Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Thank You

Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world." — John Milton

That's if folks! This marathon blog "On Gratitude" is completed - for now.

So far £120 raised for Macmillan Cancer Support and £221.54 for Invest in ME via Justgiving and personal donations. That is so brilliant and generous of you all. I know there is some more to come. What amazing, kind people there are in the world. All I can say from my heart is "Thank YOU."

Monday, 21 March 2016

Gratitiude - A Life Long Journey

Local Railway Station

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak. — Mary Oliver

Today is World Poetry Day so it seemed apt to have an excerpt from a poem as my quote for the day. This is post number 27 for my marathon blog and I feel a huge sense of achievement and personal satisfaction in having completed it. I am very grateful for all the kind words of support and encouragement and, of course, for the donations to Invest in ME and Macmillan Cancer Support. Thank you, thank you.

The poem speaks to me of noticing what is around us. Not simply looking for what is obviously beautiful or good, but developing an appreciation of all that is. Learning to paint with watercolours was quite an enlightening experience; without the shades of dark and shadow the painting has no depth. The spaces between objects are as important as the objects themselves. Most of the time we don’t truly stop and look, stop and listen, stop and consider. We are too busy with what comes next or who speaks the loudest.

I have learnt to value quiet even more since having ME and developing noise sensitivity. Yes, in the silence I hear differently and yes even the stones have colour and shape and a beauty all their own. I hope that each of you have found something more of the beauty and richness in your life, as I have, undertaking this journey 'On Gratitude' which doesn’t stop now.

It seems fitting to finish just before Easter, a celebration of spring, of new life, warmer days, and the culmination of the Lent journey for many, the Passover for those who are Jewish. There is beauty in this moment in time. There is the essence of life and this moment in your life will not come again. Some call it being mindful, others living in the present. Being thankful for this moment, for this time of being and not doing, this miracle of life.

Today I leave you with the challenge to make thankfulness a part of your daily life and as you do so why not turn it into something practical? Whether it is simply saying ‘thank you’ to someone each day, learning to be more appreciative of what is around us and taking more care of the environment, or maybe helping someone with ME or cancer by being there for them or maybe fundraising, just do it!

If you would like more ideas on living thankfully take a look at this website -

And if you would like to donate to either of my two two charities then please click on the relevant Justgiving link on the top right of this page. Thank you.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Gratitude, Envy and Blessing Others

Bird of Paradise Flower

In thanksgiving for life, I pledge to overcome the illusion of entitlement
by reminding myself that everything is gift and thus to live gratefully
"A Pledge for Grateful Living" David Stendl-Rast

Have you ever been envious of another person, of their success in life or that they have more of something than you have? I have and it can become insidious and creep into our daily lives without us realising it. We might start putting someone else down or criticising them in some way, finding fault with them. But underneath the real reason is envy. We want what they have and find it difficult to be glad for them. Recognise that feeling? I do. Gratitude can counter this and help us to be thankful for what we have and to be glad when friends and family succeed.

In Sonja Lyubomirsky’s “The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want” she talks about ways to express gratitude. One of these is writing a letter to someone who has had a great impact your life.  When she  asked a class of undergraduate students to write such a letter of gratitude she found that her students described it as a poignant and moving exercise. One of her students spoke of the process, “I felt overwhelmed with a sense of happiness. I noticed I was typing very quickly, probably because it was very easy for me to express gratitude that was long overdue. As I was typing, I could feel my heart beating faster and faster … towards the end of the letter, as I reread what I had already written, I began to get teary-eyed and even a little bit choked up. I think my expressing gratitude to my mom overwhelmed me to such a point that tears streamed down my face.”
Ramnath Subramanian recounts his own experience of envy in “Celebrating Another’s Success: An Antidote to Envy”. Being envious of his friend’s success started to make him bitter and took away his own happiness.

Today: I recognise how easily I can become envious of others. I choose to celebrate all that I have. As I start listing them in a spider like diagram the list grows and grows. With Brother David I celebrate this day, this unique day,
‘A Good Day’ video on You Tube - http://www.gratefulness.org/brotherdavid/a-good-day.htm

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Wise Champions of Thankfulness - Day 25

The Dalai Lama

Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing. Harper Lee

There are people who think that being thankful for the good things in our lives  is a way of ignoring the difficulties in life, of ‘brushing them under the carpet’. That I think is to the miss the point. Being thankful does not mean we ignore what is wrong or what is difficult. Far from it, I think that by developing an attitude of thankfulness we can deal better with what is wrong in life. It can help us to speak up effectively rather than from a position of moaning about everything in a generalised way. It is not ‘either or’. We can be thankful for what is good and beautiful in our lives, but still recognise what isn’t so great. It doesn’t mean being complacent or passive. This echoes wisdom from the Dalai Lama “Open your arms to change but don’t let go of your values.”

Marcus Tullius Cicero, a Roman philosopher, apparently considered gratitude to be a virtue above all others.  Mother Teresa said about gratitude “It is when you focus on what you have rather than what you don’t.” The Bible encourages us to live thankfully and in recent times Oprah Winfrey has written about keeping a gratitude journal daily asserting that it helps her to be more contented.

I like the Serenity Pray which asks for “the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  There are various versions of this and there are many quotes about being thankful and gratitude. In a small book on my desk I write down those wisdom words which speak to me.

Today: One of the things I have learnt is that it is easy to read a good quote, nod my head in agreement and another altogether to develop a habit of gratitude. Learning to be specific in what I am thankful for helps me to dig a little deeper and see the value. Today I am thankful for good, wise friends.


I am nearing the end of my marathon blog. If possible please consider sharing my blog with other people or donating to either MacMillan Cancer Fund or Invest in ME - thank you to those who have done so already. (Your encouragement has meant a lot to me.)  You can donate by clicking on the Justgiving links at the top right hand side. Thank you!

Friday, 18 March 2016

Nurturing Seeds of the Future

Seed heads in summer

Thanksgiving is sweeter than bounty itself.
One who cherishes gratitude does not cling to the gift!
Thanksgiving is the true meat of God’s bounty;
the bounty is its shell,
For thanksgiving carries you to the hearth of the Beloved.
Abundance alone brings heedlessness,
thanksgiving gives birth to alertness…
The bounty of thanksgiving will satisfy and elevate you,
and you will bestow a hundred bounties in return.
Eat your fill of God’s delicacies,
and you will be freed from hunger and begging.
Rumi (Persian Poet)

Are you suffering from ‘gratitude fatigue’ yet? We live in a world which offers many distractions and sometimes we can become like butterflies flitting from one idea to the next. It is a long time since I read the word ‘cherish’ (in the poem above) anywhere.

Cherish is a word to savour and reflect upon. Not simply love or enjoy, but more than that to nurture and to be nurtured by. It is a slow word, not a fast quick fix. It means to treasure, to value and take pleasure in.

I am learning how to cherish the daily routine of gratitude. In the process I hope that I am sowing some seeds of compassion, gratitude and patience. Our actions bear fruit, impact on other people. When I complain continually or I am irritable and impatient it can become catching and we find others around us joining in. We set off a whole chain reaction of negativity!

Feeding ourselves and those around us by paying attention to gratitude, to what and who is inspiring and good in our lives, improves our satisfaction and sense of well being.

Today: I hope you will join me in sowing seeds of gratitude. There are many apps to help you keep a diary, make notes or by answering a question, for instance, what inspired you today?

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Mastering the Art of Gratitude

Glendalough, Ireland

There are painters who transform the sun into a yellow spot, but there are others who, thanks to their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun. Pablo Picasso

What transforms blobs of paint into something more, or words on a page into poetry or musical notes into a song or concerto? The hand of the artist and our ability to catch something of the meaning deep within us.

How does being appreciative transform me? Does it, can it? Yes I think it can. It can infuse our lives with that extra something and give us a tool, along with other things, to find a deeper meaning, a sense of ‘enough’.  People who work in hospices often speak about the remarkable ability some people have for bringing a sense of joy to others even when facing unimaginable personal difficulties and loss. They look outward and see what is good in life, in their lives.

“Mastering the art of gratitude is more than words or good manners – it is a way of life. It can take us out of the boundaries of our lives to welcoming the preciousness of life itself.  There is no price to be put on true gratitude.” Julia Alvarez

Today - I am very much a work-in-progress!

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Thankful for Time

Old black and white photo of a baby

But now I am an old, old woman
So I want the last word
There is no time –
Only this very minute
And I’m in it.
Thank the Lord.

by Joyce Grenfell

Time – so much to write so little time! No, there is only this moment. Thank you for sharing it with me.

Today – "Super Gran" is on holiday as I’m not feeling so great. But I am thankful for time: time to be, time to become, time to learn, to savour, to see all that is beautiful. May I be wise in the way I use each day.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Special Occasions

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” — William Arthur Ward Aurelius

Many cultures celebrate special times when families make an extra effort to get together from Christmas in the UK, to Thanksgiving in the US and the Chinese New Year in China. Times to celebrate, to appreciate each other and share.

I can remember many such special times. This cake was made for me one birthday using special flour and other ingredients as I suffer from allergies and food intolerance. The extra effort meant a lot.

For people who are very ill it can be difficult to get out and may mean that they miss out in meeting up with others on those special occasions. Sometimes it only takes a small amount of extra thought to include them in some way even if they can’t attend in person. A handmade card, some flowers, a phone call, a photo – a simple surprise to ensure someone knows that they are appreciated for simply being who they are.

Today I pause and think of all those wonderful special occasions shared with family and friends; remembering to give thanks to all who make them possible. I consider how I can reach out to others who are maybe housebound and too ill to take part in special events.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Making the Invisible Visible

Hampton Court RHS Macmillan Garden 2013

We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet not really small) gifts. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

In this photo the silhouette of a woman almost disappears into the foliage of the surrounding plants. The garden, Macmillan Cancer Support Legacy Garden was designed by Rebecca Govier who survived thyroid cancer. The figure looks down, almost lost. A path winds through a woodland glade and strong architectural structures.

It reminds me of invisible illness in all its form. You can’t see pain. You can’t see the way someone makes an effort while out and about or receives visitors and then collapses afterwards. You can’t see the loss and confusion of the life the person once had disappear. There are many long term illnesses and disabilities like this including different types of cancer and ME.

Today I want to think about all who have an invisible illness. I give thanks for everyone who helps to make that illness visible in some way to others - for all who give time, thought and money, through local groups and national ones, visiting someone, listening to them, keeping in contact, raising funds for research and support – THANK YOU!


Invest in ME, a small charity with a large vision, holds their 11th International ME Conference on 3rd June 2016.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

A Bridge of Peace and Thanksgiving

Peace Bridge in Derry / Londonderry, Northern Ireland

“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.” Maya Angelou

It is joyous to see the Peace Bridge which curves from one side to the other of the City across the Foyle. It is a symbol of peace and possibility – hands across the divide - joining together two parts.

Around the world there are symbols of peace and remembrance. Why? There is a link I think between peace and remembrance, thanksgiving and healing within communities. We see it at times of remembering those who died during a war on all sides of a conflict. We recognise our common humanity.We know we cannot take peace for granted but need to sustain an ongoing dialogue with those we disagree with.

It has a special significance for me as my husband comes from Northern Ireland and grew up within the Catholic community. I on the other hand was born in mainland England and grew up with the influence of the Protestant Church. 
Today I am thankful for all who have worked for peace in Northern Ireland; all who had the will, the courage and the vision. It has been a long hard road. There is still work to do. It gives me hope when I look at conflicts around the world or even nearer to home in our communities. 

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Celebrate with Music, Drama and Art

Sculpture of glass, wood and metal

The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude - Frederich Nietzsche

Do you ever find yourself humming a tune and wondering ‘Where did that come from?’ Music seems to lodge deep within us.  Victor Hugo said that “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent” and my heart begins to swell remembering all the times that music has had the power to move me. Maybe that is why when great hymns are sung in churches where the notes rise high or the amazing crescendos of orchestral music arc upwards in a concert hall it fills us with a paean of thanks.

Art and creativity in all its forms can bring forth a deeper appreciation within us. Currently there is an exhibition in London of artists and their gardens. I haven’t seen it nor will I, but the reviews tell a story of artists who so admired their gardens that they wanted to paint them and to express what they felt. Isn’t that what gratitude is? Trying to find a way of expressing our thankfulness, our deep felt appreciation in ways other than words which can seem inadequate at times.

I came across an article, “Music and Gratitude: The Gifts that Keep On Giving” in the Huffington Post by Frank Fitzpatrick. You might like to take a look.

Today: How do I creatively nourish my inner being, my values to develop myself and to live more thankfully from the core of my being and not superficially?

Friday, 11 March 2016

Giving Thanks for a Meal or a Concert!

A dish of cold melon on a hot day
 “You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.” — G. K. Chesterton

Saying ‘grace’ before a meal is considered to be part of the Christian tradition. In the Judaic and some other religions it may take the form of a blessing or a thanksgiving afterwards. Even if you have no specific spiritual beliefs it can be a simple way of developing a sense of appreciation in us, in our families and guests. Mealtimes can be an opportunity when we sit down and stop. It can be a time to share what has happened in the day or maybe to say what we appreciate about each other or someone else.  One short 'thank you' children can use is “Thank you for all that’s yummy and is going to fill my tummy!”

Here are two more which I quite like and are broader in scope.

For the food before us,
For the friends beside us,
For the love that surrounds us,
We are truly grateful.


This food is a gift from the earth, the sun, the rain, the
whole universe
It comes to us through the hard work of many people
May we live in such a way as to be worthy of it
May it give us energy to do the work of love.

As Chesterton says we can say ‘grace’, give thanks, at any time!

Today I appreciate that as I write this post each day I become more aware of all that I have in my life which is enriching and blesses me.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

On False Gratitude

A Shop Selling Masks

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” - Nelson Mandel 

Genuine thankfulness is not simpering or fawning. It is not simply being positive or trying to control the outcome in life. Nor is it looking on the bright side of life and pretending that everything is wonderful. There is much in life that is not so good, is difficult challenging and sometimes seems evil.

Gratitude is, for me, about noticing, looking, seeing and appreciating other people and what is around me that is good or contains the potential for good. This may, of course, bring us to a sense of some things in our life not being quite right. Recognising the things in life we find hard to be grateful for may act as a catalyst for change. ‘There may be times in our life where much of it seems bleak and being grateful seems impossible to do. It is not about being grateful all the time or accepting what is unacceptable. I think true gratitude is about developing awareness of what is good and true and beautiful. It is not blind to what is ugly or difficult.

Developing a sense of thankfulness in the context of appreciation can lead to a sense of discernment. Someone who is good at a skill, whether it is painting or writing, fixing a car or turning wood will usually develop discernment in recognising other people with a similar skill and be able to spot those whose ability is genuine and whose is fake.

Today I reflect on Macrina Wiederkehr’s words, “Gratitude for the blessings of the day, compassion for the discouragement.”

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Simple Pleasures

A Fantastical Sand Castle

Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with love. Mother Teresa

Caught up in perfection I can loose sight of the pleasure of doing something for love. Maybe something simple to say 'Thank you'.

Children know how to enjoy the moment. Whether it is building a sandcastle, telling a joke or drawing a picture to give to someone they do it with great concentration and for the pleasure of it. I love watching small children give a present to someone. They often jump up and down with excitement expecting the recipient to be as pleased as they are! All the love bursts out from their small bodies.

Ill health can make our world smaller and it becomes about loss. Remembering the small things in our lives can help us through difficult times.

We can wait for the other person do something kind but when we reach out in love it can start a cascade of pleasure within our own hearts and other people's.
Today: What are the simple pleasures in my life?  What I can share with someone else which is fun, as a way of saying thank you?