Developing gratitude

We tend to wait until November to think about why we are thankful. But even then, our thoughts are clouded by the gift-giving season. Why wait to develop gratitude?

I have been really struggling with this blog. What voice I want it to have, what audience I want to impact the most, what topics to cover, what subject I should portray myself as the expert of. I spent so much time worrying and judging myself that I didn’t write.

I let ideas come and go. I gave myself excuses as to what was causing me to “not have enough time” to write. I thought, maybe it’s better for me to stop writing until I have “figured the blog’s platform out.”

But, that’s just an excuse. When has anyone really started a creative adventure and had everything figured out? Creative adventures change, detour, fall, fail, and eventually evolve.

Yes, I would love to be a professional writer, aka paid enough to live happily ever after. But, in a way, I only have so much control over that. If I spend most of my time trying to categorize myself, and doubting all the ideas that randomly pop into my brain, then I gain nothing positive.

If I just push myself to word vomit at least once or twice a week, then I’m still growing and nurturing my abilities. It may result in dolla dolla bills y’all. Or, it may result in just another online diary. Regardless, I am thankful for the opportunity.

Thankful that I even have a platform to write to the masses.
Thankful that I have the ability to receive positive or constructive feedback from the audience.
Thankful that I can continue to try to improve, to create and to inspire.
Thankful that I live in a country that doesn’t oppress free speech.
Thankful that I was able to continue my education into my 20s, allowing me to learn even more than if I had been forced to stop while still a young teen.
Thankful that there is potential to profit from this platform.

We tend to wait until November to think about why we are thankful. But even then, our thoughts are clouded by the gift-giving season. Why wait to develop gratitude?

I recently decided towards the end of October to designate a space near my bed where I will write down one thing every day that I am thankful for. It is a practice that my mom started with me when I was in high school & struggling to see the positive. By challenging me (or in my mind at the time, forcing me) to do this, my outlook went from glass half empty to glass half full. It is a challenging practice to maintain, but I swear it works.

It turns out that my idea to promote more positivity & gratitude into my life was on track with others. Recently, I discovered from a colleague of mine that she was participating in the Thanksliving Workbook. This idea is the brainchild of she works His way, an organization that encourages wisdom for women to pursue Christ, serve their families well & use their gifts to bless others. While there are people who have had negative experiences with religion & Christianity, I encourage you to still check out this wonderful workbook. It does not judge, condemn, or pressure. It builds you up, loves you, and strengthens you.

Personally, I was raised Christian. I went to a variety of Christian churches, but spent the most time in the Lutheran congregations. I was also very lucky in that I went to a high school that had us study world religions, morality and ethics. I have friends of different faiths. My spiritual relationship is my own & still a work in progress.

Regardless of my questioning, I still find inspiration in religious services, traditions, texts and individuals. I believe that exposing oneself to a variety of experiences will only make you a better member of humanity. Therefore, I believe the Thanksliving Workbook can be used by everyone & shaped to their own experiences. If you’re interested in using the Thanksliving Workbook, and would also to be a part of a virtual community while participating, leave a comment below and I will get you set up with the private Facebook group that I am a member of!

If you’ve reached the end of this longer than usual post, thank you. It’s your readership that keeps me accountable. Until the next post… I challenge you to write down 5 things you are thankful for at the end of today & share them with your friends & family online! End 2016 on a note of positivity & start 2017 with a new mindset!


What would ‘Big Fishy’ do?

Lake City, Minnesota sunset.
Lake City, Minnesota sunset on July 15, 2015.

Planes, trains and automobiles. The universe was against me as I made plans to be by the side of one of my absolute favorite people – my dying grandpa.

“Big Fishy” is what I called him, and I was his “Little Fishy.” Honestly, I can’t remember exactly what moment caused these nicknames to be created, but I can tell you that it’s all I’ve ever known between my grandpa and I. That man sure knew how to pucker up his lips into our signature pout each time he saw me.

My grandpa was diagnosed with two types of cancer about 16 months ago. He was newly 91. He didn’t want to know specifics…he had lived one hell of a life. Fell in love twice, raised three kids, he was a trainer for the Minneapolis Lakers, he helped lead multiple hospitals around Minnesota and South Dakota as an administrator…really, he lived to help others.

He personified Christ in his daily life, and I do not say that lightly. No matter your opinion of organized religion, or your own spirituality, that man sure knew how to make you feel special.

I was the youngest in my family, that is until the cousins started popping out babies of their own, and my mom was the youngest child. So, I was often times looked down upon by the rest of my family. But not Big Fishy. He treated me with the same respect he would expect for himself. I was always good enough to him. I was never “too young,” “too small,” or “too stupid.” He saw the light in everyone. He was able to forgive. Hell, you’d rarely cross him – he put the fear of disappointing him in ya.

He was ready to be reunited with his Creator, family members, and friends and there were many instances over the past 16 months where he thought he was going to go. But, he held on. He held on for one more Christmas. He held on for one more birthday. He held on to say goodbye to his loyal pup, Beau. But then, he was ready. Really ready this time.

He was an honest man. And since he was an honest man, he knew when to tell my mom he would be leaving this world. Thank God for that quality. It’s the one that allowed me to drop everything and be by his side as he took his last breath. It’s the one that allowed me to hold his hand as he transitioned into the next world. It’s the one that allowed me to dry my mother’s tears, and hold her sobbing body as she mourned the loss of her last surviving parent.

I miss him every damn day. There are so many things I’ll miss about him. But what I’ll miss the most is just sitting next to him and feeling his love for me, his community, his dog, golfing, just everything…that love just radiated off his being. You could NEVER not feel joyful around Bob Polk.

My heart is broken, and may always be broken.

I see him golfing in the clouds. I hear him bowling in Heaven with his father during rain storms. I hear him signing to me on the oldies station. I feel him in the wind as I race my bike through Chicago’s streets, his arms protecting me. I remember him by the pain in my chest as I wake up each morning realizing I’m still living in a world without him.

But, I am so eternally grateful for this man for one specific reason – he gave me my mom, my other favorite person. Without him, there would be no her and no me.

When I thanked him for giving me my life and he asked me why, I said that without his love for my mom, I wouldn’t be a fighter or a writer. I wouldn’t be an animal lover or a volunteer. I wouldn’t be a child of God or an American. I wouldn’t be.

So, I want to publicly thank him again for his love, for waiting to pass on until I got there, for always believing me, and for always being with me.

Until we meet again… What Would Big Fishy Do?

If you feel so inspired you may donate to my grandpa’s memorial fund set up at his parish, First Lutheran in Lake City. The fund will gift a scholarship money to a college student looking to study medicine, to help lessen their financial burdens.