365 Grateful blog

Guest Post - Amy Gill - Tis the season to be thankful...

Hailey Bartholomew - Sunday, November 27, 2011

We welcome in the Christmas season with some wonderful wisdom from Amy.


‘Tis the season to be jolly, Fa la la la la la la la la….

Really already?

I am not sure where the year has gone or how it is possibly the start of December this week, but it is, and so the most crazy, busy, stressful, financially draining and exhausting weeks of the year begin.

But to be honest, I don’t see it like that at all. Let me start again….

I am not sure where the year has gone or how it is possibly the start of December this week, but it is, and so the most wonderful, joyful, family-centered, season of giving begins.  Bring it on!

I love Christmas. I love the parties; the way people get together and rejoice in each other’s company. I love the atmosphere out and about – carolers, decorations and excitement in the air. I love the smell of pine throughout my house and the giggling of my girls at the slightest thought of anything christmassy.

But most of all, I love the traditions that come with Christmas. I am grateful for the traditions my parents established for us as we grew up – fresh Christmas trees every year; setting up the nativity set without baby Jesus who would magically appear on Christmas day; reading ‘The Night before Christmas’ after mass on Christmas eve before we would set out food for Santa and his reindeer. My girls now follow the same traditions and have some new ones to call their own. We now make a point of travelling to the city to see the Christmas windows; our advent calendar brings gifts from Christmas angels; and our Santa photo experiences are traditionally a disaster! All these things add to the season and they make me happy.

This year I also wanted to start two new traditions with my girls. The first stems from something my mum did when I was younger. Mum would often make up a hamper of food and presents at Christmas time for a family in need. It was a different family every year. Mum would find a way each time to anonymously deliver the hamper to this family.  One year the hamper went to a family of a lady mum worked with. The lady didn’t know me so mum dressed me up as an elf and sent me off to deliver the hamper. I will never forget the look of gratitude in her husband’s eyes as I gave him the hamper. “Who is this from?” He asked. “Santa,” I replied. “Thank you. Thank you.” Hopefully, our new tradition will teach my girls that it is more important to give than receive.

The second tradition I want to start is centered around gratitude. Each day when we mark off a day on our advent calendar I want us to write down something we are grateful for as a family. I want to string these pieces of gratitude together and hang them around our tree.  This is what I want Christmas to be about for our family – gratitude. Gratitude for all that we have had throughout the year; gratitude that we have our health and each other; gratitude that we have a house over our head, food on our table, presents under the tree.

Christmas should be a time to celebrate each other and give thanks for all that is good in our lives. Maybe it is time to start a new tradition in your house too?

And while you are thinking about what that tradition might be, spare a thought for poor mothers everywhere, trying to get the perfect Santa photo to place on the mantelpiece 

Guest Post - Lori Portka - A Tuscan Villa

Hailey Bartholomew - Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Great to have another post from Lori - one that is very easy to relate to!  I usually freak out when I miss out on something so this is a great reminder to me to view those times differently.  Thanks Lori!

The Tuscan Villa

In the United States, this is Thanksgiving week.  It is a big holiday in this country filled with family and feasting, thanks and giving.  I will be spending this Thanksgiving at home alone with my two dogs.  I know that sounds like a sad story. At first I was sad and I actually didn’t handle it very well (many meltdowns, lots of crying.)  See, my Italian husband is in Italy this week with his entire Italian family (I refer lovingly to them as, The Italians.)    

For various reasons, I decided not to join them.  I felt so sorry for myself that I was missing out on all of the fun.  I even felt left-out, although it was my choice not to go.    It’s interesting how my mind can make up stories out of things that aren’t true and the story leads to misery.  I spun around in that unfortunate mess for a few days.

But again, like so many times in my life, gratitude has come to the rescue.  I asked for a change in perspective- a new way to view this holiday and situation with love and gratitude instead of anger and envy.  Later that day, as I was washing the dishes, I began to feel gratitude pouring over me.  I felt happy for my husband and the rest of The Italians, giddy almost, that they were going.  I felt grateful for the time to myself.  Having quiet time with my dogs to do whatever I want?  Fabulous!  This is an incredibly busy time of year with my art business and more than once this season I have felt overwhelmed.  This would be a week of quiet, to package and mail orders, paint, have lunch with friends, read, and eat my favorite soups.  Delightful!  I also felt grateful that my art business continues to grow, making it really hard for me to travel at all this time of year.  The kindest thing to do for myself is to stay home.  I felt so grateful for the choices that I have.  I felt so grateful for the family I adore so much.

It’s true, I will probably tear up a bit on Thanksgiving Day when they will all be in Tuscany staying at the villa my husband and I stayed in on our honeymoon.  I loved everything about that place so much that I actually cried when we left.  I made a painting for the B&B owner for my Hundred Thank Yous project (part of which you will see below). 

I imagine myself going back there one day.  Maybe I will get to give her the painting in person!  For now, I will send love to all my people who are laughing, feasting, taking in the beauty and enjoying each other.  I will send love to myself this week by doing what I want to do and showering myself with kindness.  All is well.

Guest Blog - Amy Gill - Coming home

Hailey Bartholomew - Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I think I am with Amy on this one.  Just about to head off there now.  Thanks, Amy, for sharing your life with us. 

Coming Home

“I need to go,” I say.

“Why?” he replies.

He just doesn’t get it! I NEED to go. I am homesick.

“But you are at home…” he says.

Did I mention he doesn’t get it? He is used to it though. It is not the first time this has happened and he knows it won’t be the last.

“Well, get packing”, he says smiling.

“GIRLS… We are going! “

Annabelle and Penny do a happy dance in the lounge room as we begin to pack supplies for the days outing. Already my heart is singing.

Ten minutes later we are ready to go. Two-year-old Penny looks ridiculous. She has her swimmers on, her hat, her goggles over her eyes and her inflatable swim ring pulled up around her middle.  Annabelle doesn’t look much different, but she has chosen a boogie board instead of the ring and is surfing down the patio stairs. I smile. I think they have my genes.

We pile in the car and begin the drive to the beach. It is only a forty minute drive from our house to the beach, but as I have spent most of my life only five minutes away, forty minutes seems like forever.

I grew up on the Central Coast of NSW. I was surrounded by the beach and beach culture. The beach was a place my family connected after a day of work and school. It was the place where I reflected on my life and found clarity when I needed it. When I was older, my brother and I used to walk on the beach together a few times a week and I loved the conversations we would share. I spent hours on the beach with my friends laughing, swimming, sharing stories and creating new ones. For me the beach, any beach, feels like home and sometimes I am over-whelmed by a need to be there and only there.

Finally, after approximately one hundred and eleven ‘Are we there yet?‘s”, we arrive. I open the door, step outside and breathe.

Oh salt air, how I love you.

I give thanks to the sun for its beams, to the waves for the beautiful music that rings in my ears, and to the sand for the way it shifts to accommodate the shape of my feet.

The kids are already building sand castles. I walk to the shore and dive into euphoria. I am home and I am grateful.

Guest Post - Sarah Davies - Nanna

Hailey Bartholomew - Sunday, November 06, 2011

This week we have a blog from our newest guest blogger Sarah Davies.  Enjoy!   


I’ve been reflecting deeply this week just gone and thought it would be an apt time to share these thoughts. Possibly because, sometimes things weigh too heavy on the heart that they are better shared, but also possibly because some lessons are so beautifully learnt that they are best not kept to oneself. This week just gone has been a ying and yang of both beautiful lessons and heavy loads.

On Monday my Nanna passed away.  She was 90 years, six months and 16 days old when she left us and she was a real treat. She raised 7 children on her own, in poverty, with her kitchen table always open to any extra’s in need of a feed. She was always cheeky and funny and laughing and singing and smiling. I can’t count the times I’d turn her way as a child and she would quickly and randomly pop out her false teeth and give me a larrikins gummy smile, just to see me fall into a fit of laughter.

She always smelt of sunlight soap and lavender talc and soft skin. She always kissed on the lips and held us there just long enough to show us how deeply we were loved by her. When I came to be a teenager I got a little self conscious of the “Nanna pash” and would pull away at a peck. If I could go back, I’d tell my younger self not to be silly, for now these tender kisses will be deeply missed.

On Friday, we left for the funeral in a rush, three kids under four, make us always late. I sat up the back with my baby and watched my uncles and aunts jump out of their seats and dance around like absolute fools to happy music, with huge smiles and even bigger tears running down everyone’s cheeks. They clapped and hooted and swirled together, as it was Nanna’s wish that we celebrate and have a party, so they gave her just that. I could almost feel her beside me, rolling her thumbs over and over in interwoven hands, chuckling…feet tapping. She would have loved it.

I realised this week that life is only a number of days. Nanna’s days were 33’073 in total. It doesn’t seem so long when I look at it that way. I realised that worrying about dishes doesn’t matter. That no one remembers you for your clean floors. I realised that my sense of humour will get me through any burden life tries to lump on me.  So instead of getting grumpy or frustrated, or even bogged down in the housework, I’m going to try to laugh it off more. I realised that tender kisses can never be too long, so I will kiss my boys more and let them feel my skin and smell me, as they’ll remember me. For life really is so very short even if I’m lucky enough to live it long and fully.

I am grateful for my grief for it makes me feel my feet on the earth and know that I am planted in a life that must be lived and flourished. I am grateful for so many tears reminding me that I am loved and worthy of love. I am grateful to be reminded that one day I will be grieved by those I leave behind.  My hope, with all that I am, is that on that day, my children will jump from their seats and dance like crazy people, drunk on sorrow and joy combined, knowing I am happy and at peace with the love and legacy I leave behind. I’m so very grateful for this lesson, thanks to Nanna!

This was her laugh,

This was her humour,