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...
Day 102: Getting Off Track (and back on again)
I have to admit, I got way off track. I'm back on, but taking a slightly new course..check it out:http://danielleangellphotography.zenfolio.com/blog
Day 101: Adventures
Day 100: Establishing Boundaries
Somethings in this life are worth fighting for. I'm grateful for all of the things worth defending and for the brave that shows up in our hearts when it comes for standing up for those precious things that matter.
Day 99: Goslings
I recently learned that goslings mate for life and will even leave the flock to stay behind with a sick or injured mate. It didn't surprise me to learn this. When we walk to the park and watch the proud parents celebrate their new goslings, the family bond is evident. I am grateful for opportunities to learn about the various animals around us and for opportunities to witness tender moments between babies and parents.
Day 98: Chill Time
I am grateful for the soft breeze, the warmth of the afternoon sun, the sound of sweet tunes, and the possibility of an afternoon nap that soothe the soul after a hard day's work.
Day 98: Painting with Light
I am grateful for the excitement found within this soul-feeding passion.
Day 97: Unusual Friendships
There is something incredibly special when togetherness and play are more powerful than differences and boundaries.
Day 96: Intentional Moments
I'd love to be able to offer gratitude for the spontaneity of this tender moment between my children. Truth is, this picture was a result of a bribe. My kids desperately wanted to see the movie The Avengers. Where as they crave action and entertainment, I crave more tender moments between them. I'm not proud, but I did use the situation to my advantage. They had to work together to get a list of chores done and then pose sweetly for a picture. It's amazing what they can accomplish when properly motivated. I'm grateful for the openness to intentional moments. I believe the more they see the push for intentionality behind certain actions, they will come to realize the value behind them and one day live them out intrinsically.
Day 95: Trees
I've always been captivated by the beauty of trees. Each one seems to hold a story and possess an energy that differs from those around it. It is said that under the right conditions the root system mimics the flourish of branches on top. I am grateful for the symbolism, beauty, and complexity found within these masterpieces of nature.
Day 94: Spartan 5k and Cumulative Events
My students have been training to run a 5k throughout the entire year. The gradual curriculum instills the confidence and skills needed for all students to accomplish the task at their level. For some, the win was simply in crossing the finish line. For others, the win was in being a top finisher. Regardless of individual goals, my students banded together and celebrated their victories. They saw that through hard work and dedication, they could achieve the goals they set before themselves. They pushed themselves out of their comfort zone only to find a deeper strength within. I couldn't be more proud of these kiddos. I am incredibly grateful to have them in my life.
Day 93: Having a Voice
I've been without a voice for a few days. Having a voice is one of those things so many of us take for granted.I didn't realize how much I talked in a day until it became difficult to do so. I've had to learn to only try and speak when absolutely necessary. I've had to learn to make each word count and make my messages short and to the point. I've had to learn to listen and not respond right away. In all of this learning, I have found a deeper power and connection found within silence. I am engaged with the speakers around me on a much deeper level because I am not thinking about how to respond or what to say. I can simply listen. I am grateful for the learning process and gifts that open up when we realize the power of the gifts we already possess.
Day 92: Inner Beauty
I am grateful for the times I remember to slow down and see the incredible beauty found within in the intricate make-up of everyday things.
Day 91: Opening of Community Gardens
I am grateful for the fellowship, and sharing of gifts and talents as we embark on this new adventure. This special space will no doubt nourish body and soul and serve as a foundation for growing and thriving in togetherness.
Day 90: Spill-Over Lasagna
I am grateful for my loving husband and his delicious masterpiece overflowing with yumminess.
Day 89: Laying Foundations
There is something incredibly awesome that happens when we lay foundations. We begin to embrace the creativity that flows as we embark on the process of creating a bigger picture. Thoughts and visions begin to shape themselves into reality. And when we work side by side to achieve a common goal, we begin to realize the sky is the limit. Step by step, together we prepare the fertile soil that will become the foundation of a great abundance yet to come.
Day 88: New Beginnings
I am grateful for the beauty found in waking up to new beginnings. Sometimes its the simplicity of the little things in life that bring forth the biggest smiles.
Day 87: Plant Preparation
Today we took a big step forward on the journey of growing some of our own food. I've never done any sort of gardening before. Ever. I love the idea that I get to be part of the process in helping these young plants thrive and literally being able to enjoy the fruits of my labor.
Day 86: Fairy Tales
I love fairy tales. They remind us of possibility, hope, love, the struggle of good vs. evil, the power of transformation, a positive attitude, and forgiveness, and the importance of a good pair of shoes. We can often find a piece of ourselves in the characters and quite often we can find the encouragement in writing our own great story.
Day 85: Chocolate
Seriously, there are just some days a little bit of chocolate makes a world of difference.
Day 84: Rain
I am grateful for the the renewal, the invigoration, and the invitation to play that accompany a spring rainfall.
Day 83: Read-A-Louds
Watching two of my favorite girls share this moment filled my heart with joy. It seems like just yesterday my daughter was snuggled on my lap with her favorite books. Now, she is growing into a beautiful young woman sharing her love and passion for reading with this sweet beloved one. Snuggled read-a-louds are without a doubt one of the great joys in this world and I am incredibly grateful for these simple moments that leave us feeling all warm and fuzzy inside and provide the foundation for a life-long love of reading.
Day 82: Prom
What a gift to be able to capture the magical moments of this enchanted evening. I am grateful for the opportunity to photograph these beautiful young adults, and for the time and talent gifted to me in order to capture the best images possible. Sandra Gittleman and Beth Knight, you were my angels throughout this entire process. My gratitude overflows to and for you always!
Day 81: And
I am grateful every day there is a list of "ands" to go through a choose what to photograph and write about. Today, I am grateful for craft time, AND photography, AND family, AND opportunity, AND beauty, AND...
Day 80: Fields of Possibility
It is said purpose in life is found when you play on the field where your passion and compassion meet. Sometimes we may not even realize our passions. Sometimes it's hard to focus on what it is we're after and it takes someone else to help us see more clearly. I recently found myself fighting for something I didn't even realize I wanted. I figured it was a lost battle, but the thought of not having this opportunity scared me more than the thought of getting out of my comfort zone. It turns out, some battles have been won before the need to fight them. Today, I am grateful for people who nurture our paths and for the passions within us (realized or not). I am grateful for opportunities to open up and grow into unforeseen possibility. I am grateful to be able to share passions with others in a way that makes the world a little stronger. I am grateful for coaches who take chances and invite us to play on yet another incredible field in this great game of life.
Day 79: Love
Simply remembering to love and to be loved in return is more than enough to take my breath away.
Day 78: Reflection
Sometimes when looking back at a big mess I thought was nothing more than a cloudy muddy puddle, I am able to find great clarity and beauty.
Day 77: All God's Creatures
I am grateful for all of God's creatures, big and small, and for my daughter who fully opened my eyes and heart to this love I have for them.
Day 76: Nature Hikes at South Mountain
I am grateful for adventure-packed, discovery-filled, grace-infused together time with my family in the majestic beauty of South Mountain Park (and the absurdity that occurred when our small dog decided she had had enough).
Day 75: Mini Golf
There was nothing serious happening in this game of mini golf. I am grateful for opportunities of ridiculousness and playtime with my family. I find it's the moments when we are all fully present with one another that lead to our best memories.
Day 74: Wildlife Rescues and Reminders
While working on editing photos from the 8th grade dance today, I was feeling frustrated that this beautiful spring break day was being spent inside chained to a computer rather than outside playing with my children. I was sitting at out kitchen table with the door leading to the deck slightly ajar allowing me to feel the soft breeze that would dance by every now and then. I certainly never expected this feathered friend to find her way inside. She flew inside, perched in front of me and hen made her way up into my daughter's bedroom. We're not sure if this Carolina Wren had a mistaken identity of being a House Wren, but she delighted in teasing us as we tried to capture her and release her outside. She gave me the gift of playtime and brought the outdoors inside with clear permission and priority to step away from my computer. Once again, my feathered friends served to remind me of Something Greater (Day 66).
Day 73: Inspiration and Talent of Artist Sandra Gittleman
There are simply no words to convey my gratitude for this amazing lady. After witnessing her incredible gift and talent in action while helping decorate for the 8th grade dance, I asked for her help with ideas for prom photography backdrops. The result? The incredible mural above. Sandra gave up a great deal of her time and poured tremendous love and energy into making this creation a reality. Watching her creative genius in action was nothing short of incredible. Her work is a testament to the miracles that occur when we prepare our blank canvases and just trust and let angels intervene (see entry below Day 72 blank canvas). The best gift, however, was the time I spent with this beautiful soul and the blessing of her friendship. To see more of Sandra's brilliant works, check out her website at: http://www.vinedressercollection.com
Day 72: Blank Canvases
I spent a good part of today priming one of my photography backdrops. The backdrop was a beautiful muslin red pattern and part of me had a hard time covering it with a sloppy white patternless mess. It was scary painting over a perfectly fine backdrop. I wondered many times if all of the effort was worth it, especially knowing I was relying on the help of a friend for the transformation to take place. I realized I needed to embrace a blank slate and a willingness to let go of "what was" to prepare for untapped possibility of "what is yet to become." I needed to have faith that I was adding to something rather than taking away. I had to admit that the product of combined talents and energies would be far greater than a mass produced product. Fear can grab a hold of us when we get away from what is easy and comfortable, but it doesn't hold a candle to the exhilaration felt when knowing the blank canvas before me was now a field of unlimited potential.
Day 71: Coming Home
Some gratitudes are just worth repeating twice. Our home may not be perfect, but its somewhere we all love returning to. When we walk through the door we know it is a safe come as you are kind of place where the first and last words of each day are "I love you." I am grateful for the perfectly imperfect foundation we have built and the wonderful crazy that happens within these walls.
Day 70: Easter
I have always loved the quote "What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls the butterfly." Easter reminds us of the truth behind this statement. Through our deepest suffering and darkest moments, if we keep faith, hope and love will prevail. Pain and darkness are realities in our world. If we choose to keep our focus on them, they will consume us. Light and love are real too, however, and small doses have the power to extinguish vast depths of darkness. We will encounter trials and hardships, and may even be pushed to places we feel we can't bounce back from. When we stay grounded in the truth of our faith, when we lean into the strength of others when ours fails, an incredible transformation takes place and we may even be carried somewhere we never dreamed possible. Where we set our sight matters. Hope is always possible. Love always prevails. We just have to look up. I Believe.
Day 69: Traditions
I love coloring Easter eggs with my family. We end up painting a bit of our personalities onto our eggs and realize they look most beautiful when we put them all together. Sometimes we even discover our best eggs may even be a little cracked.
Day 68: Road Trips
Road trips are often a source of excitement in our family. The kiddos get to pack bags of special snacks and entertainment. We pick out audio books we all listen to together. We try and find small adventure stops along the way, and we make the most to enjoy the rare ocassion of being able to spend hours together with one another. I am grateful for the gifts that come from this togetherness and for the safety we have been blessed with along the way.
Day 67: Shared Paths
I am a firm believer that everyone we cross paths with in life were put there for a reason. I am always grateful when after some paths part they find their way back together again.
Day 66: Ask and You Shall Receive
This morning when I awoke, I set the intention of being the best version of myself and to be impeccable with my word. I said a prayer and asked for help in staying rounded to God's presence. Throughout the day, I was gifted with beautiful encounters with all sorts of birds. I saw hawks soaring above, herons gracefully posing within feet from where I was standing, osprey diving into a pond and skillfully clasping their meal. I knew without a doubt these creatures were the answer to my prayer. Each of these majestic sightings happened while at work when I didn't have my camera. When I returned home, I knew I needed a picture of a bird for my blog. Once again, I asked for an encounter, but this time, I specifically asked for a bird. I stood on my back porch a good bit after saying the prayer and figured I had already received my miracles for the day. Just as I was about to go inside, a bird landed in the grass near me. As soon as I grabbed my camera, it hopped into the shadows under our trampoline. The drastic contrast between deep shadow and bright sunlight made capturing the picture tricky. As I struggled to take the picture, and apparently not being content with all that I have already been given, I once again asked for a closer encounter with a bird. As soon as I uttered my prayer, the bird flew directly at me hitting my cheek with its wing as it flew by. If I wasn't so busy screaming, I'm sure it would have made an awesome picture. In that moment, I realized the importance of being careful for what you ask for and the importance of finding gratitude for the gifts given without desiring more.
Day 65: Good Eats
Grateful to be able to to cook nutritious meals for my family and for opportunities to play with my food in the process.
Day 64: Gift of Time
Today seemed like nothing more than a blur with time spinning out of control. I realized my priorities were not the focus of my time today, but assuming all goes well tonight, I hopefully will have the gift of a redo tomorrow. It's possible busy days consume us to increase our desire for intentionality. Our internal alarms go off when we lose sight of what's important. I am grateful for the awareness and desire to make my seconds count.
Day 63: Laundry
It's amazing how fast laundry can pile up. I was faced with the Mount Everest of piles today. It's hard to wrap my head around the reality that we own that many clothes. While conquering my mountain, my son walked over to my side and simply began folding. Piece by piece, we conquered that pile in no time. I never asked him for help. He never asked me if I needed help. He had already tackled his list of chores. My husband and daughter were out taking care of their chores, and he simply showed up to help me with mine. We chatted through each crease and fold. Nothing deep. Just conversation. Even through the process of folding the fitted sheets with my teen boy ( a scene that could have made its way into any sitcom), we were completely present with each other. I am beyond grateful for that mountain pile that gave my son the opportunity to serve, for its gift of time and conversation, and for the reminder that simple acts of love can transform mundane tasks into cherished moments.
Day 62: Cast Parties
There is a special bond that forms within a cast. They become an extended family. Typical lines of grade levels and cliques are broken down during the hours poured into practice and replaced with love and respect for one another. It is this love and respect that makes magic possible, that contributed to the overwhelming success of the show. This bond was not only between students, but extended to staff and parents as well as they sacrificed precious time and talent to support the students and overall production. The students took notice of those acts of love. They lived gratitude as a result. It was such a gift to see this bond didn't deteriorate on closing night and to experience the joy these students felt coming together once again.
Day 61: 8th Grade Dances
*Above paintings by super talented artist Sandra Gittleman served in MS gym transformation.
*Wall art above provided by parents and Student Government part of MS Gym transformation.
The Community School of Davidson hosted an 8th grade dance this evening. This event was an evening of incredible transformation. The typically drab middle school gym was transformed into a hip club area rocking a New York City theme. The students were transformed from gym shorts and jeans teens into breathtakingly beautiful young adults. Just as in the moment of Cinderella's transformation, I suddenly saw these kiddos in an entirely different light. High School is just around the corner, and before I know it, they all will be off in their own way leaving their mark in this world. I am incredibly grateful to all of the adults that made the magic of this evening possible. I am grateful for the opportunity to share in these precious moments with these beautiful children. I am grateful for the memories and moments that happen in the passing of time and special events that make you aware to stop and notice the transformation taking place.
Day 60: Togetherness
Because life's moments are just sweeter when you share them with others...
Day 59: Finding Joy
My son turned fourteen today. He spent the day sick in bed. I should have been working today. Instead, I spent the day at a friend's funeral. On the surface, it would be easy to say there's not a lot to be grateful for today. But I would be wrong. Dead wrong. My son may be down and out with a bug, but overall he still has his health and he is still here with me. I may have been grieving with hundreds of others over a beautiful life that ended much too soon, but I was in a room filled with incredible love and compassion. This was the third funeral I have attended within a few months. Each person laid to rest was taken at an early age. At some point, it's impossible not to think about your own funeral, because let's face it, we're all on borrowed time. When it's my turn, will so many people show up that two overflow rooms are needed? Will people think I left the world a better place? Will folks be aware of my love and gratitude for them? If life went on forever, would we attempt to live it to the fullest and find gratitude in each day we were given? Perhaps the awareness of knowing we are on borrowed time awakens us to loving and living life more fully. Even in the midst of pain and sorrow, we are surrounded by blessings. As long as we are open to seeking out those blessings, to giving thanks, joy is possible in even the most difficult of situations. I'm enough of a realist to know life isn't always rainbows and unicorns, but I do know joy is possible in any given situation. I do know when we search for those blessings, we choose not to suffer through the pain and sadness. I know we were designed to be overcomers. We just have to be strong enough and willing enough to seek out the joy.
Day 58: Life as a Work of Art
Art isn't always pretty. It's often not black and white, it doesn't necessarily follow rules, and many artists choose not to color within the lines. But somehow through the mess and chaos, a big picture begins to emerge and amazing beauty reveals itself. I love being a part of the process in helping my students discover the life artists they were created to be.
Day 57: Helping Hands
I am incredibly grateful both to and for my colleagues. Our school community suffered a heart-breaking loss with the sudden passing of one of our incredible members. The services to honor this incredible light will take place during school hours. If it were possible, I think most of our staff and community would be there because that's the impact this special person left in this world. She was pure sunshine. I have seen selfless colleagues make great sacrifices while offering creative solutions to internally cover as much possible in order to allow a large number of our staff to attend services. I barely even had to breathe a word before my partners in crime Tiffany Saborido and Andrew Dearmin came up with a rearranged schedule which would allow me to attend. A great amount of healing lies ahead, but the love shown by our extraordinary community will be the constant source of light and strength on the sorrowful journey.
Day 56: Night out at the Theater
In our family we believe in giving gifts of experiences rather than things. We know memories of togetherness will far outlast any toy or item. For Christmas, I gave my mother and sister tickets to see Kinky Boots which we finally were able to turn in. I am grateful for the time shared, the memories made, and for the chance to watch this stunning performance. The energy, talent, humor, and positive messages contained within this show was through the roof and the experience we had prior to the show is one we will be laughing about for quite some time.
Day 55: Spending Time Outdoors
My boys awoke at the crack of dawn to venture out on a scout backpacking trip. I am grateful my children love spending time outdoors and exploring the earth around them. After seeing my boys off, I was gifted with this beautiful sunrise. Nothing makes practicing gratitude easier than time spent in nature.
Day 54: Spring
New buds abound this first day of spring. Today, I find gratitude in new life full of grace, hope, love, and faith, and the reminder of the intricate process which cultivates life's most beautiful blossoms.
Day 53: Opening Night:
I love the energy, the passion, and the fruition of hard work and dedication surrounding opening nights. Erik D and his support crew put on a flawless production of Starmites. It was truly incredible to watch these shooting stars shine brilliantly!
Day 52: It Takes A Village
My morning began with my daughter slipping and spilling a pot of boiling water on her hand. Most of her hand and her wrist were covered with a nasty burn mark, but she is built Ford tough. After some ibuprofen and aloe, she grabbed her backpack and headed to school. Half way through the school day, however, she was in a good bit of pain. I was in the middle of teaching and had to step out of my class to help comfort my daughter. I had no way of helping to relieve her pain and felt horrible and helpless. One friend happened to be in the hallway and was able to replace the ibuprofen that had worn off (and that I had forgotten to bring to school). Another friend took part of her planning time to run to the store to get aloe. I tried to express my gratitude through the overwhelming feeling of mommy guilt for not planning ahead to take care of my daughter. My friend simply replied, "Relax, it takes a village." Sarah Hof and Amy Light, I am deeply grateful to have you as part of my village and for your willingness to go out of your way to help and comfort mom and daughter. Thank goodness for villages.
Day 51: Lucky Surprises
While rushing down Main Street today, I came across this beautiful sight. I was late for an appointment but couldn't pass by the opportunity to stop for a moment and enjoy the serenade of this sweet violin. I am so grateful for this gentleman who took time out of his busy schedule to share his talents and remind all of us to slow down so that we may enjoy life's gifts. What a rare courage to simply show up and light the world around us.