The Coolest Little Free thing on the Internet

Screenshot from tinygratitude.com.

Is your e-mail in-box the bane of your existence?  Mine used to be.  I would joke to colleagues that it was like a zit I had to pop every day or it would get out of control.  

So, after that delightfully gross comparison (yes, I work with middle grades kiddos), I want to share a cool little thing I found on the Internet that just might brighten your in-box.  

It's free.  

To try it out, sign up at tinygratitude.com to get an e-mail that prompts us to think of just one word of gratitude each day.  You respond, it makes a word cloud, and boom--a little more gratitude in your in-box.

I like the simplicity, and I find it delightful.

If you want to give it a try, it only takes about 10 seconds to sign-up here.

Happy Thanksgiving week friends.  


10 Reasons to Watch It's a Wonderful Life for Thanksgiving

Photo from historyadventuring.com.

“We know love by this. . . to lay down our lives for one another.” - 1 John 3:16

I put up my Christmas tree.  I know, I know, I'm part of the problem.  I should wait until after Thanksgiving.  But as I sit here in the glow of my twinkle lights, I’m smiling.  

Not only did the kids and I put up the tree, but I also watched It’s a Wonderful Life (It's on Amazon Prime).  My aunts on the Steffens side always had this playing during the holidays when I was growing up.  I'm convinced it’s a Thanksgiving movie.  

Top 10 Reasons to watch this 1938 film for Thanksgiving this year:

1.  When that one guy bails in the pool.  During the dance scene, the gym floor opens up.  The man in charge (I think the Principal) starts to panic as chaotic ensues.  The moment where he throws his hands up and bombs in himself is a good life lesson, and it's priceless.

2.  People say so much while not saying anything.  How often are George and Mary saying everything with just their faces?  A favorite author of mine, Madeline L’Engle, had two signs hanging in her office: “Listen to the Silence.  Stay open to the voice of the Spirit.” And “Slow me Down, Lord.”  Sometimes fewer words are needed.

3.  Keep it simple.  The opening credits to this film are pieces of paper with someone grabbing one piece after another, sliding them out of the camera shot.  Don't make it complicated.  Simple can be beautiful.

4.  Look at my life with fresh eyes.  When George runs through Bedford Falls near the end, suddenly normal is beautiful and worth yelling about.  “Merry Christmas you wonderful old Building and Loan!”  

5.  For the fully-grown Oak trees.  There's not just one, but ten.  The visual of this says something about the value of sticking with people, of sticking somewhere over the long haul.  How might we feel more gratitude if we’re living Oak Tree lives?

6.  For the old times music.  Who doesn't want to get the song, "Buffalo Gals Won't You Come Out Tonight," stuck in their head?  You're welcome.

7.  To reflect on life.  The big question is asked twice, "What do you want, George?" And "What do you want, Mary?"  

8.  To see Zuzu.  She's cute.  You can't help but smile with her and that flower and, "Not a smidge of temperature."  I just love it.

9.  To giggle at Clarence.  Seconds after a tense situation, he's always laughing with his angel friends at the bigger picture.  What if we all just move on and laugh?

10.  To be reminded.  Our true value is not in what we make or what we earn, but it is in our relationships.  "No man (or woman) is a failure who has friends."


Cheers to that and Happy Thanksgiving Week!  Thanks so much to anyone who's reading along.  Today's Gratitude Dare is to express gratitude to a relative, so if/when you see family this week, take the time to say thanks.  


Gratitude Held in Your Hands

"Everything is a gift.  The degree to which we are awake to this truth is a measure of our gratefulness, and gratefulness is a measure of our aliveness." - David Stendl-Rast
Junior high me was gangly.  She had just swapped glasses for contacts, and she wore a scoliosis back brace.  Her notebooks were littered with scribbles, so-and-so + so-and-so, TLA (true love aways), stick figures, hearts, stars, and practice signatures of my first name with the last name of the boy I liked.

I would like to say that my notebooks have grown up, but as I sit in meetings or trainings even today, my pen always finds a way to doodle, sometimes even my married name. . . Evi Jane Wusk.

One of my favorite writing teachers/writers/teachers of writing is Penny Kittle.  As I had my students complete one of her pre-writing exercises for narratives recently, I was struck by the gratefulness I felt when I made my classroom example, and struck by the memories it brought of those old notebooks.

It's simple.  Draw an outline of your hand, and then fill it with words and doodles of things you've held that mattered.  Sometimes Gratitude is so very tangible, something you can hold in your hand.    

Maybe it's just a silly scribble, a doodle of a junior high girl--but try it, you might be surprised at the memories that come, at the gratitude you've held in your hands.


Cheers to the weekend.  I'll be back here writing Monday--Thanksgiving week. :)


Taking the Guilt out of Gratitude

"Gratitude is not only an emotion; it is something we do. It is like tending a garden. It takes planting and watering and weeding. It takes time and attention. It takes learning. It takes routine. But, eventually, the ground yields, shoots come forth, and thanksgiving blooms." - Diana Butler Bass, Grateful

When I read about gratitude, I always feel guilty--like it's something I should do.  Once I bought an orange gratitude journal from Barnes and Noble and set it by my bedside table, planning to write three things I'm thankful for each night--good plan right? 

It is possible that no item in my home has ever made me feel more ungrateful.

I would come to the end of the day, walk up to our bed rubbing my eyes, and think, "Oh, crap, now I need to feel grateful," as I begrudgingly picked up my pen.

So, I'm starting to think about gratitude as less of an obligation and instead as something that's bigger and smaller.

Gratitude Smaller . . . 

  • Instead of a notebook, put a gratitude rock by your bedside, maybe place it on top of your phone.  So when you reach for it in the morning, it's a gentle reminder to start the day with gratitude.
  • Do you make to-do lists at work?  When you're in this writing mode, quickly jot three gratitudes at the top before getting to task.  It only takes about a minute (and who doesn't love to procrastinate?)  
Gratitude Bigger . . .
  • What if gratitude isn't just personal, what if it becomes central in our families, institutions, organizations, and communities?  When I left my Waverly job, each retiree or person leaving received a hand-made pot from the art teacher that contained notes from students.  While presenting it, the librarian read a heartfelt note about the person's unique gifts.  Afterward she said, "Now you've been potted," with a smile.  Something about this meeting moved beyond work into something real, something so needed in our communities.  How could this inspire a similar gratitude ceremony in your family, institution, or community?
  • What if you start a class or a meeting with everyone sharing three gratitudes?  At first everyone will groan (plan on it), but reading them aloud might just be magic.  After the first day I did this with my students in November, they asked for it, and they linger at the cork-board where they are posted.  It changes the tenor of our community--and while it feels simple--I sense the group practice means something bigger.

So while gratitude does have a marketing problem--it's not easy to make sexy or bold or important--it really is free and simple and sometimes it can even feel a little magic.  It's not an obligation as much as it is a way to play in the world and show care.  

So, it's not about guilt.  It's about gratitude.  


Today's gratitude dare is to buy and send inexpensive thank you cards.  So the next time you walk by that display, maybe grab a pack.  You don't have to sign 'em--just use 'em. ;)


Brave and True

Jim and Kelly at their daughter Maggie's wedding.

I am thankful to my friend Kelly for sharing her words today.  She and I met in graduate school at UNL.  More recently I've loved seeing her as a new a grandma as she shares pictures on Facebook.  Not only is she smart and kind, she's one of the bravest and truest women I've met.  Thank you Kelly.


November 28, 2010 is a day that will forever be ingrained in my mind.  I was ironing my clothes for the week, something I always did on a Sunday night.  I heard my husband, Jim, making some rather strange noises, almost like he was having a nightmare, in the family room.  I went to check on him and he kept reassuring me that he was ok.  Within minutes, he was unconscious.  I called 911 and screamed for my daughter Molly. As I was talking to the 911 operator, my husband stopped breathing, so my CPR training kicked in, and I was breathing for him until the EMT’s arrived.  As they were wheeling my husband out to the ambulance, they told me where they were taking him and that it didn’t look good.

Driving to the hospital with my heart in my throat, I was praying every step of the way, “Please God, let him be ok.”  Sitting in the Emergency waiting room, I was surrounded by family and friends, all praying and waiting.  A neurologist came to speak to me and told me my husband was as sick as any human could be.  My brother, an Emergency doctor, told me to prepare myself and my daughters for three possible outcomes: he makes it out of this ok, he would be permanently brain damaged, or he would die.  I would later learn that Jim had about a 7% chance of survival.  Talk about bringing me to my knees!

I was told that Jim had suffered from a ruptured brain aneurysm and he had bleeding on the brain.  When a body experiences that trauma, it usually sends confusing messages to other parts of the body and they begin to shut down.  The most common outcome is death.  Jim was a runner and was in amazing physical condition.  That saved his life.  His body was strong enough to overcome those messages and keep him breathing and his heart beating.  Thank you, God!

Jim spent six weeks in the ICU at the Nebraska Medical Center.  He was surrounded by amazing nurses and outstanding doctors.  My daughters and I were surrounded by family, friends, church family, co-workers, and even my third grade students.  We never wanted for anything and felt support and love from all of them.  Thank you, God!

After his six-week stint in the ICU, Jim was finally moved to the neurology floor for a week before being transferred to Madonna in Lincoln for two weeks.  We truly thought we had dodged a bullet, as Jim could walk, talk, eat, and function as a normal adult.  He came home, and we thought we had put all of this behind us.

We later found out that the blood from Jim’s brain had traveled down his spine and was causing scar tissue to form. The blood also pooled in his left eye socket, scar tissue was forming there, too.  He had a surgery to remove the scar tissue in his eye, but it was too severe, so he lost vision in his eye.  As the scar tissue continued to pull on his spinal cord, his walking began to worsen.  Jim endured three different back surgeries trying to remove the scar tissue in his spine, but to no avail.  He now walks with the use of an AFO, a cane, and sometimes a walker.  The spine has also affected other areas of Jim’s body and has made it difficult for him to travel and do some of the day-to-day things we all take for granted.

This November will mark the 8-year anniversary of almost losing my amazing husband.  So first and foremost, I am so grateful that I have had the past 8 years with him, and for the 33 ½ years being married to him.  I am grateful he got to see Molly graduate from High School and college.  I am grateful he was around to see Maggie graduate from college. I am grateful that my husband encouraged me to pursue my doctorate and supported me at the age of 49 to switch careers and move to teaching higher education. I am so very grateful Jim was able to walk Maggie and Molly down the aisle on their wedding days. I am grateful he was around to see both of his daughters become gainfully employed educators. I am grateful he was here to celebrate the birth of our first grandchild this past May.  I am grateful that I still have my very best friend to spend my time with.  He is a living, breathing example of God’s miracles on Earth. Thank you, God!


to Notice

I was scooting down the school hallway, copies in hand, shuffling my keys to unlock my classroom when I saw her, she was standing still and looking at posters.

"Good morning," I said quickly.

"Aren't these neat," she said, gesturing so that I would stop and really look.  "They really are saying something."

I have walked past these posters what feels like one million times and never taken the time to read one.  As I stood there with her, reading one after the other, I felt my shoulders softening, my to-do list somehow feeling more manageable.

Yes, we teachers move fast to get things done, but this woman also had things to get done--and one of the things on her list is to notice, to notice the good stuff around us.

This small interaction changed my pace for the rest of the morning.

I was moving slower, but yet getting more done.

I noticed more, saw more things that were actually pretty cool if I took the little time to notice.

It was as if the noticing--with gratitude--had re-set my whole day to a better metronome beat.

And I'm not saying I've got this all figured out, far from it, but it's something I'm working on.

So today's challenge is to notice.  Notice that pretty tree on the way home from work.  Notice something about someone you live with that you haven't taken the time to really see for awhile.  Notice that picture you hung on your own wall.  Why was it there again?  Maybe use your camera, or just use your five senses to notice today. . . and say thanks.


Thank You Veterans

Thank You Veterans.  Your service is our gratitude. 

I saw something this weekend that I want to share.  Any time the word "gratitude" pops up in a video going viral, I'm paying attention.

Pete Davidson apologized to Lt. Com. Dan Crenshaw on Saturday Night Live.  Pete had made a joke in poor taste, and--whether NBC put him up to it or not--the resulting TV clip is worth a watch.  It is especially worth watching at the 3:15 mark when the conversation turns to gratitude.  #neverforget.  Here is the link (it's under five minutes).

Thinking of you today Veterans, especially you Sarah. If you haven't read her writing from last week, it's a good read for today.


To the Mom Whose Kid Asks Hard Questions

"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder." - Gilbert K. Chesterton

His little feet skip into the room.  I grin.  This kid is happy all the time.

Except when he isn’t.

Except when he asks the tough questions.

“Was Grandma cancelled?” he will say so plainly.

“What is cancer, mama?”

“What happens when we die?’

In this time of missing Grandma Peggy (her birthday is today), in and through our grief, I’ve spent many mommy/son moments not always knowing how to be with these questions.

A friend suggested recently that maybe my little guy’s questions are things that God is asking me, that maybe it’s a time of reckoning.

“Or maybe," she said later in the conversation, “Maybe you could turn the questions around, ask him, ‘What do you think?’”

Each time I’ve done this.  Each time I’ve made the swap from answering first to asking first, I find myself right alongside him in my own hurt and love and missing her.  And I am often taken aback by the thoughts in his little four-year-old heart—thoughts I would have missed, had I been focused on answering right away instead of asking.

And every time, I am reminded that we are not alone in our grief, that answers help, but maybe not as much as the love in a hug, or the love that sits With us in our wanting to know it all, in the trusting and in the hoping all at once.

Gratitude Dare:  Do a random act of kindness.  Get creative!  You know that person who could really use it. . . maybe instead of knowing what they need, take time to ask what might help.


Finding Gratitude When it's Chilly

"Nebraska, it's not for everyone."

If you haven't heard yet, our state has a new tourism slogan.  It's been met with mixed reviews.  When I read social media notes from people who are angry about it, I giggle, remembering it's the tourism slogan.  You have to admit that our state is not a tourist destination of choice--at least not to most people.  But it might just be for me.  

Many people who live here know, that it does have idyllic places to visit, and sometimes a regular-old Nebraska sunset can parallel anything over the ocean.

That said, sometimes I don't totally think it's for me--now hold on before you get angry.  Take yesterday for example. . .

The kids were cheering, "Let's play outside!" so excited from the snowfall.  "Brr," was all I could think on this week of snow and lots to do at work.

But, the evening DID end up being one that reminded me that Nebraska IS the place for me.  One reason why was the super-duper secret that I want to share with everyone.

Last year I made a discovery that helped me find more gratitude throughout the chilly season, even when it was the third week of sludge in January.


"Hygge (pronounced hue-guh not hoo-gah) is a Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cosy, charming or special. ... You can't buy a 'hygge living room' and there's no 'hygge foods' to eat." (hyggehouse.com)

In my own words, it's that cosy/warm feeling you get when you and friends are tucked into the house with comfy clothes and warm food and lights all around.  So while you can't buy hygge, you can mix the ingredients into your home--or even into a normal weekday night.

Evi's Prescription for some Nebraska Hygge:
  1. Candles
  2. Twinkly Lights
  3. Soup
  4. Cosy Socks
  5. Hoodie Sweatshirts
  6. Warm Cups of Hot Drinks
  7. Good Friends and Family
  8. etc.
I love it that in Denmark they have a word for this.  Having a word for it helped me feel more grateful last winter.  So, how might you mix some hygge into your weekend?

Today's gratitude dare is to take a picture of something that sparks gratitude. . . maybe something hoogaly (not a word, but one I use, lol).  If you want to share, use #gratitudegal on instagram or Twitter this weekend.


Sneaky Post-It Gratitude

Did your mom or grandma ever put a little note in your lunchbox growing up?  Mine did, and every time I opened my lunch to that little unexpected note, I couldn't help but feel loved and appreciated.  I couldn't help but feel gratitude.

Today the gratitude dare is simple. . .find a sticky note and write a note of appreciation or gratitude and sneak it somewhere where the person will see it.

Cheers to sneaky gratitude!


Thankful for Cindi

The last time I saw Cindi was at coffee.  She looked like her usual self--a leader, put together, beautiful and strong--but she also looked tired, more quiet.

I only learned later how much pain her body was going through as we sat there chit-chatting about life.  Cindi's dance with cancer was long--and I say dance because she did it with such grace.  Yesterday, she passed away.  Thinking of her, I want to re-post what she wrote here, now a couple of years go.

Sweet Cindi, may your rest be one of peace--and of no more pain.  Thank you for teaching us all to keep moving "every day, one step after another, just keeping on, keeping on," no matter the circumstance.

I open one eye and blink towards the blue illuminated numbers showing 5:50 AM.  With a stretch, I roll over and slip one foot on the floor, gently sliding out of bed.  I dress in the dark, tip-toe past my husband, and quietly close the bedroom door behind me.  Next, I creep past the dog in his kennel, (who doesn’t miss a thing), giving me a quiet whimper-yawn as I sneak out the front door to my bike locked up on the front porch.  It feels like it must be nearly 80 degrees and the humidity seems 90% as I swing my leg over my bike and roll down the driveway to begin my ride.  Still sleepy, and with a yawn, I whisper “Thank you God” as I get myself ready to bike some hills, pump my legs and get my heart racing for 6-7 miles of bike trails.

They say it takes the benefits of regular exercise 6-8 weeks to appear, and the investment in your health will be invaluable.  I do feel stronger, and my husband even says I move like I’m stronger, as I’ve been doing this now for over 6 weeks now. Thank you God.  A lot of people would be looking at this as terrific progress in creating a healthy habit of morning exercise, but to be honest, I am counting the days until I can quit!  Walking and yoga are much more my style for sure.

But I am in training, getting ready for my personal “Super Bowl” if you will, because in less than a month I will be hiking the Inca Trail up Machu Picchu in Peru with a team of 20 people, most of whom I’ve never met.  So I’m doing my best to get this bod in shape, as the better shape I’m in, the more I will enjoy the trek up 11,000 feet in the Andes Mts. to one of the most incredible places on earth.  The hike is quite a reach for me.  I’m not a hiker (haven’t hiked in 30 years since high school!) and I’m really not a biker.  (Not since college when I peddled around 40 hours a week as a Bike Cop…ok, Bike Patrol is the right language, for two summers.)

But this is like a victory lap I am excited to be working toward.  See I am a survivor, and this year I am celebrating a big victory.  And as I pondered a way to celebrate, or give back, and be thankful, I became aware of an opportunity to raise funds and awareness for Multiple Myeloma (a blood cancer) through a program called Moving Mountains for Myelmona (MM4MM), through Takeda Oncology. As I learned about the opportunity, it seemed surreal that I could hike one of the most celebrated places on earth to benefit others with cancer!  The team consists of multiple myeloma patients, caregivers, doctors, nurses and researchers who have come together to raise funds and awareness for research.

Ten years ago this October I had a stem cell transplant for multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, with the life expectancy at the time of 5-7 years. I remember making the decision to take on this hike (and certainly jump out of my box) in January, being able to raise funds and awareness as I trained for the journey.  It wasn’t really about the hike or about the mountain or even about this beautiful place, but rather a way to celebrate these 10 amazing and remarkable years of LIVING.  Thank you God! Since then I’ve been climbing my own “mountain”, every day, one step after another, just keeping on, keeping on.  Working through remission, and relapse, and chemo drugs, pushing through the physical burdens to take another breath and appreciate the gift of every day's “view”.

So as I train and climb my mountain, I have so much to be thankful for, EVERY DAY.  Having cancer allows me to live my life with intention, to not let the little things in life de-rail me (most days!) from what’s important.
 My gratitude builds as I train for my climb.  And I’m counting the days to getting back to walking and yoga!  Thank you God!


Get Busy Living

Photo by Curt Brinkmann.
"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door.  You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to." - Bilbo Baggins (The Fellowship of the Ring)

I wrecked my favorite car, friends. It was the first car I ever picked for myself.  On Saturday her sturdy driver’s side door, equipped with an old-school non-power roll up window, saved me.

As I exited the passenger side door--thank goodness I was alone--I couldn't help but stare at it.  The door was curved in, touching the steering wheel, so close to where I had been.

I walked away from that wreck.  Thankfully, so did the other driver.

So today, perhaps more than any time recently, I’m grateful.

Diana Butler Bass writes about gratitude being a changeable thing—unique to each and every situation. Sometimes it's simple, like a book you love or a little thank-you note.  Other times it's full of love or memory, and yet other times it’s mixed with fear, and a deep knowledge that all of this is so fleeting.

So, today I’m simply thankful to be here writing, breathing in and out, and mourning my little silver Chevy Cobalt, may she rest in peace. . . and may the rest of us get busy living.

Gratitude Dare:  Pull up a YouTube song that makes you feel grateful.  I'm listening to a couple of songs that my friends and I listen to when we're feeling alive:  The General Specific by Band of Horses and Atlantic City by The Band.  


Gratitude from Across the World

I am so thankful to Sarah for sharing these words of gratitude during her deployment.  I asked thinking I might post this on Veteran's Day, but after reading her words, and after the weekend I've had (more on that tomorrow), I don't want to wait.  Thank you Sarah for your service and for encouraging us all today. 

An Air Force chaplain once said, “It’s hard to see God in a crowd.”  He was referring to people getting caught up in the fast lane of life and finding time for faith took the backseat.  That really stuck with me. Similarly, it can be hard to see gratitude in a crowd, or maybe better put a cloud.  Dredging through a deployment has its cloudy days; being apart from loved ones and the comforts of home hits the mind and soul with a tidal wave of emotions.

Truthfully, we will all have our low places in life, but hanging out in the trenches does not have to be permanent residence.  Every day is a gift and it’s ultimately up to us to make it count or waste it (thanks mama, you taught me that).  99% of the time I choose to make it count, but while deployed, it doesn’t come easy.  My first week here was rough, it took a small army of family and friends to pick me up and get me back on track.  Slowly I regained my composure, did some self-reflection, set goals, got in a routine, and set off to LIVE (not just get by) each day to its fullest.  For that I am truly grateful for that small army of family and friends who carried me out of the storm.

I am grateful for another small army, our Sterling community and school, who have taken time to support me and my family with acts of kindness, phone calls, letters, and prayers.  I will tell you it DOES make a difference, THANK YOU! Here are a few more things I am grateful for this week: awesome co-workers, 10 point pitch, motivation, mail, WiFi, new comfy slippers, and pictures of those I hold dear in my heart. May you all find gratitude in your daily lives and strive to make each day count!

From another Jet Country to yours,
SMSgt Sarah A. Bredthauer


When the Way Finds Me

Ollie has been begging me for weeks.  Each night as I pull the covers up to his chin, it's the same question.

“When can we go to Lost in Fun?” 

This indoor game park is a four-year-old's paradise with ball pits, leveled climbers, and huge jumping pillows. 

So after what feels like the one-millionth bedtime ask, I realize we've got to go.  We decide to head up one weekday evening.  

As we pull into the parking lot, Ollie’s seat belt un-clicks faster than I can turn the key to shut off the engine.  Inside he tosses his shoes into the storage cubbies, and he's off. 

I follow him through his excitement and eventually see him fling his tiny blonde body out into the empty big-kid ball pit. 

I look at the sea of cushy round pillows. . . no other kids in sight. . . and I get an idea.  I'm not sure if it's against the Lost in Fun rules, but I jump.  As I spring up from the center of the cushions, Ollie's eyes grow wide with giggles as he realizes what I've done.  Soon we're in an all-out ball-pit war as he flings one cushion at my head and then the next.

Soon we're covered and laughing as I roll over trying to get my footing.  And then I try again.

“Well this is lovely,” I think, as my foot awkwardly misses a third time--and a forth--until I know I'm stuck like some kiddie-park mom beached whale.

I struggle against it for a bit, wiggling this way and that, as the round pillows cascade in like fire swamp quick sand. 

Tired and seemingly out of options, I give up.  I lay back and look around.

Between two pillows, my son’s freckly grin peeks through, just close enough to tickle.  Soon we're rolling and laughing again as Charli barrels in to join us.  After the second round of tickle-fights, she shoves over toward the edge and grabs the helpful exit rope attached to the wall.

It's been there the whole time.

I grab it too and fairly easily find my way out of the pit. . . and out of any pride that I might have had left. 

And I can't help but laugh at myself and wonder, how often am I just flailing around in life?  How often am I so focused on what's not working, that I can't see what's right in front of me?  How often--if I just stop and look around in gratitude--will the next steps simply come, find me, and show me the way?  

These thoughts quiet as I return to kids who've retrieved their shoes from the cubbies.  After hugs goodbye (to an awesome aunt who came to play while I ran some errands), it's time to head home.  The kids sleep on the car ride home and zombie walk up to their beds.  I pull the covers up under Ollie's little chin, and he yawns as he asks with his eyes shut, "When can we go to Lost in Fun again?"

I pause, and for what feels like the one million and first time I say, "We'll see honey, we'll see."


Gratitude Dare:  Get outside and take a picture of something that sparks gratitude.  

For the entire month of gratitude dares, print the easy-peasy calendar at https://goo.gl/4FhXQH.


Cheers to Gratitude and Writing

Photo by Charli Wusk (age 6)
(While playing superheroes.) 
"Come on mom, be brave!"
"How do I be brave?"
"Show other people your feelings." - Charli (age 4)

I've sharpened the new skeleton pencil I found.  It's a little creepy with its white skulls sporting red glowing eyes.  It must have been a stowaway in a trick-or-treat bag.  Creepy or not, it's sharp.  The kids are in bed.  The house is quiet, and I'm snuggling in with my notebook when I hear little footsteps.

"Ollie, is that you?" I say across the next darkened room.

The footsteps scoot along the wood floor, quickened.

"I just had to go potty, momma," he says while he curls into my lap, pushing the notebook over.

"I'm writing a story," I say.

"You should put characters in it. You should have Elsa," he says matter-of-factly, as he hugs me one last time and skips along to the bathroom.

An Elsa from Frozen cameo would be a creative twist to this piece, but I'm not sure that's where I'll begin.  Simon Sinek says start with why, and there's wisdom in that. . . for a business man, that's just the place.

But I'm a storyteller.  

Storytellers tend to start with characters, setting, a problem that needs fixing.

So, today the characters are you and me.  Me in my sweats, my hair less blonde than it used to be.  You reading this somewhere, maybe on your phone or in your e-mail or just scrolling Facebook.  Here we are together, wanting a little more gratitude in these lives of ours.  

My setting today is small-town-big-heart, Sterling, Nebraska, fall 2018.  

This is the place where I'm teaching.  

This is the place where we're raising our family.  

This is home.  

Our town water-tower rises just a block or so down the road.  In the daylight, I can see it out the window with its fresh coat of paint.  Like a lot of things around here lately, it feels new.  New teachers, a new community center in the works, a pair of dear friends with a new house.  There's new energy, and yet the old iron of that water-tower sits underneath the paint, solid.  Not everything is new, and that too is good.  

I'm glad we're here.

This time of year my notebook always feels a little full, like the few farm fields still lined with brown stalks, the last ones waiting for harvest.  

I'm a word collector.  I'm convinced there's magic in 'em.  Just this week I was reading Eugene Peterson--a writer I love--and it was like he was right here talking with me.  He passed away ten days ago, but those words still felt very much alive.  

So as I set my creepy skeleton pencil down for the night, it's tip a little duller, I'm sending these words out hoping they might have some life in them.  Perhaps Elsa will make her cameo tomorrow.  These are the words I have today.  Thanks for reading.  I'm glad you're here.  Cheers to gratitude and sharing some writing this November . . . two of my very favorite things.  


Gratitude Dare: Flip through your camera photos until you find something you are grateful for.  For the entire month of dares, print the easy-peasy calendar at https://goo.gl/4FhXQH.

If you or someone you know wants a little more gratitude in their in-box, subscribe just under the header image at eviwusk.com.  



If We Dare to Wrestle

I still have football on the brain.  A while back my family and I were at Old Chicago.  I was eating bite after bite of pizza until I saw Scott Frost's grey suit and red tie repeated across the multiple TV screens.  I set my pizza back on the plate.

​I'm honestly not that big of a football fan, but something about how he spoke, how he talked about a shift toward positive culture, heartened me.  Anyone who's lived in Nebraska the last few years knows the football team has struggled compared to the past.  (And anyone paying attention knows the volleyball team is pretty awesome.)

The Omaha World Herald ran a story about the football press conference noting how the word "Championship" was never mentioned.  Even without a trophy focus the new direction felt like a victory after a struggle.

I recently read a Bible story about Jacob wrestling "a man" (maybe some sort of angel) in a dream.  He won't give up.  Jacob holds the man down until he receives a blessing.

​I love a story like that.

Hard work, dedication, and determination that results in a win.  Pete Carrol has a book on his football philosophy titled, "Win Forever."  He tries to daily look at his seasons with a zoomed-up, big picture viewpoint.  It's one thing to be good.  It's another to be sustainably good over a long period of time.  

The start of a new year is a time to zoom up and see the big picture--a time to step back and say thanks as we gear up for what's next.  How can we turn our energy toward goals that matter, goals even more important than victory?  

What if we each scheduled a chunk of time as January turns to February to take one hour, four hours, or even just ten minutes to zoom-up and get perspective?  What if we take hold of 2018 and use the fresh start in ways that really matter?  What blessings might be waiting if we dare to wrestle? 


Special thanks to Curt for this gorgeous and thought-provoking image he took to go with a football piece.  I appreciate it.  :)