Tag Archives: thankful

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

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


How To Get Clear on What You Want to Do (and also freak out)


By Vicki Hughes    Posted March 30, 2013

A couple months back, I posted as my Facebook status, “Caterpillars are just butterflies in fur coats.” I’d been going through my own caterpillar experience. I had a lump in my breast. When your fingers make that discovery, it takes a few minutes for your brain to process the implications. And you forget to breathe.

Due to some insurance complications, I wasn’t able to run screaming into the ER, demanding immediate answers. So, I began a waiting game that felt like a combination of Russian Roulette, Operation, and Perfection, that nerve wracking game where the little plastic pieces fly up in your face if you don’t get them crammed in the right spots before the end of the world, “POP! Goes Perfection!”

Having the lump was freaking me out, and yet I didn’t want to discuss it with anyone until I knew exactly what we might need to discuss. Why should we all be freaking out?

So, I’d breathe in, and breathe out, and then I’d think some scary-ass thoughts and then I’d turn it over to God, and then I’d feel a twinge in my chest and wonder what the hell that was, and then I’d quote a healing scripture, and then I’d read, and then I’d distract myself, and then I’d take a shower and try to decide if I should feel the lump again, and then I’d tell it to dissipate. I laid hands on myself, I tapped, I drank tea, I drank martinis, I praised God for insurance, I laughed at funny shows, I felt numbness in my arm, I felt freaked out, I felt guilty for not saying anything to anyone, then I decided there’s nothing to say to anyone yet, and I’d tell myself to calm down. I’d discover that I was breathing very shallowly and wonder if it was stress or some sort of a symptom. I mentally calculated the hours I’d work that week, I looked forward to seeing my best friend for the weekend, and rejoiced that this delayed doctor’s appointment meant our visit would not be marred by possibly bad news.

I freaked out some more and wondered how long it would take to get the mammogram results. I reminded myself that my family is very healthy, I caught myself thinking morbid thoughts, I made myself take a deep breath. I went for a walk, I made cookies, I played on Facebook, I wrote quotes in my quote journal, I pet the dog and listened to the rain. I made tacos and I swept the crumbs off the counter, I lit a candle and I took out the trash. I got choked up reading a story about a woman whose dog died, and I admired the puffy white clouds that were floating by. I listened to Chelsey lament all the things she still needs to do at her house and I felt bad that I didn’t have the energy to offer to help her. I went to my room and flopped, face down on the bed, and appreciated how good it feels just to lie there. I wished I had more time to write and contemplated ways to make that happen.  I considered how writing is my gift, my calling and my purpose, and I realized that it would suck if I needed an illness to give myself permission to pursue it with passion. I felt mildly guilty that John wanted my attention and I felt selfish and I just didn’t want to play, and then I justified it with the fact that I’d baked him cookies. I allowed myself room to be both scared and confident that it would all work out. I was doing my best. In the end, that has to be enough.

Sidenote: Simple cyst, no malignancy. Resume breathing.

© Vicki Hughes 2013

My Sunday Five (things I’m thankful for)


By Vicki Hughes        Posted March 17, 2013

1. The opportunity to see incredible artists display their work

2. Whimsy, to make me laugh, go check out www.sparkplugguy.com

3. A job that is satisfying

4. Amazing weather

5. A day of rest and relaxation, code for NO PANTS!

What are you thankful for today?

© Vicki Hughes 2013