With the holiday season fast approaching, I find myself getting caught up in the busyness and consumerism that so often surrounds it. My thoughts turn toward list making, shopping, scouting the best deals, creating a picture perfect home, and finding and creating the perfect recipes and gifts.
And I don’t even realize it is happening. The holiday season seems to begin earlier and earlier each year, with Christmas and other winter holiday decorations appearing in stores as early as June (I’m looking at you, Hobby Lobby). I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with this–everyone has their own preferences as to when they want to start celebrating and planning. But I think it is also important to take a step back on occasion and think about what these holidays really mean in our lives–and what we are truly grateful for all year long.
Research has demonstrated that feelings of gratitude are associated with improved health, sounder sleep, greater happiness, and kinder actions toward others. In order to bring my focus back to the true meaning of the holidays, I spent some time reflecting on what I am most grateful for in life. I also asked my friends and fellow Iowa City Moms if they would be willing to share what they are grateful for. I received an amazing mix of funny, sweet, and serious responses. In the spirit of Thanksgiving Day, here are a few things we are grateful for:
“I’m grateful to finally have mom friends that give me their hand-me-downs, which obviously is great for budget and time spent shopping, but also makes me feel like I’m part of a loving and supportive community.”
“I am grateful for learning how to make friends in my 30s. It’s not always easy to do that, but I’m getting better at it and I love having a community of local women I know I can turn to.”
“I went from not having many friends in high school and college to having the most amazing group of friends imaginable. There is so much love and support that surrounds us, and I am thankful every day of my life to know these amazing women.”
“I am grateful for my healthy kids, a roof over my head, a snuggly dog, and being able to watch old TV shows with my kids on Hulu.”
“I’m grateful to have three unique, funny, silly, and interesting kids who keep me laughing, learning, and busy all the time, and a husband who is still my best friend 20 years into our relationship.”
“I’m grateful for my mother-in-law. MILs get a bad rap much of the time, but we’d be totally sunk without my MIL (and FIL too!). My in-laws live with us and helped to care for our daughter since she was a week old. My MIL keeps our house in tip-top shape when my husband and I are in school, traveling for work, and running our kid around. She provides much-needed perspective when we are at a loss for how to parent, make financial decisions, arrange a centerpiece, or read laundry labels. She would say it’s just what moms do, but she’s a lifeline. Thank you, MIL!”
“I am grateful for my family, my new dog even though I’m pretty sure I drink her dog hair in my coffee each morning, and for scoring the Aldi Wine Advent Calendar this year.”
“My daughter. She personifies everything I wish I was and everything I hope to someday be.”
“After living all around the country, in big cities and tiny towns, I’m grateful that we’ve settled here in Iowa City, with its everyday beauty and kind community. I’m thankful for things like sparkly snow, deer strolling through my yard, and neighbors who surprise you by snow blowing your sidewalk or offering you hot chocolate when you’re trick or treating in the snow. I’m glad we’re here.”
“I’m grateful for Overdrive, because I can read ICPL books for free.”
“I am grateful for the village that surrounds me: my family, my friends, my job, and my community. Without this village, my life simply wouldn’t work. Knowing that I have people in my life who are helping raise my daughter, who are keeping my family healthy and happy, and who support and lift up each other when life gets hard means so much to me.”
“My dog, because… duh.”
“I’m grateful for last-year-me because I put away my Thanksgiving decorations and they were ready to go on November 1st.”
“I don’t always like myself, but I do love myself and need to do a better job of showing it (to myself). I’m grateful for my awkwardness and my imperfections because they make me who I am, and have brought me to this really amazing place in life.”
“Access to fab healthcare and insurance. Sadly, none of us should take that for granted.”
“I started bleeding all over my friend’s chair at Thanksgiving at 33 weeks pregnant and rushed to the hospital not feeling the baby move. It was a partial placental abruption and I’m just so grateful that the eight days I was hospitalized before I went into labor ended in our miracle baby. So thankful for UI Hospital. We spent last Thanksgiving in NICU, too.”
“I am grateful that I live in a time period where mental health is starting to be viewed as just as important as physical health. Without access to doctors and medication, I’m honestly not sure who or where I would be in life.”
“I’m thankful for losing over 100lbs this past year, gaining health, and doing it all with close friends and family by my side.”
Today is likely a busy day in your life. You might be stressing over preparing a meal or wondering what inappropriate bomb Uncle John is going to drop during dinner. So as you sit around the Thanksgiving table tonight, I invite you to take a deep breath, look at all of the faces that surround you, and “flip the script.”
Instead of worrying about keeping the conversation on track, making sure your kids eat more than rolls, or wondering how clean the bathroom is, try to tally a mental list of the things YOU’RE grateful for.
And you never know… you might be surprised to find Uncle John is one of them.