Start with a Good Book

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 2.34.27 PMHere is a list of over 60 wonderful read-aloud stories that I have enjoyed reading to my child and my students over the years.  You will find many more as you visit book stores and your local library.  Your child will enjoy reading them over and over!

Click here for a printable copy of the list.  Read Aloud Books

Book Title Author Celebrate the Letters
A Chair for My Mother Vera B. Williams M/m
A Hole is to Dig Ruth Krauss H/h, D/d
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day Judith Viorst A/a
Bedtime for Frances Russell Hoban B/b, F/f
Biscuit Alyssa Satin Capucilli B/b
Caps for Sale Esphyr Sobodkina C/c
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Bill Martin, Jr. B/b
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Judi Barrett C/c, M/m
Corduroy Don Freeman C/c
David Goes to School David Shannon D/d, S/s
Frog and Toad are Friends Arnold Lobel F/f, T/t
Goldilocks and the Three Bears James Marshall G/g, B/b
Goodnight Moon Margaret Wise Brown M/m
Green Eggs and Ham Dr. Seuss G/g, E/e, H/h
Gregory the Terrible Eater Mitchell Sharmat G/g, T/t
Harold and the Purple Crayon Crockett Johnson H/h, P/p
Harry the Dirty Dog Gene Zion H/h, D/d
Hattie and the Fox Mem Fox H/h, F/f
How Rocket Learned to Read Tad Hills R/r
Hurry! Hurry! Eve Bunting H/h
I can Read with my Eyes Shut!  Dr. Seuss R/r
It Looked Like Spilt Milk Charles G. Shaw M/m
Kindergarten Rocks! Katie Davis K/k
Lemons are NOT Red Laura Vaccaro Seeger L/l
Leo the Late Bloomer Robert Krauss L/l
Letters from a Desperate Dog Eileen Christelow L/l, D/d
Library Lion Michelle Knudsen L/l
Little Bear Else Holmelund Minarik B/b, L/l
Llama Llama Red Pajama Anna Dewdney L/l
Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come! Nancy Carlson K/k
Lost and Found Oliver Jeffers L/l, F/f, P/p
Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile  Bernard Waber L/l, C/c
Make Way for Ducklings Robert McCloskey M/m, D/d
Me I Am! Jack Prelutsky M/m
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel Virginia Lee Burton M/m, S/s
Miss Nelson is Missing Harry Allard, James Marshall N/n, M/m, T/t
No Roses for Harry! Gene Zion R/r, H/h
No, David! David Shannon D/d
Pete’s a Pizza William Steig P/p
Regards to the Man in the Moon Ezra Jack Keats M/m
Sheep in a Jeep Nancy E. Shaw S/s, J/j
Snowballs Lois Ehlert S/s
Snowmen at Night Caralyn Buehner S/s
Stellaluna Janell Cannon S/s, B/b
Stone Soup Marcia Brown S/s
Strega Nona Tomie DePaola S/s
Swimmy Leo Lionni S/s
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble William Steig S/s, M/m, P/p
Tacky the Penguin Helen Lester T/t, P/p
The Carrot Seed Ruth Krauss C/c
The Kissing Hand Audrey Penn K/k, H/h
The Little Engine that Could Watty Piper E/e, T/t
The Little House Virginia Lee Burton H/h
The Mitten Jan Brett M/m
The Mysterious Tadpole Steven Kellogg M/m, T/t
The Pout-Pout Fish Deborah Diesen P/p, F/f
The Snowy Day Ezra Jack Keats S/s
The Story of Ferdinand Munro Leaf F/f, B/b
The Ugly Duckling Hans Christian Andersen U/u, D/d
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Eric Carle C/c, V/v, H/h
Three Billy Goats Gruff Paul Galdone G/g,
Tikki Tikki Tembo Arlene Mosel T/t
Time out for Sophie Rosemary Wells T/t. S/s
Wemberly Worried Kevin Henkes W/w
Where the Wild Things Are Maurice Sendak W/h
Whistle for Willie Ezra Jack Keats W/h

Growing a Good Reader

rk8_bookbox1Reading Tips for Parents: You can be the key to your child’s success with literacy. As his or her first teacher, you are in a unique position to help instill a love of reading in your child. The first thing for you to do is model reading; your child should see you reading every day for information or for enjoyment.  Having a home filled with books, magazines, comics, newspapers and other print material is a good start.

Not long ago I found myself cringing in the grocery store when I heard a frustrated mom threaten her five year old by saying, “If you don’t stop that, I will take away the iPad and you will have to read.”  Nooooo!  Reading should be a pleasure, not ever a punishment!

Children with a large supply of reading materials in their homes are known to score higher on standardized tests. Why? Think about it.

There is a tremendous difference between digital input and text.  When a child watches TV or plays on a tablet, all the pictures come streaming in from the screen.  When a child reads, s/he has to visualize the text. The act of painting the picture the author is describing is a most creative process.  Reading helps students begin to visualize new possibilities, solve problems, think out of the box, and become the young adult that companies clamor to hire.

Here are some easy suggestions for helping your child develop a lifelong love of reading.

  • Read aloud to your child. Choose material (books, magazines, comics) based on topics your child finds interesting. Ask your child questions about what has just been read…the Who, What, Where, When and Why of a story.
  • Choose a sound and ask your child to cut out pictures of things that begin with that sound. Help your child glue their picture onto an index card and write the letter that makes that sound. Use these cards to review sounds. Create an alphabet of pictures on index cards. Celebrate the letters of the alphabet; make it fun!
  • Surround your children with reading material; give books as gifts, rewards, etc.
  • Encourage a wide variety of reading activities.
  • Make reading an important part of your child’s life. Have them read menus, grocery lists, roads signs, game directions, the comics, or movie time listings.
  • Be knowledgeable about your children’s progress. Schedule regular conferences with your child’s teacher each year.
  • Find out what reading skills your child is expected to have at each grade level. The school’s curriculum will give you this information.
  • Get help promptly for reading problems. Reading problems do not magically disappear with time. The earlier children receive help, the more likely they will become good readers.
  • Let your child gradually share some of the reading aloud. You read a sentence, paragraph, or page, then it’s your child’s turn. Take over if your child seems tired or discouraged. Keep reading light-hearted; focus on the fun, not just hard work.
  • Leave notes in a lunch bag or on the refrigerator for your child to discover and read. Make it simple, using words your child knows or you think they can sound out.
  • Take your new reader to the library. Pick up a library card and make a big deal about it. Let your child know how important and special books can be.

Raising a reader is a joyous journey for parents and the reward is great. Check back here on the blog for a list of wonderful read-aloud books to share with your child.  In the meantime, snuggle up tonight for a sweet bedtime story.

Magical Moments: Reading Together

Reading with your Beginning Reader

rk8_boy11In my last blog I challenged you to read with your child for 20 minutes each night.  This practice makes a BIG difference in the reader your child becomes.  Yet, parents of young children who are in the process of learning to read may have questions about how to approach this.

Actually, it is pretty easy.  Here are some tips that will help you relax and enjoy the experience with your children as they learn to read.

  • It is okay for your child to track with their finger.  In other words, don’t discourage them for putting their finger on each word as they read it.  As they become more proficient, you can give them a bookmark to slide under an entire line of text at a time.
  • In the beginning, model for your child. You read a sentence and have them repeat it.
  • Next, you can begin to take turns reading.  At the beginning, you and your child can alternate sentences. You read the first one and s/he reads the next.  As your child becomes a better reader, alternate paragraphs and then finally, alternate pages.
  • The discussion you have with your child as you read is very important, so talk about the story.  Ask your child to:
    • Predict what will happen next. You can ask,
      • “What do you think will happen now?”
      • “What makes you think so?”
    • Retell what just happened. You can say,
      • “Tell me what happened first, next, and last in the story.”
      • “What was the most interesting part?” “Why?”
    • Make a personal connection to something in his/her own life. Discuss how the characters are feeling. You can say,
      • “How do you think the character is feeling?”
      • “Have you every felt that way?”
      • “Does this story remind you of another story we have read? Why?”
    • Identify new words. You can say,
      • “Point to a word that is new to you.”
      • “Let’s look at the story to see if we can figure out what it means.”
      • “What do you think it means?”
      • “Let’s keep reading to see if you are right.”
  • Each time your child gives an answer, ask him/her to give evidence from the story to support the answer.
  • Ask questions that require your child to think deeper, to think beyond the surface.
      • Who? What? Where? When? are considered lower level questions; the answers will be right in the book.
      • Why? and How? are deeper, higher level questions that require your child to use the information in the story to come up with the answer.
  • When your child finds a favorite book, they want to read it again and again.  That’s rk8_girl5great!  Re-reading is a great strategy for building stronger readers.
  • Have lots of reading materials in your home.  Talk to your child’s teacher about his or her reading level. Find out what interests your child and help him or her find books on that topic.
  • Check books out from the school library, the public library, give books as gifts and rewards, subscribe to magazines for kids, comics.
  • MODEL! MODEL! MODEL!  If your child sees you reading, they are much more likely to become a reader.

Learning to read is a magical time in a child’s life. Reading opens up a world of possibilities and adventures.  Sharing this is a wonderful experience for a parent.  Don’t miss it…it only happens once.

How to Change a Life in 20 Minutes!

rk8_girl12Does this sound familiar? The teacher sends home a note every week asking that parents read with their child for 20 minutes each weeknight.  You are thinking, “Does she not get it?  I have 3 children! I work all day, have to cook dinner, answer the phone, fold laundry, feed the dog, clean the litter box, sign field trip forms, pay bills, and chase a toddler.  Are you kidding me!?!”

There are days when 20 minutes sounds like an eternity, but, let’s take a moment to look at this reading equation mathematically.

John reads 20 minutes five nights of every week;

Sally only reads 4 minutes a night, if at all.

Step 1:  Multiply the minutes per night X 5 times each week.

John: reads 20 minutes X 5 times per week = 100 minutes each week.

Sally: reads 4 minutes X 5 times per week = 20 minutes each week.

Step 2: Multiply the minutes per week X 4 weeks each month.

John: 100 minutes per week X 4 = 400 minutes per month.

Sally: 20 minutes per week X 4 = 80 minutes per month.

Step 3: Multiply the minutes per month X 9 months per school year.

John: 400 minutes per month X 9 months = 3600 minutes per year.

Sally: 80 minutes per month X 9 months = 720 minutes per year.

Step 4: Divide the number of minutes per year by 360 minutes per day to find the number of days spent reading.

John: 3600 divided by 360 = an additional 10 full days of school spent just reading.

Sally: 720 divided by 360 = only 2 additional days of school spent reading.

So, by the end of 8th grade, or 9 academic years: 

John will have spent an additional 90 days reading.  John has gotten the equivalent of an extra  half of a 180 day school year just spent reading!

Sally will have read the equivalent of 18 days, or one tenth of a 180 day school year.

Food for Thought:

  • Which student would you expect to be a better reader?
  • Which student would you expect to be more knowledgeable?
  • Which student would you expect to be a better writer?
  • Which student would you expect to have a better vocabulary?
  • Which student would you expect to be more successful in school?
  • Which student would you expect to conduct a better interview?
  • Which student would you expect to be more successful in LIFE?

So there you have it. Twenty minutes a day can make a big difference and set your child up for success.  Will you do it perfectly?  Probably not.  But if you teach your child to value reading by reading together, you will definitely have a positive result!  You are your child’s most significant role model and I already know that you like to read…you are reading a blog!  My guess is…you’ve got this!

How do I help my child…

figure out a word when we read together?

Here are some strategies to use when decoding unknown words:
1) Have your child look at the picture. If the word will give your child help with the word, tell your child that the word is something that can be seen in the picture. If not, the picture is a clue your child can use.

2) Suggest your child look for chunks in the word. Chunks are little pieces of a word that are familiar like it in sit, at in hat, and in stand, or ing in jumping.

3) Ask your child to get his/her mouth ready to say the word. Show your child how to shape his/her mouth to say the first letter sound of the word. Sometimes that beginning sound is all it takes!  Be sure to look at the sounds that end the word too.

4) Ask your child if the word looks like another word s/he knows. For example, if your child knows the word car, star, far, hard and jar are similar words. Look for similarities together.

5) You can suggest your child go on and read to the end of the sentence. Many times the other words in the sentence will help him/her figure out the unknown word.

6) If your child says the wrong word while reading, ask questions. Some good questions to ask are:

  • Does that make sense?
  • Do the sounds in that word match the sounds of the letters in the word?
  • Does it look right to you?

7) If none of this works, tell your child the word. Tell him/her how you were able to figure out the word, which strategy above worked. Then, be sure to revisit the word so your child sees it again.

Words of Praise

Our children remember two things…the most caring and the most cruel words directed at them. As a parent and teacher, I want my children to be surrounded by words that make them feel loved, valued, and appreciated. But sometimes, “good job” feels old, tired, inadequate.  Here are some new ways to let your children know how truly proud you are and how special they are!

That’s Incredible! * How Extraordinary! * Far Out! * Outstanding! * I Can’t Get Over It! * Great! 

Amazing Effort! * Unbelievable Work! * Wonderful! * Marvelous! * Phenomenal! * You’ve Got It!

Superb! * Cool! * Excellent! * You’re Special! * Out Of Sight! * First Rate! * You’ve Outdone Yourself!

 Way To Go! * Thumbs Up! * You’re The Best! * You Came Through! * Terrific! * You Tried Hard! 

Your Help Counts! * You Made It Happen! * It Couldn’t Be Better! * Fantastic Work! 
You’re a Real Trooper! * Fabulous! * Bravo! * Exceptional!  * You’re Unique! * Awesome! 

Breathtaking! * The Time You Put In Really Shows! *  You’re A Great Example For Others!

Keep Up The Good Work! * I Knew You Had It In You! * Dynamite! * It’s Everything I Hoped For!

You Should Be Proud Of Yourself! * What An Imagination! * You Made The Difference! * Stupendous! 

You’re Sensational! * Very Good! * A+ Work! * Super Job!* Good For You! * Take A Bow! *Nice Going 

Well Done! *Class Act! * You’re Inspiring! *How Artistic! * Hooray For You! * You’re A Joy! 

How Thoughtful Of You! * You’re Amazing! * You Go The Extra Mile! * What A Great Idea!

You Deserve A Hug! * Extra Special Work! * You’re Appreciated! * Thoughtful! * You’re Tops!

Great Role Model! * You’re Neat! * You’ve Got What It Takes! * You’re #1! * You’re A Shining Star!

Outstanding! * Wow! *  Remarkable! * Beautiful! * You’ve Got Know How! * Very Impressive!

You’re Sharp! * You’re A Winner! *  Hot Dog! * Spectacular Work! * You’re So Kind! *Hard Worker!

Totally Involved! * Thanks For Helping!  * Great Discovery! * You’ve Earned My Respect! 

Thanks For Caring! * You’re A-Okay! * Congratulations! *  How Original! * You’re A Champ!

You’re A Pleasure To Know! * Very Brave! * What A Genius! * You’re Very Talented! You’re The Greatest!

You’re Super! * You’re On Target! *

If you don’t like any of these words, try three simple words…   “I LOVE YOU!”

Kindess Lives!

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Today we are still evacuated from our coastal homes in Savannah, Georgia and St. Augustine, Florida.  Sitting in a small hotel room in a small town in Alabama has allowed me lots of time to reflect.  Today people are struggling to make sense of the devastation left behind by Hurricane Irma.  Today is also the anniversary of the horrific attack of September 11, 2001.  How are these two events so closely intertwined?

Lately the news has been so overwhelmingly negative.  Social media is filled with images of police using excessive force, vengeful attacks on police, angry mobs carrying torches and screaming epithets of hatred.  I read about frightening incidents of road rage, people purposefully driving vehicles into innocent groups of people, bombs being set off at concerts.  It is easy to sink into feelings of depression and despair.

But, what IS real? Can I allow the media to shape my vision of the world I live in?   Let’s take a moment and think back to 9/11.  Yes, this was a hideous act of terrorism. However, out of this act emerged tremendous human kindness and selflessness. People, complete strangers, reached out helping one another with no expectation of anything in return. The news was filled with images of men and women committing amazing acts of courage and kindness. The lesson I learned from 9/11 was that the light of humanity in all of us is not easily extinguished.  Good Samaritans are everywhere.  Instead of diminishing our country, it was strengthened. There was a resurgence of pride in being an American. Flags flew proudly across our nation.

Look at the human response to Hurricane Harvey in Houston. There were countless examples of people risking their own safety to rescue a complete stranger.  People from all over the country mobilized to help in any way possible. Today, people are already reaching out to see how they can help in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. We are strong. We are resilient. We are America.

Will bad people still do bad things? Sadly, yes.  But I prefer to see the good in people.  One of the elementary schools in my Georgia community is challenging students to perform daily Random Acts of Kindness.  We are instilling in our youngest citizens the importance of doing good, showing compassion, being kind.

When the news reporters interviewed the everyday heroes of 9/11, Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, they all had one common response.  When asked, “How does it feel to be a hero?” every one of them said, “I am not a hero. I was just doing what anyone would. I didn’t stop to think about what I was doing; I just did it.”

These folks are right. Yes, what they did was heroic, but I believe that within all of us lives a hero.  Too often the media focuses on the negative, the frightening, and the violent.  These isolated incidents sell news, but they are not representative of who we are as Americans. Kindness, in its every day form ~ quiet, gentle, subtle ~ doesn’t attract attention and so, often goes unnoticed.

What is the lesson here? I have been reminded today that it is human nature to care, to protect, to love. I choose to believe that this is the true picture of who we are as a human race and as American citizens.  I am actually grateful for this day of reflection.  I am happy in my restored belief that Kindness Lives.

HURRICANE IRMA & ME: It’s all about the STUFF!

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I am among the millions of folks who have been evacuated in preparation for the landfall of  Hurricane Irma.  I have posted before about the fact that I try to find the silver lining in every cloud.  So, of course, I am searching for things to be happy about as I hunker down here in a small hotel in a small town on the Mississippi border.

First of all, I am declaring this Irma-cation 2017.  That certainly puts a positive spin on it, right?  It isn’t really a “-cation” of any sort, but Irma-cation certainly sounds better than “mandatory, forced evacuation”, at least in my thinking!

I am a very reflective person most of the time, and this has certainly given me time to slow down and think about what’s going on in my life.  The first thing I needed as I prepared to evacuate was the reassurance that those I love would be with me ~ my fiancé, my son, my daughter-in-law, and our pets.  The rest of the family live in New Mexico, Connecticut, Ohio… far from Irma’s reach.  Yes, a big sigh of relief that everyone is out of harm’s way.  But now, on to the topic of this post: STUFF!

My “stuff” gave me a great big headache, for sure.  I remember years ago George Carlin did a hysterically funny bit on “stuff”.  I still laugh every time I think about it.  The gist of his routine was that we surround ourselves with stuff.  We keep all of our stuff in a “box” called an apartment, a condo, a home.  Then, as we accumulate wealth, we buy more “stuff” and then have to buy a bigger “box” (house) to hold all of our stuff.  We sit happily in our “box” surrounded by our stuff until something out of the ordinary happens and we have to travel!  YIKES!! That is when the trouble starts! Now we are faced with the horrible decision about which pieces of  “stuff” are important and must accompany us and which pieces must, sadly, be left behind.

And that is exactly what happened to me!  I sat in my house last week surrounded by my  “treasures”; I am certain that my collection is much too valuable to be referred to as simple “stuff”. I know, go ahead, it’s okay to giggle; I’m giggling now too, but at the time there were some tears involved. Anyway,  I kept wondering how in the world I was going to walk away from my lifetime’s collection of treasures.

We are traveling in a small sedan.  I can’t take my grandmother’s china hutch or the antique tea cart. I have to leave my mother’s grandfather clock behind chiming for no one to hear. My father’s desk, the pictures from my trip to Russia (taken before photos became digital)…the list goes on. So I stood with an open suitcase filling it with the non-negotiable “stuff”. Clothes, underwear, nightgown and slippers, make-up, shoes, laptop (a MUST for me!), snacks, and a bottle of wine all made the cut and came with me. All the rest was left behind.

Now I have a choice to make. I can either sit and worry about the fate of my “treasures” left behind while I listen to endless hours of Irma coverage in the hotel coffee shop, or I can focus on celebrating the fact that I am in a town I have never visited before, meeting new people here sharing my evacuation experience, and enjoying time with my family. I choose the latter.  So, here’s to Irma-cation 2017.  Indeed, I am richly blessed!

What were they thinking?

There’s something about the airport that just gets me thinking. I have always been a “people watcher”, and what more ideal people watching spot than the middle of the Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta? This is one of the biggest and busiest airports in the world. It is just crawling with people all milling about. They’re rushing from one flight to the next, hustling to make connections, talking on the phone, eating lukewarm fast food on the run, and doing all this while dragging half their earthly possessions behind them in luggage on wheels.

But, I digress. Back to my original thought – there’s just something about an airport. Somehow with all the bustling about folks get lulled into thinking they are invisible. Where were their families and friends when they got dressed this morning? I guess these fashion failures figure if they don’t know anyone it doesn’t matter how they look.

Today the airport promenade was like a parade of bad fashions I’ve lived long enough to regret! Let’s see… first, who stitches madras triangles into old, torn up blue jeans to create bell bottoms? No one I’ve known since 1966 when I was listening to the Mamas and Papas. 

Beehive hairdos? Haven’t seen one in years! Saw one today…still looks like a ratty mess!

Furry lavender sweater clips? Who knew! “It can’t be so!” you’re thinking, but sadly, it is. I remember my mom wearing sweater clips back in the 1950s and I even had a pair of mink ones when I was about ten (1958). I thought I was the neatest thing since sliced bread! However, that was 59 years ago. I think this person was trying to channel June Lockhart! (You’re too young to know who she is. You can look her up or make a mental picture of the cast of Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver, or Lassie). I just can’t imagine where she would have gotten them…antique store? eBay? Aunt Millie’s junk drawer? That will remain a mystery. 

Oh, and when was the last time you saw someone go out with curlers in their hair? Not just curlers, but the ones the size of soup cans! Let’s see, what else did I see? 

Well, there was the “Bedazzler Gone Bad!” pair of blue jeans. I can’t imagine how she sat down. Her behind was covered with the sparklers; it must feel like a pin cushion! 

And then, just to round out the day, there was the florescent blue eye shadow. Now that’s a real fashion statement…from the 1970s when I was listening to Jethro Tull and the Moody Blues while wearing my way cool madras insert bell bottoms!

BWAHAHAHA!!! Don’t you just LOVE the airport?

I Keep Tripping Over Gratitude

Let me share a few examples…
First, there was the stand up comedian I spotted while flipping through the channels one evening. It is a nightly ritual. I pay a lot of money to have about a gazillion channels and then complain every night that I can’t find anything on TV to watch. Well, I paused my channel surfing routine when I spotted this comedian. He was one of those chubby, overweight Southern boys who can usually get a laugh out of me. Here’s the part of his monologue that I caught. It went something like this…
My buddy Bubba was told by his doctor that he had only six months to live. In shock, he asked if there was anything that could be done. He was still a young man and had many things left to do in life. The doctor thought about his question for a bit, and then finally gave him a solution. The doctor told him to go out and find the ugliest, most cantankerous woman he could find and marry her. He told Bubba to be sure that he found a woman who would nag him constantly, and complain about everything he said or did. Next, he had to go out and buy the most beat-up old pickup truck he could find, preferably one that would spend most of its time broken down in the yard. Then he needed to buy a run down old trailer and a dog that wouldn’t come to him even if he hung a pork chop around his neck. Well, my friend Bubba was real skeptical; he said, “Doc, are you sure that this will help me to live longer?” “Not at all,” replied the doctor, “but it sure will make six months seem a lot longer!”



I was laughing, but it dawned on me that our human nature just loves to complain. In fact, I’d just been enjoying my nightly ritual of complaining about the choices on TV. A few days later I was surfing the internet looking for something I needed to buy for my cousin’s wedding. As I clicked here and there, somehow I landed on an advertisement for Gratitude Rocks. Yes, you heard me, rocks. People are making money selling rocks. But, it was the idea that struck me. Put a gratitude rock in your pocket, each time you touch it you are reminded to take a moment to thank God for your blessings.
I was cleaning my home office and came across a book of poetry by e.e.cummings. In it he wrote, “I thank You God for this most amazing day; for the leaping greenly spirit of trees and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes.”
Finally, my Oprah magazine arrived in the mailbox. There was a little blurb about how Oprah keeps a gratitude journal. Well, I knew this was true because she had inspired me to do the same thing. I have been journaling my gratitude for a few years now. Do you remember being little and having your mother lean down and whisper, “What do you say”? You knew you were expected to say, “Thank you”. My gratitude journal is my way of reminding myself to say “Thank you” for the blessings in my life. I was feeling pretty smug; yup, I had gratitude covered with my journal. In fact, I picked up my journal to read some of my entries so that I could pat myself on the back for what a really fine and grateful person I am. I flipped through the pages and began to read some of what I have written. Well, I wish I could report to you that what I found reinforced my belief that I had gratitude all taken care of, but unfortunately I can’t.
I’m so old that when I was in elementary school we could actually pray. I remember the “Johnny Appleseed” prayer we used to recite daily before we ate our lunch: “Oh the Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord, for giving me the things I need, the sun and the rain and the apple seed.The Lord is good to me.” Did you have a prayer like that? Sort of the “God is great, God is good, and we thank him for our food.” plain brown wrapper kind of prayer that you recited without ever really thinking about it? Well, when I looked at my supposedly marvelous gratitude journal, that is pretty much what I saw.  My entries were basically, “I am thankful for my home, my family, my friends, and my health.” And I just sort of recycled those themes over and over again in one form or another over the years.
So, okay, this had all gotten my attention, but I was still questioning: Is gratitude just some New Age, touchy-feely thing, or am I really supposed to remember to say “Thank you”? My answer is that I believe that a purposeful act of gratitude will enrich our lives, make us more connected to each other and to God. Now, the question becomes, “How do I take this and apply it to my day to day life?” Dr. Wayne Dyer is quoted as saying, “With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself, or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.”
Wow! That is an aha! moment for me. I have the power to choose. If I let my human nature control my thoughts, I may choose to be grumpy rather than grateful. Yes, it is our nature. People like to complain and they like to listen to others complain. I can’t remember seeing people at work sitting in the break room talking about all the things they are grateful for, I usually hear them complaining and griping. It is up to me to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. I hear people just like me saying things like:
“Why me?”

“My husband doesn’t listen!”

“My wife never shuts up!”

“I deserve more respect!”

“They can’t do that to me!”

“My boss doesn’t appreciate all the work that I do!”

I guess I’m telling myself that I need to stop, step back. Life is a divine appointment and there is a plan for me, and that plan is unfolding each and every day. And so, I have made a new entry into my gratitude journal. I made a list of all the things that upset, frustrate, or sadden me. Then I have begun thinking about ways to turn them into an opportunity for thanksgiving and gratitude. For example, I hate that I am overweight. However, I realized that I should be grateful that over my 46 years in education, my weight has provided many children a soft place to land in times of trauma. I really, really hate to pay bills. I put it off as long as I can before they are past due. This month, I gathered the bills in my lap and took a moment to reflect on how lucky I am to have a life style that creates bills. You know, I didn’t mind paying the bills nearly as much.
How many grumpy thoughts can you transform into grateful ones?