts forth
Step 4 - Write a brilliant post
Step 5 - come back here on Monday and post a link to your brilliant post
Step 6 - Mission Accomplished

36 comments:

alejna said...

You do have some great ideas. Nighttime walks, living room picnics and hot chocolate? Superb!

I know that feeling of being grateful in my head but not my heart. Good for you to figure out ways to turn things around.

jen said...

i am glad you wrote a bit about yesterday, i was so wondering how it went.

and it's so true. money really doesn't buy happiness. it just makes it easier. we've still got to find it. lucky for you (and me) that we have good little teachers.

Karen said...

thank you, that was very wonderful after a day spent shuffling papers to try to get kids health care and food stuffs sorted for year 08 - frustration and now on to gratitude for these things, for the fact that we have the programs, despite all the paperwork rambling that comes with them.

thailandchani said...

That sounds great... Really. If I was a kid, those are the kind of memories I'd want to have.

The May Queen will remember that when she's older and appreciate it even more.

flutter said...

This is really quite wonderful

blooming desertpea said...

It takes so little to be happy, isn't it? It only takes us a lot sometimes to realise that. Good on you for turning it a wonderful day!!

Luisa Perkins said...

Good for you, PM. I admire that you turned the grumpies around.

Badness Jones said...

You're a great mama Painted Maypole...the May Queen is lucky to have you!

Julie Pippert said...

Those are GREAT ideas.

Julie
Using My Words

the dragonfly said...

I miss holidays like that too...but such is Army life. We have to find the spirit of the holiday, you know? This year we had a blast starting the Little Mister on solid foods. He certainly was entertaining!!

Angela said...

Found your blog through Simply Nutmeg, and I loved this post. I, too, long for holiday traditions and the sort of company I used to enjoy as a child. I came from a huge family myself. Recent years have been very different, and it is a hard adjustment. I appreciate your perspective here. It's one I've tried to maintain myself, and I know that with time, these new traditions will come to mean as much, if not more than the old.

another good thing said...

Beautiful. I may have to steal your grumpy-ridding ideas,as the "spirit" of Christmas descends on the suburbs!

crazymumma said...

Painted, why this made me get a bit choked up I am not sure. I think though it was the part about you just spending beautiful time with your daughter.

Catherine said...

This is a fantastic post - I'm thankful that you shared it. I've been away from blogs due to the flu and vacation, and this is the first post I've read in days. Thanks. catherine

Amy Y said...

MQ is right! Loved reading the beautiful post...

Rimarama said...

I would miss having family bustling around on Thanksgiving, too, but you made the best of the situation. And I'll bet the memory of that evening will be among the May Queen's fondest. You are such a fun mom!

slouching mom said...

Oh! You are an AWESOME mama, PM!

(And Chani's comment -- what a HUGE compliment to you.)

Aliki2006 said...

I've been feeling overwhelmed by gratitude lately, too! I loved the idea of both the picnic and the walk--wonderful.

Kyla said...

You really did have great ideas! Sounds perfectly lovely. In fact, I think I'm going to go make myself a mug of hot chocolate now. :)

Karen MEG said...

That was amazing how you turned right around and made it such a delightful, memorable and lovely time with your daughter. Such a sweet mama you are. I need a big dose of anti-grumpy most days - thanks for spurring on an attitude adjustment in me!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Congrats on turning things around. And you know what? I'll bet this will be one of the Mayqueen's happiest Thanksgivings ever. What a gift that is.

Jozet at Halushki said...

What a wonderful memory to create!

I bet that someday in the distant future, your daughter will be with a bunch of family around a table eating food, playing puzzles, watching football...

and remember that magical Thanksgiving when she and her mama took a Thanksgiving walk together and had a picnic dinner, just the two of them.

Both are wonderful - Happy Thanksgiving!

Mac and Cheese said...

You have such an amazing spirit!

Terri said...

What an inspiring post! How wonderful that you were able to act positively and as a result you felt positively. This just proves that many times our feelings do follow our actions.

Casdok said...

Great post!

Alice said...

Wonderful ideas! I also have thought about what it would be like to live without a home. At the mercy of others. It's a terrifying thought, but that just gives me more energy and drive to help those who do. I'll try to come up with a post of my own, but I'm not that great of a writer. We'll see.

susiej said...

I LOVE This post. It's so honest. How many times are we with people and we secretly feel this way anyway? How many times do we wish they were different? And, yes, it's all in our little old attitude. What a switch. This is It's A Wonderful Life all wrapped up into one simple perfect post.
Love this.

Alpha DogMa said...

YEAH for new traditions! Sounds like you had a true day of giving thanks.

Maddy said...

I don't know if I'll manage to join in this time, but I like the sentiment. So much of how we feel is down to attitude, whether we let that control us or whether we turn it around and control it instead.
Best wishes

Kathryn said...

I bet your daughter will remember that walk forever. That is a precious memory. Way to turn your mood around and infect your daughter with fun instead of the grumps like I so often seem to do to my poor boys.

Family Adventure said...

What you said about a change in attitude is so true. Words to live by.

I'm glad you had a lovely day with your girl. :)

Heidi

niobe said...

I missed my family on Thanksgiving too. In the end, I had a, y'know, great time anyway, but, reading your post made me a little sad that we have to come up with these alternatives, even if, in the end, we can change our attitude and enjoy what we have.

Aimee Greeblemonkey said...

Attitude is everything. Hugs!

thirtysomething said...

What an amazing day. It will live in her memory and yours, forever.

Christine said...

that sounds like a perfect "date"

and this: "We had an embarrassing amount of people who wanted to go and help. It was a clear indicator that we need to provide more opportunities like this one."

how awesome that so many people wanted to help out!

Victoria said...

It does indeed sound "Great!" - the date with your girl and especially the giving of yourselves to the shelter. We're doing that again next week and my Boy and I are so looking forward to it. It fills us up.