One year ago today I started a Gratitude Jar. The idea came from my friend Karen who suggested we both commit to it for a year. We each took a large jar and throughout the year, just about every day, we took a small piece of paper and wrote something that we were grateful for on that particular day, folded up the paper and placed it in the jar. It didn’t take long for me to adopt the habit and I enjoyed watching the jar fill with small pieces of paper.

Two things surprised me during the year-long process: (1) I was never challenged to come up with something I was grateful for; even on a bad day, there was always gratitude for something and (2) I never imagined the value of the gift of opening the jar and reading each submission. I thought it might seem a bit self-serving or odd to read what I had written, I thought maybe I would be bored going through hundreds of slips of paper but that wasn’t the case at all. Reading the random entries reminded me of a year full of gifts and reminded me of my thoughts and appreciation for all sorts of things, people and events in my life; some I had remembered, some I had not.

One of my favorite things to do when reading a book is to read the Acknowledgements by the author at the beginning. I enjoy reading who and what inspired the writer and wonder what it was like for all of the people involved. Sometimes there are inside jokes, sometimes a dog or boat is acknowledged and always the words emanate from the heart of the writer as he or she acknowledges the gifts of support received in getting the book published.

I don’t believe we need to publish a book in order to write our own Acknowledgements and with that idea in mind, below is my Acknowledgement section for the Year 2013 based on the hundreds of submissions to my Gratitude Jar.

My year began with my almost 17-year old Siberian Husky, Alta, dying at home. Thank you Alta for giving me your unconditional love every day of your life and for never complaining when the cats would plop all over you despite the obvious discomfort in your hips. I miss your beautiful white eyelashes. I miss you. Thank you to Tamara and Melissa, the most caring, accessible and supportive vet team I’ve ever had the privilege to know. I continue to be grateful for your guidance and accessibility and Tamara for your absolute devotion to taking the day off work to buy half-priced candy at multiple stores the day after major holidays. The idea of your schedules and plans of store openings continues to make me laugh out loud. Thank you to all my friends who supported me and understood how painful the loss of Alta was for me. The visits and cards and calls meant the world to me as my life had revolved around her care at the end.

Some people showed up again and again in my Gratitude Jar. Terry and Doris…there aren’t yet enough words invented to express my gratitude for you. For all the fun meals and funny and inspirational text messages and dips in the pool after long bike rides…for the talks and support and responsiveness and for the seemingly endless and annoying searches for Pine Cone in the bowels of the house; and for looking out for me…always. Dave, the combination of hitting the fuzz off the tennis ball and then sitting exhausted afterwords and thoughtfully discussing little snippets of our lives and/or movie selections! For jokes like ‘Tennis Prison’ for my terrible drop-shots and the fact that you won’t quit saying ‘Get Down’ on your backhand which renders it impossible for me not to sing ‘Get Down On It’ (a definite reason for Tennis Prison), and for the awesome clay courts and the cute Yeti Chicken at Linda’s. For Karen…from P.Y.P.F., to the Gratitude Jar idea, to knowing exactly what to say to me as my dog lay dying, for the muffins and cookies and the ability to laugh so easily. For Michelle, multiple entries lauded you for the day, we both remember, when you laughed at me. Not with me, but at me and it was one of the best gifts I’ve ever received and one not easily explained (but I don’t have too). I am not one to use the word perfect, but on that day at that moment, that was perfection! To Fern…for the love, support, emails, cards, gifts and healing music.  For a fabulous vacation experience and for the memory of driving down Siesta Key singing loudly to ‘Billy Don’t Be A Hero’…I still laugh out loud knowing that you not only had all of that old music but that we knew the words to every song. For your inspiration for me to take the leap and trust the net will appear and for the discovery of the quote by Anais Nin,

“I must be a mermaid…I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living”

The Gratitude Jar included grateful expressions for experiences with strangers, some who I never saw again and some who I’ve kept in contact with. For my weekly trips to Providence and enjoying the NY wieners that Joan described were not hot dogs and for being embraced by that close-knit community in a short amount of time. For the couple from Tennessee who thanked me so sincerely for the “gift of conversation” and for Chris B. who has said similar things. For Dan and Linda in Vermont, the street dance and meeting strangers who you just know you will see again. For my new friends in Texas, for Lyle Lovett concerts and Lyle Lovett lyrics,

                                    “Half of gettin’ there is knowing where I’ve been before”

Some days the submissions to the Gratitude Jar were quite simple…”wine”…”cowboy boots”…”hot tub”…”naps”. “Granddaddy’s Van” had multiple references. I expressed gratitude for my blog (and Stephen for building the site) and to all of the folks who’ve supported my writing through their feedback and comments to me (if you are reading this then you are one of them). For the discovery of cute boys and one in particular (or is it Two?). For Kevin and the quality massage work in putting my muscles back together after I demolished them on a bike or tennis court.

There were many entries for special people in my life such as Dawn for her abundance of insight and Nan for her support. For Peter who said I made him smarter and Sam who said the same thing a few months later. For Betsy and her sage advice, wise and always so valuable. For Carol whose boiling lobster analogy helped me realize where I was and for Peter for dipping me out. For Kate who is like an Earth Mother, calm and about the coolest girl anyone could know. For Terri…I am not sure I have ever laughed harder with…the kind of laughter that makes my jaw ache and my eyes water. For Jim, ‘Boss’, John and Randy for embodying the notion that being kind, thoughtful and generous have nothing whatsoever to do with money in the bank and for so obviously caring about me. For Lori and Grand and for Granddaddy who continues to live in my dreams. For Mac for being the type of person we all ought to be.

Without a doubt my pets received the majority of my gratitude; their unconditional love is priceless. I am grateful for the poem I stumbled upon (quite literally) etched into a rock by the river bank that ended with the words, “when I remember your life, I remember mine”.  I am grateful for my memories and happy to hold onto all of them without exception, for as long as I can.

My first entry into my 2014 Gratitude Jar is for Karen who gave me the idea to start it a year ago. I have realized that by daily acknowledging who and what I am grateful for this past year has given me even more.

              “We can only be said to be alive in those moments 
                                                                   when our hearts are conscious of our treasures”  
                                                                                                                                      Thornton Wilder

Happy New Year and thanks for reading,
~ Haven
Update 1.2.14…Since posting this article yesterday, I’ve received a number of emails from readers who are starting their own gratitude jar this year! Yay! Now that’s a GREAT way to start out our new year! 

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