Thanksgiving – Gratitude

Saying thank you is easy and free.

This Thanksgiving I am sending someone I love a handwritten thank-you note and doing something that you may find silly (or maybe not).

In years past, I used to write Thanksgiving posts about topics more easily tied to the environment like consumerism and green actions that you and I can do. Then there was the year my family saved me from writing about food waste.

Nowadays at Thanksgiving, I find myself pondering the interconnectedness of humans and the rest of nature or how I can put forth my kindest self every day. That is the person that I, you, and everyone else needs to bring to the table if we are to heal ourselves and Earth, the place we all call home.

This year gratitude is on my mind.

I believe everyone appreciates being appreciated. I know I do. Showing gratitude by saying “Thank you.” is easy and free. Yet, sometimes in our society, it seems like we are all so busy, rushed, and frazzled that we forget who and what we have to be grateful for or to thank the people in our lives.

Maybe all we need to get back on track is a friendly reminder and a little practice.

This year for my Thanksgiving post I knew I wanted to write about gratitude and to encourage readers to take a specific gratitude-related action. But what?

Then a few weeks ago, I was reading Elizabeth Kubey’s “Kids’ Corner” column in the fall issue of Flora, a quarterly magazine published by the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) of which I am a member. Even though my kids are grown, I always enjoy reading Elizabeth’s column. It is filled with educational and fun activities and she has a delightful kid-friendly writing style.

Flora-V3N1-Kids-Corner_Letter_Elizabeth-Kubey-LR-300x388

The “Kids’ Corner” fall column had several activities for kids to learn about chlorophyll and photosynthesis. The item that caught my eye was entitled Thank-you plants! It involved asking kids to write several thank-you notes. One thanking a native plant, one as if they were a native plant thanking a part of the ecosystem, and perhaps one to a family member. Photo —Elizabeth Kubey/CNPS.

I instantly thought, “That’s it. I want to share this idea in my Thanksgiving post.”

Since it was Elizabeth’s idea, I contacted her to thank her and ask her permission to share her idea and to use the thank-you note. She agreed.

I Used to Write Thank-You Notes

One of the many things that my mother taught me as a kid was how to write a handwritten thank-you note. My brother and sister learned, too. We were expected to write thank-you notes when someone had given us a gift even if we had thanked the gift giver in person. I do not remember if there was any wheedling involved, but she probably had to remind us to write them, at least sometimes.

I carried the thank-you note habit into adulthood writing thank-you notes for birthday, wedding, baby, and holiday gifts and occasionally for another reason like thanking an interviewer after a job interview.

There was always a box or two of thank-you note cards in a desk drawer at home.

Once, when I was preparing to leave a company that I had worked with for a long time, I wrote a thank-you note to every employee. That was over 300 thank-you notes.

Now, I have mostly fallen out of the habit of writing thank-you notes. The demise of my thank-you note writing may have coincided with the decision my spouse and I made in 2013 to stop the practice of obligatory gift-giving and receiving as part of our effort to live more lightly on the planet.

And yet, there are many, many people and things to be thankful for that do not involve exchanging gifts. Can my lapsed thank-you note habit be resuscitated and reimagined? I think it can.

Thank-You Note for a Person

To me, Thanksgiving seems like an ideal time to write a handwritten thank-you note.

My Thanksgiving Thank-You Note Card and Vase with Artificial Fall Flowers
I wrote my Thanksgiving thank-you note inside this card.

I hope you will join me in writing a thank-you note sometime during this week to a family member, friend, neighbor, co-worker, or anyone for that matter thanking them for, well, anything.

You and everyone else may have a lot going on this week such as preparing to host a Thanksgiving feast at your home, getting ready to travel, or cramming five days of work into three days. Some of you may be steeling yourself for working on Black Friday.

So, let’s keep it simple and agree that we will not agonize over writing a thank-you note. We will write from our hearts without worrying about spelling, grammar, and punctuation (at least not too much).

If you do not have a box of thank-you note cards stuck in the back of a drawer, no worries. Any kind of card will do and you can easily pick one up at almost any store including a grocery market.

The thank-you note that I wrote is winging its way to my mother; however, she will probably not have received it before reading this post.

Thank-You Note for a Plant or Animal

Now for the silly part that I mentioned earlier.

I am an enthusiastic native plant novice who enjoys growing native plants from seeds and giving native plants a place in our yard.

The first native plant I ever grew from a seed was a California Buckwheat which I named Becky. I am one of those people who anthropomorphize plants and animals. It helps me appreciate and connect with other parts of nature.

Even though Elizabeth’s Thank-you plants! is not related to Thanksgiving, I do not think she will mind if you and I appropriate her format to thank a fellow member of nature.

My native plant thank-you note is for Becky. As you can see I kept it short and sweet. Protected by a plastic bag it is mounted on a bamboo stick left from our Monterey pine seedling growing project. I placed it in the yard with Becky. This will remind me to thank the plant every time I pass by.

If you would like to join me in this endeavor, I feel certain there is a plant or animal living near you that would love to receive a thank-you note.

For good measure on Thanksgiving, I think I will go hug a few trees.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Featured Image at Top: Thanksgiving still life with thank-you note card – Photo credit iStock/CatLane.

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10 Easy and Green Exercise New Year’s Resolutions

No gym membership required.

Making exercise an integral part of your daily life is a New Year’s resolution that is good for you and the planet.

I doubt anyone would disagree that moving about and being active is good for your health and wellbeing. Yet, as soon as you mention the word exercise, some people (like me) begin thinking up excuses for why we cannot join a gym, sign up for a yoga class, or get up an hour earlier each workday to run before work.

If you love going to the gym, look forward to yoga class, and find running at dawn exhilarating, you have my respect and best wishes. In that case, consider reading Green Twist on 10 Healthy Eating New Year’s Resolutions or New Year’s Resolution for 2017 – Hit the Reset Button.

However, if you cringed at the word exercise and are one of those people who enjoy the challenge of choosing a New Year’s resolution and keeping it, this might be just the post for you.

Making a resolution to walk or bike to and from school or work is an excellent carbon-free way to get exercise, even if you do it just part of the time. Nevertheless, you may not be able to or willing to make that kind of a commitment this year. Fortunately, other easy options are available that will help you get more exercise.

For me, and perhaps for you, the key to moving around and being more active is to make it part of my normal day, not something extra to do.

10 Easy and Environmentally Friendly Exercise New Year’s Resolutions

The ten thought starters below are intended to assist you with determining an easy and green exercise New Year’s resolution.

Ten-Minute Tidy Up

Spending ten minutes each day picking up stuff and putting it where it belongs has two benefits. It gets you moving and it is a painless way to tidy up your home. If there is not much to pick up, consider wiping off the kitchen counter or even cleaning a toilet. Once you get in the habit of doing this, you might be surprised at how clean and tidy you can make your home in just ten minutes a day.

This is a good activity to involve kids in, too. When our kids were young, we did a daily ten-minute toy pick up. This not only kept our house more organized it helped our kids learn to be responsible for their toys. Even toddlers can help if you give them a hand.

Walk and Talk

If you normally sit while talking on the phone, consider walking around while doing it (if you can do it safely).

Bring Your Own Lunch

Consider the multiple advantages of bringing your own lunch to work (in reusable containers). You will know what is in your food, you will not waste time driving to a restaurant and waiting for your food to arrive at your car window or table, and you will likely save tens of thousands of dollars during your working life.

Women Walking in a ParkYou will now have time for walking to run an errand, to a park, or around the office or grounds where you work. Better yet, walk to a park or another outdoor space soaking up some vitamin D along the way and then eat your lunch. Help your coworkers get on the move by asking them to join you.

Meet for a Walk

Instead of meeting a friend for coffee at a coffee shop, mix it up and meet for a walk. Bring coffee with you in a reusable travel mug to sip while you chat and walk.

Run Errands on Foot

Chances are that there is at least one place you frequent that is within easy walking distance of your home or place of work like a restaurant, pharmacy, grocery store, post office, or library. Select one place to begin walking to or make a commitment to walk to run an errand at least once a week.

Park in the North Forty

Full Parking LotThe term north forty often refers to a remote patch of land on a farm or ranch but I think it translates well to parking. An easy way you can add more walking to your day is to park in the far corner of a parking lot or parking garage or down the street from your destination.

Take a Commercial Break

There are usually at least three or four commercial breaks during an hour-long television show and a 3-hour football game has even more. These are built-in opportunities to get up and walk around for a few minutes. When you are watching ad-free media, make a point of either pausing in the middle or getting up and walking around between shows or movies.

Hold a Walking Meeting

How many hours have you spent sitting in conference rooms for short meetings with only a few people? Why not hold a walking meeting instead (if you can do it safely). Mobile devices make it easy to look up things and take notes while you are on the move.

Set a Timer

Finger with Red Ribbon Tied Around ItI got this idea from one of my sons. He is a programmer and a gamemaster who spends a fair amount of time in front of multiple screens so he sets a timer on his smartphone to remind him periodically to get up and walk around. Many experts say that getting up and stepping away is not only good for your body but stimulates your brain as well.

The timer method will work for just about any sedentary job that allows you to leave your work area briefly as well as when you are sitting at home reading a book or watching a movie.

Walk with Your Kids

If you have the time and ability to walk your kids to and from school, that is terrific. If you do not, then make a point of walking with your kids at other times to get them in the habit of walking as a means of getting about and for pleasure. You can walk to a store to get supplies for an art project at school or take a hike during the weekend.

When our kids were young, we frequently took short walks before or after dinner. It took about ten minutes to walk around our block and if we were feeling ambitious, we would take a double-block walk. On the weekends, we hiked in the hills near our neighborhood.

My 2019 New Year’s Resolution

Initially, I was thinking about choosing my son’s “set a timer” idea for my 2019 New Year’s resolution, but I have already adopted it. While writing this morning, my smartphone has already dinged quietly 6 times and I have gotten up and walked around, gone up and down the stairs, and unloaded the dishwasher.

Last year I toyed with the idea of a resolution involving sugar but I ended up opting to digitize our financial records, which I did do. Sugar is still on my mind so I decided to write at least one post about the environmental impact of sugar for my 2019 New Year’s resolution. To keep myself on track I established a few milestones.

  • By January 31 – watch the documentary Sugar Coated again (for inspiration).
  • By April 30 – complete enough research to have adequate material for at least one post.
  • By June 30 – write and publish at least one post.

Footsteps Leading to the Word GoalNow, I hope you are ready to pick one of the above easy and green exercise ideas for your New Year’s resolution or come up with your own. Your best chance for success is to choose something you actually want to do and to be specific so that you will know when you have completed your resolution.

Happy New Year!

Featured Image at Top: Two Potatoes Sitting on a Red Couch – Photo Credit iStock/CHRISsadowski

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