Fostering Gratitude at Thanksgiving and Year-Round

Black and white painting of dishes and fruit on a table

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays.  Its historical origins aside, for me, it’s a day spent with family, some of whom I don’t see as often as I’d like.  When I was a kid, the hosting duties rotated among my mom and her four siblings, and a crowd of 20-30 of my aunts, uncles, and cousins gathered together for a delicious potluck-style meal, followed by hours of card games, laughter, and enjoying each others’ company.  The gatherings have become smaller over the years and the format has changed a bit, but I still look forward to this holiday more than any other.

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Rethinking Regret

Black and white profile photo of the author sitting on a porch in Kauai
Photo by Emilios

This week, Hidden Brain, one of my favorite podcasts-slash-public-radio-programs, explored the topic of regret with a researcher and head of an academic “regret lab.”  The program discussed the various positive and negative consequences of regret.

I think I’ve reached a point in my life when I’m able to put most of my regrets to rest.  Yes, there are opportunities I missed, chances I wish I’d taken, different paths I could have chosen, and times I acted selfishly or treated others poorly.  The last category is, of course, the hardest to get over, because it’s regret combined with guilt.  But we can’t undo what we’ve done in the past, and at some point we have to forgive ourselves and commit to behaving better in the future, now that we know better.

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End-of-Life Lessons From My Dad

Photo of the author as a toddler, dressed for church, with her dad crouched next to her, steadying her as she walks
Dad and me, circa 1987

When I was a kid, my dad was what today we might call my lead parent.  My mom was involved in my life too, but she often worked 60 hours a week and sometimes had to travel for work.  My dad’s work day ended at 3:00, and he had a little more flexibility in terms of taking time off, so he was the one who picked me up from day care, took me to my first day of kindergarten, and attended school events.  I spent a good bit of time with him when I was young, and he taught me many of life’s essential early lessons.

I sometimes took my dad for granted in my adolescent years, as teens often do.  He went through some hard times and battled some demons, and I didn’t always understand or appreciate him.  When I was in 11th grade, and again during my first year of college, he was hospitalized with serious health issues.  These brushes with death transformed my dad and my relationship with him, and I’m especially grateful for the person he became and the times we spent together over the past 15 years.

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Resisting Polarization and Encouraging Compassion

Double rainbow and seagulls over Niagara Falls, with onlookers

We humans like to place people into buckets: good and bad, left and right, us and them. This seems to be an age-old tendency, and it isn’t all that surprising that the rise of social media and the proliferation of news and opinion platforms have allowed our divisions to become more entrenched and more apparent. We can choose to read and listen to only those sources that affirm what we already feel and believe, and we can respond to those who disagree while protected by a screen that keeps us from seeing and experiencing their humanity, their emotional reactions.  Our quickly typed words can be amplified through shares and retweets, carried far beyond the small circles that might once have heard them.

Many, many people have written about the heightened state of polarization in which we live these days, lamenting how destructive it is and postulating about what led to this environment.  It is distressing and disheartening.  But it doesn’t have to be this way.

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Snapshot: May 27, 2017

Black and white photo of Alexis

In this occasional series, I’ll share what I’ve been reading, watching, thinking, and doing.

What I’m Reading:

What I’m Watching: Master of None, Season 2

What I’m Listening To: Modern Love, “A Slow Fade to Black

Current Guilty Pleasure: ice cream (most recently from Marble Slab)

Where I’ve Been Recently: Chattanooga, TN

What I’m Looking Forward To: My trip to Greece later this summer!

Latest Personal Project: Learning Greek (with the help of DuoLingo, Collins, and my Greek husband, who’s been a helpful and patient tutor)

Recent Moment of Joy: Reconnecting with a former colleague from a past job and learning that we have more in common than I’d realized

Currently Inspired By: My friend M, who fought through a painful foot injury to complete her third half-Ironman last weekend. She ran her first 5k just a couple of years ago. Way to go, M!

Grateful For: A beautiful, sunny day after a long rainy spell

Have a lovely weekend!

Peace,

Alexis

Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Rethinking Gift-Giving

Oil painting of a cluster of tomatoes at different stages of ripeness and a small ceramic pitcher on a rumpled blue tablecloth
Still Life with Tomatoes, 2009. For details or to purchase, please contact Alexis (contact form in menu bar).

I recently came across this post on gift-giving from Mr. Money Mustache and thought it was worth sharing.  The post is several years old and references Mother’s Day, but it applies to all the occasions on which our culture tells us we are supposed to give gifts.

Ideally, gift-giving should be a way of expressing our appreciation for the people we love, making their day a little brighter, and perhaps easing their burden.  At its worst, gift-giving can become another obligation, and the gifts we give can sometimes add to the burdens of the receiver as well as the giver.  I’ve gone to holiday gatherings without gifts to give and have been embarrassed when others brought gifts for everyone, including me.  The gifts were not personally selected for each individual, but were, I suspect, bought en masse out of either a sense of requirement or a desire for the gift-giver to feel good about herself.  These gifts were not meaningful, but they provoked feelings of guilt and obligation in me.  That is not what gift-giving should do.

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How to Lift Yourself Up When You’re Feeling Down

An oil painting of a blooming bradford pear tree
Pear Tree in Bloom, 2015. For details and purchase information, please contact Alexis.

Even the most optimistic and happy-go-lucky among us occasionally have bad days.  I’m not talking about clinical depression; I’m talking about those days when things don’t go your way, or you get some bad news, or a long stretch of misfortunes culminates into a wave of negative emotions.  We all deal with those days in our own ways, some healthier than others.  May I offer a few suggestions for working through these tough times?

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Friend Love: In Appreciation of My Tribe

Close-up painting of daffodils
Daffodils, 2015.

On Tuesday, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I wrote about my husband. While he’s amazing and I’m so grateful for the relationship we have, he isn’t the only source of love in my life. I firmly believe that we shouldn’t expect one person to satisfy all of our needs. Today, I want to show my gratitude for my friends.

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