Category Archives: Gratitude

Heating Pad Weather

heat pad

By Vicki Hughes      Posted October 25, 2013

My best friend introduced me to one of the most comforting aspects of my life, the joys of a heating pad. Many years ago, I kept hearing her talk about using her heating pad, and this happened a lot. Finally my curiosity was piqued. I asked her, “How often do you get your heating pad out?” She looked at me quizzically, and she said, “I don’t get it out, it stays out.”

That was when I realized I had an antiquated heating pad belief system. I had adopted the “good china” approach to using my heating pad. Rather than keep it out and use it all the time, I had it wrapped up, with the cord tied around it, in the deep, dark recesses of a cabinet in the bathroom. I only pulled it out for special occasions like cramps, strained muscles or a back ache. (Not that these are really special occasions.) But I was not inclined to keeping my heating pad close at hand.

Mistake, colossal. After my friend opened my eyes to the possibilities, I went to the cabinet, and pulled out my heating pad. I looked at it, and then realized one reason I had possibly relegated it to the cabinet was the tacky blue cover. So I sat down with some fabric, and made my heating pad a cute cover with flannel on one side, and chenille on the other. Then, I slid my heating pad into it’s cozy new outfit, and turned it on. It suddenly had charm. That was when I realized what I had been missing. I became a heating pad convert. I no longer save it for “special occasions,” it lives in a basket right next to my favorite chair. My oldest, smallest dog is a fan of this development. As the weather turns into what I think of as Heating Pad Weather, he starts giving me the eye. He sort of cocks his head and waggles his eyebrows at me. If I don’t catch on fast enough, then he does some pathetic shivering to get his point across. Then as soon as he sees me turn it on, he launches himself onto the ottoman, snuggles in between my calves, and waits to be draped with the Mantle of Warmth. (His words, not mine)

And so it has begun. This third week of October has returned us to Heating Pad Weather. If you are saving yours, I beseech you, get that puppy out and keep it close by. Give it a snappy makeover if necessary, but for Pete’s sake, use your heating pad. You can’t take it with you.

© Vicki Hughes 2013

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A Better Forty Bits

By Vicki Hughes               Posted Sept. 20, 2013

“When you mentally practice something whether it’s a thought or an action, and whether it’s positive or negative, your brain increases a cortical output signal for that thought or action-that is, it becomes more proficient at creating that result.”
Shawn Achor from Before Happiness

What thoughts and actions have I been practicing mentally? What am I training my brain to do better and more proficiently?

Am I practicing how to succeed or fail? Am I training all of the synapses and neurons in my brain to see solutions or problems?

Here’s what I’m discovering about how it applies to Gratitude:

When I mentally practice being grateful by listing five things a day for which I’m thankful, I’m training my brain to scan for more to be thankful for.

I develop my capacity to recognize what is going well and devote more precious brain resources to the thoughts, ideas and actions that serve me. It also helps me reduce the resources I’m devoting to scanning for problems.

Scientifically our brains can only process forty bits of information per second out of the 11,000,000 bits it’s receiving.

The things we choose to mentally practice are the major determining factor in which forty bits we will pick out of those 11,000,000.

As for me I’m planning to take in a better forty bits today.

(If you’d like to get updates about my upcoming book on Gratitude in The Workplace, please Share on your FB page)

© Vicki Hughes 2013

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Carving Out Time

By Vicki Hughes               Posted Sept. 11, 2013

I am writing a book. (Have I told you that yet?) The subject matter is Gratitude, in case that isn’t obvious from my complete fascination with the subject. As I get a little further down the line, I will be sharing more with you on this, but here is what has been on my radar.

I’ve been researching my book, and that means I have been nose-to page in books whenever I’m not at work, which isn’t very often. I have book-books and Kindle books, and of course, a herd of my own journals that I’m constantly scribbling in, like mad.

On most mornings, I try to set aside at least one hour to write. That one hour is rarely all spent writing, but sometimes it really gets rolling, and then I have to put the brakes on the writing train so I can get to work on time.

More and more, I am learning to make time. I carve it out intentionally, and part of that process is identifying the little things that rob me of the time I need. This has caused me to see how I have managed to not write a book in the past, simply because I was under the illusion that I would do it once I found the time.

Recently I felt a tiny, Thomas Edison-style light bulb appear over my head regarding time.

Here’s something to think about if you’re prone to putting things off until you find the time. Finding time is like finding money. It’s nice when it happens, but you can’t rely on it. Both money and time, to be available when you need them have to be made, and then protected, not simply found.

So. A big part of me getting this book written is making the time to write a book. As my mentor, Jim Rohn was known to say, “The don’t give out big trophies for small efforts.”

Time is passing, regardless of what I choose to do with it. I can maximize mine or let it get away. Today I intend to use it well.


© Vicki Hughes 2013

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Developing Gratitude

By Vicki Hughes             Posted August 13, 2013

Gratitude will change you. It will also change your circumstances. It’s really quite magical. It reminds me of taking a photography class in Junior High School. I took a photography class when I was about thirteen. Part of our job in the class was to take photographs to be used in the yearbook.

This was back in the pre-digital age, so we used a 35mm camera, with black and white film since our school couldn’t afford the equipment to develop color film. Besides, black and white is cooler and more artsy. Just ask Instagram.

When we finished a roll of film, we would take it into the closet in the school library that was our designated darkroom. We would take the film out of it’s tiny metal cylinder and treat it with a development solution. Then we would look at the negatives, and put them on a contraption that would allow us to fire the negative onto a sheet of white photo paper. That paper was pricey, so we had to really be sure it was a picture worth developing.

Then we’d bathe the photo in a development solution, and watch for the picture to begin to appear. Magic. The trick is to allow it to develop, but not over-develop. It takes some practice, some skill, and a good eye. if you do it very much, you start to fall in love with the process. Digital cameras are cool, and allow you to do things you’ll never do with a 35mm camera. For pure joy, printing a photo off of your computer will never hold a candle to developing one in a darkroom.

Which brings me back to gratitude. When we begin to tune in to things we are thankful for, and especially if we take the time to jot them down, to capture them, it’s like snapping a picture with a 35mm camera. We’ve caught the moment, and it’s stored there, Later, we get to come back and take a peek, as if we were examining a long strip of negatives, looking for what was there, what was really amazing.

Recording your gratitude, much like taking photos, will surprise you at times. You may capture things in the background, that turn out to be more important than what you were originally focused on. You thought you were focused on being grateful for a new job, but six years later, you look back at that moment and realize it was where you met your best friend. That was in the shot, but you couldn’t see it until it developed.

Gratitude, much like the process of developing film and pictures, reveals things with a bit of a time delay. I love that word, developing. We are smack dab in the midst of a world that is forgetting how development works, growing accustomed to the instantaneous. But development is crucial to that which can stand the test of time. Value and longevity and quality are not available to be zapped in the microwave, or dropped in a toaster. Things that develop over time have staying power. And so, the continued practice of gratitude has proven to me.

Four years into my personal mission to focus daily on what I am thankful for, by noticing, and writing it down, things have developed. More importantly, I have developed. I have developed the capacity to notice and appreciate the things that are right in my life, in the midst of what is not. I appreciate the opportunities, which helps me step over the adversity. I can bolster my own spirits with the written reminders of all that I have been blessed with so far, which reminds me there’s more good stuff waiting just out of sight, but on it’s way.

I have watched my gratitude move people around me to appreciate their own blessings, big and small. I have seen my finances respond to my thankful attitude, as well as my physical well being, and relationships with people. I have watched as gratitude has propped open doors of creativity, and as new opportunities have shown up at my door, wagging their tails.

So today, I am thankful for all that being grateful has taught me so far. And now, if you will excuse me, I need my gratitude journal.

© Vicki Hughes 2013

Why Lists May Not Be Helping You Remember


By Vicki Hughes    Posted July 2, 2013

I’m growing ever more concerned about all the things I’m expected to remember. I have lists for home, lists for work, lists for family members, several calendars to coordinate, and I’m supposed to remember the last time the dogs had their flea medicine. I have all sorts of note features in my iPhone. This provides a false sense of security, as if putting it in there is an ironclad guarantee that I will magically put the reminder on the right day, or that my phone will actually be fully charged, with the ringer “on” when the alert finally comes through. This is all wishful thinking, and should not be trusted.

I’ve noticed a strange phenomenon regarding certain very important items on my grocery list. Some of them are memory resistant. These are not random, weird things like foie gras or clotted cream. I’m talking about very important stuff we actually need, things like deodorant, or laundry detergent, or Tonic water. Even when plainly written on my list, some of these items somehow elude capture. I can’t explain it, but it’s as if, while I am looking at the list, the primary item becomes written in invisible ink, but only until I return home, when it will suddenly re-appear.

I’ve identified part of the problem as the large amount of brain bandwidth that I’m expected to allocate to log-ins and passwords. I especially love it when I am required to create a password with a capital letter, a symbol, a number, a gang sign, the molecular structure of sand and my favorite color when I was twelve. Oh. And for proper security, NEVER write it down. Ever. Yeah. Right. You know who remembers passwords like that? Cyborgs. That’s who.

People are known to cry out over the ignorance of today’s youth about history. I’d just like to say, I personally forgive young people for not knowing more about history. There’s a lot more history now than there used to be. The history of the Internet alone could be a college level dissertation. I think we could all calm down over the youth of America being a little fuzzy on eighteenth century tariffs and who the greatest railroad barons were. Let alone ancient history. Holy crap. Do you want these kids to remember Caesar’s last words, or develop you an app to help you find your phone when you shut it in the bathroom drawer with your toothpaste?

Do you remember that Steely Dan song, “Hey Nineteen?” The guy at the bar is bitter because the sweet young thing he’s chatting up doesn’t know who Aretha Franklin is. First of all, it’s her loss. Second of all, stop being the creepy old guy at the college bar. Let’s not forget, it’s far more depressing that she is unaware that a coffee can be made at home for under five dollars, or that he’s got boxer shorts that have more real-life experience than she does.

When you reach a certain age, there’s a fun game you get to play with people in your same general age bracket. While listening to the music of your youth, you get to play, “Name That Band!” Here’s how we play at our house.

“Who is that, 38 Special?”

“No, it’s 10cc.”

“Yeah, I knew it had a number in it.”

The music plays on…

“Is that Bread?”

“No, it’s Cream.”

“Ehh. I knew it was something edible.”

We continue to chill out to Pandora.

“That’s The Animals, right?”

“Nope. The Zombies.”

“Shit! I knew it was something plural.”

Suddenly one of us jumps up with a fist pump.

“That HAS to be The Animals.”

“It’s The Turtles.”

“Turtles are technically animals.”

We continue like this until one of us says, “I don’t want to play this game anymore,” or until we need more wine.

Because I make my living in the hospitality field, I count it a blessing that I’m good at remembering names. I know lots of people who are not, but I have a feeling they are the ones who manage to get home with all the items they wrote on their grocery list. Really, I don’t think it would be fair for any one person to be good at both. Someone like that shouldn’t be trusted…Cyborgs.

© 2013 Vicki Hughes



First day of school, me and my Daddy


John and The Girl circa 1989

It’s Father’s Day. I am most thankful that my Daddy is happily spending his day enjoying beautiful Bend, Oregon. I am blessed to have him here, where at any given time I can pick up the phone, and hear his voice, and touch base, share the latest news and just feel that lifetime connection. It’s a blessing, and one I don’t take lightly.

Today is hard for many people, those whose dad’s are no longer here, and those who have never known or been close to their dads. One thing I know, growing up under the same roof with a father is no guarantee you have a Daddy.

To my way of thinking, a Daddy is a man who has a genuine love for, and interest in, the short people under his roof, eating all the food, leaving expensive shoes outside for the dog to chew on, and accidentally deleting the sporting events he meticulously set the DVR to record. A Daddy does more than provide the necessities. He provides the security, the perspective, and the occasional bear growl that kids need, to know when to get it together, now. He demonstrates adult behavior with love, while retaining some childish qualities that make kids feel like they can relate to his strength, and bigness. Daddy’s can basically do anything, and they take care of stuff, usually behind the scenes, without fanfare or glory.

Today, I salute the two best daddies I know, my own Daddy, Al Portune and my husband, John. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for making life great for both me, and The Girl.

A peek at the two greatest Daddy’s I know

© Vicki Hughes 2013

What I Have Learned (So Far) About Gratitude


By Vicki Hughes  Posted May 15, 2013

In December of 2009 I broke by leg. Badly. Not that there’s a great way to break your leg, but I snapped both bones just above my left ankle, and had to have a small hardware store installed to put it back together again.

Part of the misery was that I was also about eighty pounds overweight at the time, which ruled out crutches for getting around. Enter, The Walker. If you would ever like to know how it feels to be eighty or ninety years old, try relying on a walker to get around. It’s educational to say the least. My orthopedic surgeon forbid me to place weight on it for six full weeks, and thus began a spiral of events that sucked, not to put too fine a point on it.

Let’s see…during my recovery process, I was fat, broken, John’s work was a misery to him, and was financially unpredictable, I was out of work, the snow that had caused me to break my leg in the first place, continued to fall for the next several months, and each day, while John was at work, and I sat around with my left leg in the air, our three goats would break out of their pen, and stand on the table on our front porch and try to break the front window of the house with their hooves, hoping to come inside and play with me.

I was having a hard time feeling thankful. I was feeling a tad unthankful. But one thing I was thankful for was the new laptop my Dad bought me (to replace the one that BLEW UP a week after I broke my leg!) Somehow, in this shitstorm of unhappy circumstances, I decided that the only thing that might keep me from taking my walker into the kitchen and sticking my head in the oven, was figuring out a way to refocus on the things that were good in my life. I vaguely knew they existed, but I was having a hard time remembering any of them. Between the pain pills and the crappy circumstances, I was having a challenge focusing on the good stuff.

It can be hard to feel thankful when you can’t take yourself to the bathroom, or bathe yourself without help, while you worry about losing your house, and it snows in your face. It’s hard, but not impossible.

And so I began an experiment. I created a group on Facebook called Life Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to be Thankful. Several years earlier, I’d been reading Sarah Ban Breathnach’s book, Simple Abundance, and I had been intrigued with her suggestion to create a Gratitude Journal. I had dabbled with that, and found it to be very encouraging. I thought that creating my own Gratitude Journal online, in a setting where I was putting it out there daily, might be the ticket to becoming more consistent. It turns out, I was right.

I invited a few of my friends and family members to join in, and they did. Some of them knew how challenging it was for me to find things to be thankful for at that point in my life, and some didn’t. Some people thought it was easy. It was not. It was necessary, and therapeutic, but it was hard. Sometimes I would sit there all day, trying to think up five things I could honestly feel thankful for. And then one of my online friends would post their five things…and I could remember again.

Here is what I have learned so far about belonging to a community of people who try to focus on what they are thankful for.

a) It’s contagious. You will cause other people to feel thankful to.

b) There is so much to be thankful for, you could never write it all down, even when life seems really crappy.

c) Tapping into gratitude opens you up for good things to begin showing up in your life, while ignoring the things that are wonderful shuts down the process

d) There are lots of people going through lots of challenges, and they still manage to share the good stuff, and that’s valuable.

Some people come and read what others post, and they don’t ever become part of the conversation. That’s okay. I believe they will join in when the time is right. It blesses me to know they stop by, and get a dose of gratitude, like a multi-vitamin to strengthen them through the day.

Other people tell us a little something now and then, and it’s like getting a card in the mail from an old friend. It reminds me that they are still there, still connected, still a part of this adventure with me.

And some people are actively helping me create what I consider the happiest place on Facebook. They tell us the big and the little blessings, five things at a time, that they recognize as the icing on the cake. And all of these 548+ people make me realize every day, that out of a really bad set of circumstances, you can make something really amazing. To all of you who are a part of the goodness, thank you. You are at the top of my list, everyday.

© Vicki Hughes 2013


Water Warrior

Drop of water

By Vicki Hughes      Posted April 22, 2013

Chelsey has been working non-stop for a solid month to make our annual Earth Month charity event at The Fairhope Salon & Spa a big hit. We’re co-hosting a Water Warriors Crawfish Boil at Fairhope Brewing Company, with live music, a cornhole tournament, a bachelor auction and a drawing for a complete spa day. It has been quite a project.

The stories she has heard in the years she has worked for Aveda have imparted a heartfelt calling into her. Her passion is to plan ongoing events for clean water projects, including but not limited to this year’s beneficiary, Gulf Restoration Network. She wants to work with other groups such as Wine to Water, and Global Green Grants. If you have never heard Doc Hendley’s story about Wine to Water, you need to. We had the honor of hearing him speak at Serious Business in New Orleans in January, and it was life changing. I will never look at a glass of clean water the same way again.

When your children really get on fire about things, it makes an impact. Watching her immerse herself in this passion, self-teaching herself about building websites, obtaining grants, the ins and outs of non-profits and fundraising, and event planning, I realize how driven and amazing she is. I see a lot of me in her, but I also see lots of her, in her own right, too. Your kids may be influenced by you, but the come pre-wired too.

From me she got that impulsive, “let’s do it” thinking, that is full of ideas, and a little light on thinking through how much actual time and work each idea requires. We both secretly believe Smurfs will show up and make lots of stuff happen, and then we go out and recruit lots of Smurfs to help us when we start to panic. Let me say, thank God for all of our Smurfy friends!

She’s persuasive. We can both move people to action when we talk about ideas we’re passionate about. We share our excitement easily, frequently and boldly. If you don’t want to know what we’ve been up to lately, you best not ask.

She loves anything social, by nature. A party, an event, some music, anything that sounds fun. She was the kid who hated bedtime because she was afraid she’d miss something good. If we put her to bed, and she heard John and I laughing in the other room, she’d holler, “No fair having fun without me!”

She is tenacious when she gets an idea into her head, and as John would say, once she gets a bug up her butt about something, it’s all or nothing.

She is constantly learning, moving, and changing. Interestingly, she is a Pisces, a water sign. She is just like water: Beautiful, powerful, persistent, constantly changing, unpredictable, life giving, and will move anything that gets in her way. I think it’s destiny that her passion is to provide clean water for people who need it most. I for one, know better than to get in her way.

What are you passionate about?

© Vicki Hughes 2013



By Vicki Hughes   Posted April 17, 2013

Yesterday was tragic in Boston. I don’t watch the news, and the events from yesterday remind me once again why I opted out years ago. But we live in a very media connected world, and there was no “not knowing.”

My newsfeed on Facebook and Twitter were covered up with details, and the facts that got through to me compelled me to reach out to a dear, fitness freak friend in Boston, just to make sure he was alive and well. When things like this happen, we have to do a quick inventory on our dear ones to make sure they are safe, and well.

For some who checked on their loved ones yesterday, it was devastating news. It was not a sigh of relief. It was the impossible, implausible, unfathomable, no.

My heart is broken, and my prayers for them all continue. But I continue to guard my heart and my mind. I leave the television off. I turn away when I see a public broadcast replaying the footage. I remind myself that horrible things happen all over this planet, every single day. If I spend my time, my limited, precious, finite time, focused on the atrocities, the terrible, the unfair and the disturbing, it will be at the expense of my capacity to believe, hope, rejoice, inspire, create and celebrate.

Those who have been lost, and damaged, and devastated, I choose to honor by living, by doing those very things that they will not be able to do, and helping other people really live too. Because time flies. Even if we die at 110 with our boots on, in our own bed, with our loved ones gathered around us, it’s still a fast 110 years. We better get crackin’ if we want to enjoy those individual moments that are making up our life, right now.

I can’t change the fact that crazy people will continue to do crazy things. I can’t even get a guarantee of tomorrow’s weather forecast, so I can’t waste my precious time obsessing about it. The clock is ticking for all of us.

As for me, I give myself permission to remain optimistic, to recognize everything that also went well yesterday, and to feel glad to be here, in spite of the sad fact that many are not. I do those who have gone on no service by getting lost in the maze of all that is wrong in this world.

Light will always overcome darkness, but darkness is still a factor. All we can do is shine on it.

© Vicki Hughes 2013

It’s The Little Things


By Vicki Hughes      Posted March 28, 2013

Most people agree it’s not the big stuff that really makes us crazy. It’s the little things: the dripping faucet, the ticking of a clock at three a.m., the toothpaste flattened in the middle, that breathing. Little things have the power to unravel us.

But little stuff is also some of the most satisfying stuff in the Universe. I am quite the fan of little things. When I’m attentive to the right little things, I step over into a place where life feels good, and my heart in nearly overflowing with appreciation for all of the thousands of little details that make up this experience we call Life.

Seeing the little stuff that is all around us, supporting and comforting us, making us smile or laugh, making today’s demands a little easier to get through, those things are noteworthy. A cup of tea or coffee in the morning, made just the way we like it. The ability to put on tiny earphones and be transported by beautiful music, pets, who love us with an unfathomable devotion. A healthy, simple meal on our table, and the four walls, wrapped protectively around us, keeping the cold and wind outside.

Our sense of smell, telling us the tea olive is in bloom, the coffee is perking, the cookies are nearly done. Our eyesight, allowing us to take in written words and process them, to see photographs of places we’ve been, and of who we’ve been, and with whom…that catalog of our own personal history that plays out a story in our mind’s eye. We simply pick up the edges of a photograph from twenty years ago, and we can appreciate the fact that we are not that person anymore, because we’ve learned a trick or two in the meantime.

Yes, it cost us a few wrinkles, creases and grey hairs, but we’re here. Here is good. Here has potential. Here has life and breath, and one more day to look around. Here has people, and those people need us here. Here is where we get to smile at them, and talk to them, tell them a story or encourage them to not quit. Not today. Here has the power of all our previous “theres” in it, with the added bonus of Google to fill in the pieces we can’t remember.

Here is chock full of little things that, when we notice them, can be the most amazing place we’ve been in a long time. Breathe it in. Let it weave it’s way into your story, so that one day, a little bit later, it will stand out, and sustain you.

© Vicki Hughes 2013