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Saturday, October 31, 2009

My Gratefulness List

It's taken a lot of time and pondering, but at last I have completed my list of 100 things for which I am grateful. I really encourage people to do this exercise at least once, if not daily (I'm not disciplined enough yet to make a daily list of 5 items, but that is a goal of mine).

100 Things For Which I Am Grateful

1. my dogs Mila and Tia
2. my daughter Julia
3. my blue eyes
4. my photographer’s eye
5. classical music
6. smooth jazz
7. hiking
8. mountains
9. New Mexico
10. the beauty of nature
11. reading
12. my writing talent
13. fresh peaches from my yard
14. fresh strawberries
15. grilled salmon
16. wine with a slice of lemon
17. time
18. golden retrievers
19. terriers
20. mutts
21. blue skies
22. Arizona’s red rocks
23. continuing to grow
24. my wonderful bed
25. Good Earth tea
26. books
27. sunshine
28. the smell of a pine forest
29. air conditioning
30. fireplaces
31. fresh, crisp mountain air
32. my therapist
33. freedom
34. sunflowers
35. carnations
36. low humidity
37. the high desert
38. Santa Fe
39. wolves
40. my fruit trees
41. rediscovering myself
42. my job at the humane society
43. Tony Hillerman books
44. time to read
45. sunsets
46. Native American jewelry
47. my hybrid SUV
48. this blog
49. good knees after more than 30 years of running
50. hot showers
51. my sense of humor
52. Enya
53. my new bicycle
54. being able to speak Russian
55. chocolate
56. black walnuts
57. salted cashews
58. warm chocolate chip cookies
59. my NASA career
60. my favorite shampoo
61. warm, sunny days
62. e-mail
63. living in Moscow
64. soft, warm sweatshirts
65. fresh-squeezed orange juice
66. family
67. friends
68. education
69. solitude
70. abundance
71. my independent spirit
72. flannel pajamas
73. Coke Classic in a can
74. beautiful sunrises
75. residential treatment centers
76. whales
77. vacations
78. taking better care of myself
79. losing weight
80. daisies along the highway
81. a good night’s sleep
82. waking up every morning
83. my New Mexico House
84. faith
85. resilience
86. healthy mind
87. healthy body
88. opportunities to develop new facets of myself
89. inner strength
90. willingness to take risks
91. hope
92. opportunity to co-author a book
93. optimism
94. life’s lessons learned
95. being in control of how I feel
96. love
97. serenity
98. rainbows
99. animal rescue groups
100. forgiveness

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Mother's Heart

A Mother’s Heart

A human heart is about the size of a fist and weighs less than a pound, but a mother’s heart is different. A mother’s heart is the biggest, strongest thing in the world. Although it looks like any other human heart, a mother’s heart is special. Its extraordinary qualities cannot be seen even under the most powerful microscope; they can only be felt.

From the time she first sees her child, a mother’s heart is no longer hers. Whether she is a biological or an adoptive mother, her heart will belong to her child until she takes her final breath and her heart beats no more. The mother gives her heart away willingly; indeed, it would be almost impossible for her not to give her heart to her child.

A mother’s heart, although physically small, is full of love that never ends. It is like the deepest well, replenished from an unknown, unseen source. This heart also is filled with hope and wisdom and courage. A mother’s heart is tough, yet gentle. It can be stern, yet it gives love without questioning, without reservation.

A mother’s heart swells with pride when her child does something special. It is elated when her child gives her a drawing or anything created by her child’s own hands, no matter how rough or crude the attempt. A mother’s heart knows no sweeter sound than her child saying “Mommy.”

A mother’s heart is more perceptive than the most sensitive of instruments. It can sense things that cannot be seen or heard, only those that can be felt. It just ‘knows’ when something is wrong or when her child is hurting, when intuition is her only guide.

A mother’s heart can endure incredible pain. It can be broken into a million little pieces when she watches her child struggle. When her child screams at her “I hate you.” When she sees her child put her life at risk with self-destructive behaviors. When her child is crushed by the failure of a first love. When her child betrays her mother’s trust. Broken, crushed, hurting, the mother’s heart goes on.

Although the mother’s heart may ache with an almost unbearable pain, the flow of love never ceases, like a river suddenly swollen by the melting snows or a torrential rain.

Her child may ignore or hurt her, but the heart’s well of love never runs dry. It may need some time to recover from being broken; it may need time and distance away from the child it so loves. But invariably, the hurt and the anger and the disappointment will pass.

Somehow, in some magical way, a mother’s heart heals yet again. The pieces go back together once more, although the heart may never be the same as it was. A mother’s heart may always bear the scars of loving too much, of giving more than the mother should give, or of caring so much that her own needs go unmet. But no matter how deep or how many or how raw the scars, a mother’s heart always seems to heal. It never gives up hope. And it never stops loving.

Copyright 2009 Ann Sullivan

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Gratitude List

I'm stealing this idea from a wonderful blogger named Deb. Thanks, Deb! I like the idea of a gratitude list as a way of helping me focus less on the drama and trauma of life, especially life with a teenager, and more on the positive things about my life. It's so easy to overlook the good things and become overwhelmed by life's troubles and irritants.

I started my list of 100 things for which I am grateful last week -- a very ambitious goal indeed! So far my list includes 76 items, and the list is growing v-e-r-y slowly. Once it's complete, I'll post it for everyone to see. Some of the things on the list are rather silly -- chocolate, for example. Others are more important, such as the high desert I love, or my dogs.

It's an interesting exercise to actually think about and record the things for which I am grateful. There is no rhyme or reason to my list, and no significance to the order in which items appear. It's completely random. But putting this list together has caused me to think seriously about just what is most important in my life. Perhaps this is an exercise that more people should do. Even if they can't come up with a list of 100 things, how about 50? or 25? or 10?

Studies have shown that people who have gratitude lists -- and some people do them daily -- are better able to shift their perspectives than those who don't. I am facing a lot of stress right now, on a number of fronts. Anything I can do to help me deal with my stress and keep me positive and moving forward is worth doing.

Try it, and let me know how it works for you!

Scary Things in the Dark

This morning, I was lazy and didn't get up when I should have. So I decided to take the dogs for a shorter walk on a different route. It was still very dark outside, even after 6 a.m. Tia, my little golden retriever, is easily frightened. Lawn sprinklers, plastic bags, sheets of paper -- all send her scurrying for safety.

This morning we passed a house with some Halloween decorations in the front yard. One of the tombstones lurking in the shadows must have looked particularly frightening to her. Rather than trying to run away, she walked slowly, looking back over her shoulder to keep an eye on the evil monster lurking in the dark, undoubtedly awaiting the opportunity to pounce on unsuspecting little dogs foolish enough to venture out in the early morning darkness.

Fortunately, we all escaped the clutches of the malevolent tombstone, this time at least, and we made it to the safety of home.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My Own Piece of Heaven

In July, I visited New Mexico for my annual trip. One of the new places I visited was some ancient Puebloan ruins at Abo State Monument. It consists of the ruins of a large church made of the common red sandstone, as well as a couple of old, roofless adobe homes nearby. The site was abandoned a few hundred years ago.

I picked up a small piece of red sandstone from the nearby river that runs behind the ruins. Shaped somewhat like an old-fashioned eraser, it is the perfect size to slip into my pocket. Once I got home, I realized how much this little piece of New Mexico means to me. I carry it with me every day. On particularly stressful days, when I desperately wanted to retire and move to New Mexico, I would hold this little piece of heaven in my hand, almost as if by clutching it I could extract some of the beauty and peacefulness of that state. It may seem strange, but this little piece of sandstone is my talisman, my connection to the life that awaits me once I retire and move to The Land of Enchantment. No, I don't 'channel' the spirits of the native people who once inhabited that area. I don't attribute any special powers to my rock. But having it near me brings me peace and serves as a reminder that this special place will be waiting for me, as soon as I am ready to move.

A Walk in the Dark

What makes an otherwise normal, sane person crawl out of a wonderful, comfy, warm bed at 4:45 a.m. and take her dogs for a walk? It's still pitch black outside, the wind is blowing at 15 mph or worse, it's cold, and my cup of hot tea is cooling in the house.

I should be at home, if not in bed, at least wrapped in a warm, fleece robe, drinking my tea, listening to classical music and reading the morning paper. Instead, I'm freezing my tail off as my dogs happily sniff the markings of other dogs who have passed this way, presumably in warmer weather. And of course, there is the ever-present plastic poop bag in my pocket, ever ready to do its nasty chore. But today, I got lucky. There was no poop to pick up and carry until we got home.

I once again dismissed the thought of going running this morning, as I did yesterday for the same reasons. Maybe I'll go after work, when I can at least see where I'm going and it won't be quite so cold outside. For now, I will enjoy my tea and a hot shower and prepare for the day ahead.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Something New

This is my first attempt at blogging. I have always loved writing, so this will be a new outlet for me. I'm currently co-authoring a book and working on a short piece for my own enjoyment as well.

The title of my blog, "Red Rocks and Sunflowers," refers to a couple of my most favorite things. I visited Sedona, AZ, the site of perhaps the country's most well known red rocks, in February this year. It was a place of awesome beauty. And who doesn't like sunflowers, with their happy faces tracking the movement of the sun across the sky? For the same reason, seeing the highways in Utah lined with wild black-eyed susans always brings a smile to my face. Who can be cranky or in a bad mood when looking at such happy natural beauty?