Gratitude. I use the spoken every day. I wear it on my wrist. I am intentional about making it a daily practice. I am aware if its power and perhaps that's why I find myself so desperately needing to practice it on a deeper level. The 365 Grateful photo project has been calling to me for a while now and it's time to answer the call. I remember the effect it had on me when I accepted the challenge four years ago. It changed my life. It changed me. Lately, I'm finding whispering and wearing gratitude isn't enough. It's just going through the motions. Like any muscle, it needs to be challenged to be changed. I need to capture it, be with it, find a way to creatively express the beauty of the graces that surround me. So here it goes...
*** FOR MOST RECENT POSTS PLEASE SEE Blog Part 2-
Day 50: Tribes
Today, I was asked to take pictures at Kadi Fit (Cornelius, NC) to promote March Man Month. I love when I have opportunities to share my passions and give back to this selfless community (or tribe as its members know it). Kadi is a place that honors the unique ways each of its members are gifted and inspires each of them to journey on the adventurous path of discovering their own special light. I can't even begin to count the ways this tribe has shared its passions and gifts to support me on my journey, and I am grateful for the opportunity to return the favor.
Day 49: Backyard Gatherings
Regardless of age, there is something absolutely wonderful about backyard togetherness.
Day 48: Summit Races
I love when the awesome atmosphere found at Summit Coffee Shop spills out into the street for a 5 mile run and post party throw down. The incredible crew that kick starts my mornings blended art, community, charity, fitness, food, and fantastic fun and served up an energized, passion-packed evening beyond compare.
Day 47: Creating the Story
I am grateful for the fact that every day we are given, we have a chance to create our life story. Whether it is deciding to end a chapter and begin a new, or continuing to weave in details of love and adventure into our on-going tale, we get to be a contributing author and shape our main character. The awareness of the unlimited possibility hiding in each moment empowers us to create significant and captivating plots that will hopefully be worth passing down through our future generations.
Day 46: Nephews
I am beyond grateful for one-on-one time with my nephew Michael. Love, love, love this boy.
Day 45: Gift of Self
When I think back on my middle school teachers, I can remember the names of the ones that I loved and ones that I certainly wasn't fond of. I have a hard time recalling the names of the many teachers that fell within the middle category. Mr. D. won't ever have to worry about any of his students forgetting his name. Like many of our arts teachers, he gives up his mornings, lunches, afternoons, and evenings to share his passions with his students. His students adore him. During these past few weeks, Mr. D has pulled some incredibly long hours prepping our showtime group for competition and preparing our middle school performers for their big musical production. I tell my kids that gift of self is the best gift they could ever give to anyone. Mr. D. may not tell the kids this, but he teaches it by exemplifying it every day. I am grateful for him and for all of the teachers that constantly teach the importance and beauty of gift of self.
Day 44: Visual Reminders
Yes. Please. And let's not forget to bloom in the process.
Day 43: At the End of the Day...
Let's face it, some days it's easier to be grateful than others. Today was one of those days when things just seemed to go wrong. I was feeling a bit like Alexander and the No Good, Terrible, Horrible Day. I topped off my evening with a yucky disagreement with a good friend. Ugh. I have to admit, at day's end I had not taken a picture nor was I motivated to complete my task. I was tired and was looking forward to starting fresh in the morning. My husband once told me those are the days when it is most important to find something to capture. He's a smart one, that guy. What to capture...health, family, the fact that I have a roof over my head and food to eat...hmm, maybe my day isn't so bad after all. My wandering led me to a floral display and wedding picture in our dining room. Seeing the combo of the two made me realize no matter how many tears have fallen or fists have shaken in the past twenty years, I end and start each day with the man I love. No matter how blah moments of today were, I am grateful to have someone to share my yucky days with and for the strength that comes from scars.
Day 42: A Walk in the Woods
My children and I discovered a new park today while geocaching (amazing family fun). I am grateful for their curious spirits, their love of family adventures, their ability to discover treasure everywhere, and the simple fact that they still love to climb trees.
Day 41: Visiting with Past Students and Watching Amazing Arts Performances with my Daughter
A few years ago, I was faced with the most challenging year in my teaching profession. I moved to middle school, an age group I told myself I would never teach, teaching a subject matter in which I had no formal education. Each day seemed to lend itself to chaos and doubt as I found myself trying to fit into middle school all over again. Today, I couldn't imagine doing anything else and I know without a doubt I am exactly where I am supposed to be. The two students pictured above were part of my constant motivation to find a way to make that first year work and push me to be the best teacher possible.
I had the awesome pleasure of watching these two beautiful ladies, alongside many of my past students, put on an amazing performance of Bring It On. The show was beyond phenomenal. As I watched all of these kiddos share their incredible talents with an enthralled audience, I couldn't help be grateful that even for only a brief year I was able to share life with so many of them. As these students grow and accomplish amazing things in this world, I hope they know their teachers will always hold them in their hearts and be cheering them on in the sidelines.
Day 40: Music
Sometimes you come across music that speaks to your heart and makes you think it was written just for you. I found that in an entire album. Jason Mraz is one of my favorite artists and I am completely in love with his new album YES! Today, I am grateful for soul-feeding tunes that bring joy to the heart.
Day 39: Gifted Moments and Memories
Today would have been my daughter's fifteenth birthday. We lost Gabrielle shortly after birth. There is a sadness and ache that lingers in her absence, and it seems heavier to carry on her birthday. The pain my husband and I endured after we lost her is one I wouldn't wish on anyone. There are times I ponder that if I had known we were going to lose her, would I have chosen to go through the pregnancy. The answer, a whole-hearted yes. All the grief in the world wouldn't stop me from missing out on the moments I had with our little angel. Yes, tears still fall and I still miss her with my entire being, but I am incredibly grateful for the beautiful time we had together. Her brief time with us reminds me that we are all on borrowed time. That everything we have isn't ours, but merely on loan. and every moment we are given is a gift. She opened my eyes and heart to cherishing moments more deeply and gave me an awareness to not take things for granted. Today, I am deeply grateful for the moments and memories Gabrielle gifted us with and for her presence in our lives.
Day 38: Love Wins:
I love working for a school that emphasizes the arts. Today, I helped out with the 6th grade play which focuses on Anne Frank. I sat through the play four times and was completely engaged during each performance. I couldn't help but reflect on Anne's experience. I wondered how this young girl could fill her book with words of love, goodness, and kindness while staring hate, evil, and brutality in the face. My heart aches for the short and difficult life she had, but I am grateful for how her love and strength eventually overcame the darkness. This was the 8th year our 6th graders performed this play. That means in our school alone, she has taught the importance of hope, light, and love to over 800 students. Our students know that being a bystander is just a bad as being the bully. They know that one person, no matter how small, can make a world of difference. My day ended with a staff meeting at our high school. Upon leaving, I took time to notice the love lock art display at the front of the school. There is a lock for every staff member. It reinforced the fact that no matter what obstacles or challenges we are faced with, at the end of the day LOVE WINS.
Day 37: Brooklyn
I had the incredible gift of spending my day with this beautiful girl. I loved exploring everything all over again and seeing the world through her eyes. It was as if I was experiencing something for the first time all over again. She drew my attention to the beauty and the feel of a small leaf, the thrill of splashing in puddles, and opened my eyes to discovering this great wide world around us. After all of our big adventures, this little one snuggled into my shoulder and soon after fell asleep. Sometimes, it's the little moments that have the biggest impacts on our hearts.
Day 36: Gift of Nothing
When I arrived at work today, a special friend surprised me with a "just because" gift. This gift of NOTHING was EVERYTHING. It reminded me that to give big is to live big. It also reminded me that others may have a perspective of us that doesn't always align with our own perceived image. When we take the time to share those beautiful perspectives we have for all of the amazing people in our lives, it helps to remind them of their purpose and potential. My entire day changed because of this gift and it set forth a ripple effect of love and gratitude. Beth Knight, you are the gift, dear friend, and I will always be grateful for the gift of you.
Day 35: Meeting New People
This afternoon, I had the awesome privilege of doing a photo shoot for the Bormann Family. Parents, siblings, and cousins were together for the first time in a very long time and I felt their incredible love for one another the second I walked through the door. It didn't matter that our outdoor shoot moved inside due to rain and we had four small boys that would rather be playing with tools and trucks rather than having their picture taken, their joy of just being together made everything work flawlessly. It's always fun to meet new people, but it's amazing when I get to meet special families such as this one.
Day 34: Family Road Trips
My sister, daughter and I jumped in the car and headed to Raleigh today to visit my aunt and uncle. There was no real reason for the visit other than we just missed being with them. As far as aunts and uncles go, they are by and far the coolest. My Aunt Kathryn is one of the most talented writers, cooks, and artists I know. My Uncle Tom, well, he is known in his community as "The Funniest Man in North Carolina" but I'm pretty sure they sold him short because he could compete for that title on an international level. It was a gift to be able to spend time with them, to share a road trip with my sister and daughter, and just be with family and have no agenda. Does the picture above capture all of that...not really, but sometimes it's more important to be fully present in the moments rather than capturing them to share with others.
Day 33: Love Does
Earlier this week, I learned I needed to incorporate a gluten-free diet into my lifestyle. The change didn't phase me much until I realized that meant no more pizza. I love pizza. for as long as I can remember, Friday nights were pizza nights. I had left to teach my late afternoon fitness class thinking today would be a day of new Friday traditions, only to return home and find my husband had made a homemade gluten-free pizza. He reminds me daily through his actions and service love is a verb. I am incredibly grateful for all of the acts of love in my life, but most especially for all of the ways my husband demonstrates LOVE DOES.
Day 32: Play Dates with my Kids
I love how snow days bring out the kid in us all. After building Calvin and Hobbes style snowmen and sledding downhill at Davidson College full speed while being chased by playful puppy romps, we snuggled in by the fire with our hot cocoa and fuzzy pjs (and let's face it, whether your sporting a mustache or not,you're never too old to wear fuzzy pjs). It doesn't get much better than this.
Day 31: Couch Snuggles and Anticipation
After returning to work today and leading 6 fitness classes after days of being stomach punched by the flu, I was completely drained when I came home. My daughter was staying after school for play practice and my husband was at work, which meant I got some one on one time with my son. I am grateful that it is the being that outweighs the doing. We decided to flop on the couch, break our "no media during the week" rule, and just chill for a little bit together...after wrestling the dogs for a spot on the couch. Later that evening when we were all reunited, second winds kicked in and excitement and hope ran wild as the snow began to fall. The fast falling drops served as an invitation and promise to the gift of a care-free, snow-smothered, play date just waiting to be unwrapped tomorrow morning.
Day 30: Snow Covered Serendipity
It was a crazy morning this morning as we awoke to a snowfall surprise. The snow seemed to catch everyone off guard and left no reaction time for any sort of school delay or closing. Lucky for me, it was my day off. Don't get me wrong, I love my job, but fighting flu can sap some serious strength and I was craving some quiet recovery time. So, after dropping the kids off at school, I drove up to my favorite coffee shop, stood out back, and just let the small flakes fall upon me as I absorbed the beauty of the moment. It seemed ironic to me that something so quiet, soft, and peaceful creates reactions of crazy-hyper-youth-gone-wild energy. I felt a little guilty leaving my fellow teachers trapped in the building with all of the energized kiddos while I escaped to enjoy my coffee in serene-spilled solitude. It didn't take long for that guilt to turn into gratitude, however, as I took my first sip and gave thanks for the thousands of gifts drifting down from above.
Day 29: Growth Mindset
In one of our staff meetings we learned about growth mindset and the power of "yet." Growth mindset reminds us that we are not victims to an assigned set of abilities or talents, and by adding "yet" to negative statements, we empower ourselves on a course of actions and choices allowing us to reach great heights. This form of thinking is beneficial in anything we see as struggle. I can almost hear the little bloom pictured above saying "it's cold, there's ice all around me, I'm not going to flower...yet." I could relate to this shoot as I work on regaining my health and strength. I'm not strong enough, I don't feel good, I'm not better...yet. I know with the right care and dedication to my well-being, however, that I'll be back up and blossoming in no time.
Day 28: Sick Days
It seems silly to be grateful for sick days. The picture above was all I could capture because I couldn't get out of bed due to body aches, fever, and just feeling all out miserable. We don't have a television in our room and my eyes were too weary to read, so I spent my day in bed wavering between naps and quiet stares outside my window. Funny thing is, there is beauty and peace in simple silence and nothingness. There were no distractions, there was just me and the ever present moment. I think at times sick days are a gift from above making us slow down, forcing us to rest and even stop all together. In a crazy busy world, we often feel guilty resting and being...especially during long periods of time. I am grateful for the amazing way the body heals itself and for the opportunity to just be .
Day 27: Time to Do the Things You Love or Nothing at All
Grateful for the rare days when there are no confines to the calendar and plenty of open space to pursue soul-feeding passions and/or nothing at all.
Day 26: High School Dances and Mock Photo Booths
I had an incredible opportunity to help shoot a mock photo booth at our High School's semi-formal dance. It was such a gift to see so many of my past students thriving, dancing, and enjoying life. These kiddos have transformed into beautiful young adults inside and out. I am grateful for the awesome adventure I had with super talented artist and dear friend Lee Ann Harrison (credited for photo above). I am forever grateful to the magical Joy Warner who not only made all of this possible, but who teaches me on a daily basis the unlimited incredible potentiality that manifests when life is fueled with real love, passion, and commitment to life's non-negiotables.
Day 25: Hidden Faces and Photo Bombs
I am always seeing hidden faces in random things and places. Gratefully, I share this gift with a friend and we often text pictures of the faces we find. Today I knew it was going to be a good day when I noticed my "everything free" blueberry muffin smiling back at me. As I held the muffin up for its close up, my dog quickly jumped in with eager anticipation of sweet morsels hitting the ground. What a beautiful sight when we set our eyes on our hearts (or stomach's) desires!
Day 24: Tranformation
These past few days, everything has been shut down due to weather, including my son's scout meeting. As patrol leader, he was quite concerned about losing a day to prep for a weekend Klondike Adventure with his patrol. So, he took matters into his own hands and designed a prep meeting at our house. I watched him lead and guide a group of boys in frigid temps as they practiced various survival scouting skills. I was impressed by his dedication, his discipline, and the way scouts is helping him transform not only into a great leader, but into an incredible young man. As I stood in the door way snapping pictures (it was too cold for this girl to make her way outside), I noticed the sky...a little reminder that as much transformation taking place, love centers it all and love wins.
Day 23: Snow Days
I am grateful for the surprise of snow leading to muffin-baking, pajama-wearing, time-off-together snuggle days. I am grateful for the beauty that emerges from the bitter, the cold, the frozen, the thawing out, the warmth, the fire, the security, and the transformations that happen within all of those spaces.
Day 22: Projection and Possibility
The above images were created with the use of a projector in a portrait class I am taking at The Light Factory. They serve to remind me of the power we have to create our own stories. The words we wear on our sleeves, an expanding universe of infinite story-telling possibility, and ourselves as authors creating the depth of our character in each moment we are given.
Day 21: Purging, De-Cluttering, and Cleaning House
Grateful for the peace that follows after getting rid of the extra stuff we needlessly hold on to and putting the stuff we keep back in its rightful place.
Day 20: Valentine's Day
My husband and I kicked off Valentine's Day with a couples thai massage workshop. We were guided through a process of serving our mates through relaxation and wellness techniques. I've never been a big fan of the marketing and consumerism attached to this holiday, but I do appreciate a day focused around love. I'm not talking about red roses and box of chocolate kind of love, but real love.
A friend of mine recently shared a story about how her Great Grandmother's favorite holiday was Valentine's Day. Her Great Grandmother would send out Valentine's cards to friends and loved ones every year. Her Great Grandmother passed away during the month February, and soon after her death, loved ones received notes of love and appreciation mailed out just shy of her passing. This story helped to open my eyes to the power of love and the potentiality of this special day. Real love is serving others with grace. It's hard work, it's sacrifice, and it is so worth it. Imagine if we all set time aside to let all the special folks in our life know that they matter. Imagine if we all set some intentional time aside to serve with grace. I am grateful for this story and the new possibilities it brings to celebrating this special day.
Day 19: Student Led Conferences, Advisors, True Love
Today, I received a text from a friend sharing a thought that our lives are opportunities to be human connections of true love for one another. These past few days I have been knocked down, wowed, and overwhelmed by the way so many special friends have been true love connections. My daughter had her student led conference today. Rather than meeting with teachers to discuss how Kara is performing in school, the student led conference allows Kara to take ownership of her own learning and inform us about her strengths and weaknesses in each subject. Kara worked closely with her advisor, Beth, to accomplish this. Before the conference began, Beth presented Kara with a special gift of a beautiful, hand-crafted metal heart necklace . Beth explained to Kara the heart was imperfect because love is imperfect, that sometimes it is hard and sometimes it hurts, but it is always beautiful and always worth it. She designed the heart to match the template Kara chose for her SLC presentation. Yet again, one of Kara's teachers gave her a gift of a lesson that could never be taught within the confines of classroom walls. We have been blessed beyond words to be surrounded by incredible souls that serve as human connections to true love, and who remind us of the miracles that occur when we give the gift of self while serving others with grace.
Day 18: Random Acts of Love
Today is my daughter's birthday. She was supposed to start her day with a student led conference followed by a day of fun surprises. Instead, she woke to find her beloved pet rat, Cream, dead. I texted her advisor to let her know we could not make the student led conference and we changed our plans to grieve, process, and honor the time she had with Cream. Late this morning, there was a knock at the door. Kara's science teacher, Sarah, had heard of KK's loss and stopped by in the few minutes she had between a jam-packed day of conferences to comfort Kara and surround her with love. She came bearing flowers, a favorite treat for pets still existing, and lots of love. Sarah is a dynamite science teacher and has instilled a passion for science in my daughter. Today, however, she gave the gift of teaching my daughter perhaps the greatest lesson..the power behind a random act of love. There is no better gift my daughter could have received today and gratitude seems hardly enough to express what I feel in my heart for this random act of love.
Day 17: Coffee with Meg
It doesn't matter if it is coffee, or dancing, or just sharing life's moment, this girl is simply pure sunshine for the soul. She has taught me so much about faith, love, life, and laughter. Though she initially blows most people away with her mad dance skills and passionate energy, this girl is wise beyond her years and her light is blinding. I am forever grateful for the gift of her friendship and the moments we get to share.
Day 16: Card Games
There is something about the simplicity of sitting around the table with a deck of cards. No matter how busy or crazy life gets, there's always time for a quick hand of cards.
Day 15: Study Time With The Kids
Grateful to walk the path of life-long learning with my children.
Day 14: Sounds Within Silence
Grateful for the small sounds noticed in the space of silence...a puppy's soft grunts, the cooing of a dove, the whispers of the spirit.
Day 13: Indulgence
Most Fridays, my family unwinds with pizza and movie night. After a long week of eating right, exercising, and working hard, there is nothing better than snuggling up on the couch with my favorite people savoring a delicious slice of pizza and glass of red wine.
Day 12: Pursuing Passion
I have been taking a studio lighting class at the light factory these past few weeks (an amazing gift from my husband). I love learning about the art that feeds my soul, about how to use and create light, how to see more deeply, and play with possibility. Photography teaches us that the shadows and darkness are just as important as the light to capture an incredibly beautiful image.
Day 11: My Marriage
I am grateful for the foundation of love I've been blessed with, for opportunities of learning, growth, togetherness, the chapters we've written, and the chapters yet to come. Michael Angell, I am grateful to have you as my forever life partner. Thank you for being there through the beautiful, the ugly, and the ugly beautiful.
Day 10: Returning Home
I am grateful for my husband and children, my loved ones, my tribe, my colleagues, my neighbors, my church, and all that make up home. I love the life I have created with my husband and children and the excitement I feel when I'm away and about to return home to them. I am also grateful for all those willing to do tough jobs that make returning home possible.
Day 9: Winter
We had approximately 8 inches of snow fall while we were in NY. This is the last snow fall I will ever experience here. This shed will soon be removed, the house soon sold, what ever contents left thrown out or donated. Winter reminds us that what seems like an end is really just the foundation and preparation for new life. I am grateful for the knowledge that underneath all of the snow lies the promise of new growth, new potential, and countless seeds waiting to bloom and burst forth with radiance and new energy. I find gratitude in the beauty of the old and the promise of the new.
Day 8: Super Bowl on a Movie Screen
So awesome to watch the Patriots and Sea Hawks go head to head in my dad's theater. This was probably the first football game I have ever watched with my dad and my sister and the last few minutes had all of us jumping out of our seats. My favorite part... the half-time show. Katy Perry totally rocked it. We've had a lot of memories in the theater room and I am grateful for all of them.
Day 7: Game Night and P-Pa Party Mix
After a physically and emotionally hard day of cleaning out my father's attic and sorting though my brother's belongings, my sister, friend, cousin, dad, and soon to be stepmother gathered around the table for some fellowship and fun. My dad, with his mad hosting skills, put out his party mix of peppermint m&m's and goldfish to munch on as we ridiculously competed against each other and raced to the finish.
Day 6: Commitment
Every Friday morning, my husband and I wake up at 5:15 am for a hard core workout with this stellar crew. There are no excuses, no sleeping in, no backing out. Starting our morning and our weekend this way together is one of the steps towards our best-version-of-self.
Day 5: Chloe
This is a bittersweet gratitude for me and a hard one to put into words. I am so grateful for this dog. She represents a piece of my brother and my time with her helps me feel connected to him. She is full of personality and spirit and I hear his laugh every time she plays and talks and sits on our laps. She was supposed to be his service dog and will soon be an official therapy dog. She will bring joy to many hearts, but none will compare to the joy I have when I'm with her. I'm so grateful to have something to hold on to after impossible goodbyes.
Day 4: Time With This Girl
Whether it is painting pottery or waiting in a doctors office, time with this girl is a precious gift from above. She is my miracle and motivates me daily to be the best parent and person I could possibly be. She is a passionate, determined, strong, brave, loving dreamer that makes magic every day. She is quickly growing into a beautiful young woman and I am beyond grateful to have a front row seat on the journey.
Day 3: CSD Wellness Crew
Spending 2 days a week after school working out with these ladies is an incredible highlight of my week. Their strength and spirit wow me each time we gather and I get so excited at the mere thought of our gatherings. The discipline, bravery, and energy they bring is inspiring. It is such a gift to watch them grow stronger every day. I am a better person because of them! *There are many fabulous, incredible faces that are part of this crew not pictured here. Though our entire community is not fully represented in this photo, my love and gratitude overflows for each one of you!
Day 2: Best Job Ever
One of the most beautiful things about teaching in middle school is the pure surprise each day holds. Some days can be quite challenging and others pure magic. Most are a combo of both. Today was a pure magic day. I've been coaching my kiddos to run a 5k. Let's face it, running is hard. It takes commitment and determination and some have to fight harder than others to overcome the barriers that accompany running. Each of my kiddos wow me every day with their efforts and energy. Today, one particular student took it upon her self to motivate those around her. Because of her enthusiasm, persistence, and encouragement, these students ran the longest and fastest run of their lives. She accomplished in minutes what I have tried to achieve in months. It reminded me of the power of friendship, the potential we all have in helping others achieve greatness, and made me feel incredibly grateful that I get to spend my days being a part of the magic these kids make.
Day 1: Life Group
I am grateful for my Life Group. Let's face it, we all need a crew to help keep us on track. We traveled across the world together. We became love in action through surrender and obedience. We continue to meet weekly to remind ourselves of the shared journey that began our first night in Kenya. We laugh, cry, and pray together as we encourage each other along the path of best-version-of-self, faith, and life-long learning . My heart overflows with gratitude for the gift of these amazing people in my life and for the commitment to coming together no matter how busy or crazy life seems to become. They certainly played a role in kick starting this project back up and they are simply awesome. Go Gratitude.