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Posts Tagged ‘making a Gratitude List’

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Gratitude, Mandala Series, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2016, photo © 2016 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

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Gratitude Mandala

Gratitude Mandala, Dymo LabelWriter 1895, Portfolio Brand Water-Soluble Oil Pastels, Prang Metallic Markers, Tul Permanent Markers, Black Sharpie, Crayola Colored Pencils, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Inspired by ybonesy’s journal post (This Thanksgiving Weekend, Make A Gratitude Journal), and with a little Holiday time on my hands, I took a different approach to my yearly Gratitude List. I still used the alphabet as a jumping off place. But instead of making a vertical list, I wound around the first page of Gratitude List, Journal Style the journal I’ll be using for my Journal Practice 2011. Then took the major categories of that list and incorporated them into a November mandala.

I always feel full and abundant after making a Gratitude List. The passing of time can be difficult, scary, life-threatening. But remembering what I am grateful for eases whatever pain I have felt. It tips the balance.

I want to move into the New Year giving thanks. Christening a new journal with a Gratitude list comes from a place of wholeness, leaving feelings of scarcity and lack in the dust!

Thanks for the inspiration, ybonesy. And I have so much gratitude for our red Ravine readers. I hope everyone is having a good Thanksgiving weekend.



At The Mandala's Center

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, November 28th, 2010

-related to posts: The ABC’s Of A Prosperous 2008 – Gratitude, Feelin’ Down For The Holidays? Make A Gratitude List, A Simple Gratitude List, Reflection — Through The Looking Glass, I Am Grateful For The Alphabet 😉, Coloring Mandalas, On Providence, Old Journals, & Thoreau

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Loteria Journal

Lotería Journal, altered Moleskine cover with ybonesy doodles (plus Caran d’Arch, gouache, and ink pen), design © 2010 by ybonesy, all rights reserved.




I love journals. I’ve written about my love of journals. I have doodle journals and writing journals, and I even have my first ever journal, a gift from my sister Bobbi, who got it for me as part of a Scholastic book order she made for her new class. She gave it to me about the time she started teaching: 1974. I was 13 years old, a newly minted teen, and my journal (it was actually more of a diary, although I’m not sure what the difference is) was the perfect place to log news of piddly babysitting jobs (for which it was not uncommon to make 75 cents!), swim lessons, and crushes. That early journal got me believing that any life—even one so boring as my own—was worth recording.

That’s the beauty of the journal. That it might collect the ordinary and occasional extraordinary goings-on of your existence. And that someday you might look back on it as one experiences the family photo album. Memory, insight, a looking glass into your world, or at least a snippet of it.

So it is not surprising that I’ve recently discovered the joy of making journal art. I’m not sure what else to call it. I take blank journals—the basic Moleskine works great—then figure out designs to create on the covers. It’s a fun project, one that can easily be done over a long holiday weekend.


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loteria journal in process (one) loteria journal in process (two)



To make the Lotería Journal, which I fashioned after the Mexican Lotería cards, I used the following items:

  • Moleskine or other journal – I like the Moleskine brand, but it is a bit pricey. Any simple journal will do; for this project it’s best to stay away from leather or cloth covers.
  • Gesso – to apply to the cover so that you can color or paint the cover (the gesso acts both as a whitening agent to better absorb and reflect light in color, as well as a primer so that whatever you apply bonds well to the surface).
  • Evenly sized images – for this journal I used my own, but you could cut images out of magazines or tear out cool papers and draw different designs on each one.
  • Mod Podge – to glue the images to the Moleskine cover, and later, once the piece is completely done, I’ll paint the entire cover with Mod Podge to seal the design and give it a glossy finish.
  • Paints and wax crayons – to add color.
  • A black pen, preferably permanent, but if you use an impermanent one, just make sure it is completely dry, and when you do your final paint with Mod Podge, do a quick brush; don’t go back and forth or linger else the black ink will smudge.
  • Brushes – a one-inch one for the Mod Podge and a small one for my paints (both of which I keep in water while I’m not using them).


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And given that we are in the Thanksgiving season, I can’t think of a better use of a lovingly created journal than to transform it into a Gratitude Journal. Now, folks out there may practice daily Gratitude, but for my part, this is an area that I’d like to improve. I want to spend more time giving thanks for what I have and less time wanting whatever it is I don’t have.

A Gratitude Journal can take several forms. One idea is to use it as a way to say Thank-You to someone in your life. My sister Janet once created this type of Gratitude Journal for me, although we didn’t call it that back then. But now as I think about it, that’s exactly what it was.

About thirteen years ago I organized a trip to Spain for my dad, Janet, another sister, and my sister-in-law. The five of us spent two weeks traveling all over the country, staying in unique and at times quirky places. An olive-farm-turned-bed-and-breakfast, a renovated monastery, and a former brothel, for example. We had a wonderful time, and afterward Janet made me a journal as a memento of our experience. Handmade paper adorned the front and back covers, and inside on a long single sheet of paper that she folded like an accordion, she made a collage of different scenes from the trip.

You could create a Gratitude Journal and inside turn it into a personalized Thank You to someone close to you. I know I often pull out the journal my sister made for me. It’s so much richer than a Thank You card.



gratitude journal (one)
gratitude journal (two)



A Gratitude Journal could also be something you keep for yourself over a certain period of time—say, the upcoming year—to help practice gratitude in your life. There are a lot of ways you can do this. For example, each day you could think about what it is you’re grateful for and then write about that particular topic. Or make a doodle about it, or do a collage on that page.

QuoinMonkey wrote a post at the end of 2007 titled Feelin’ Down For The Holidays? Make A Gratitude List. She made her list at the end of the year, as has been a tradition of hers for several years now. Here you can see her Gratitude List from 2007 looking forward to 2008, along with mine. And here are QM’s Gratitude Lists from 2009 and 2010. You could follow QM’s example and dedicate a sheet of paper to each letter of the alphabet and see what flows onto the page.

Or maybe your Gratitude Journal project is more about simply focusing this weekend on creating a beautiful cover for your journal. Maybe that in itself is the act of Gratitude, giving Thanks by allowing yourself to spend a few hours making art.

And speaking of giving Thanks, QM and I are immensely grateful for the community and inspiration we’ve received over the years from working together and from all of you.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!



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love journal



prayer practice journal

Journal Art, mixed media journal covers—washi paper, Caran d’Arch, collage, small wooden canvases top two), postage stamp (third), stickers, etc., design © 2010 by ybonesy, all rights reserved.


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-Related to post On Providence, Old Journals, & Thoreau

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Blue Moon Over Ice Skating Rink – 0/365, BlackBerry Shots, Full Blue Moon on New Year’s Eve, December 31st, 2009, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2009-20010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.





Through The Looking Glass


season to season
hindsight is 20/20
reflecting the past;
future remains uncertain,
jumps hoops through the looking glass


–tanka from hindsight haiku — pink cadillac (on the road), October 25, 2009





Writing Practice — Looking Back – 15min


Looking back I see hot hazy days when I didn’t have a job. What seems like the best opportunity to work on writing, art, photography, becomes consumed with worry. Looking back I see that Chaco died. He didn’t just die. We made the hard decision to put him to sleep. An odd turn of phrase, put him to sleep. It’s the second cat where I’ve had to make that hard decision. The first was my cat Sasha; it was years ago. Looking back I feel gratitude. For Liz, Kiev, Mr. Stripeypants. For my writing group, for Roma and her partnership with me on red Ravine. I feel grateful I have my health. Age, I’m aging. But overall, I have survived another year. The gray hair is multiplying.

Looking back, there were visits with Amelia, visits with Marylin. Mothers are important to me. Time with mothers. Time with my mother. How much time do we have? One never knows if they will live into old age. I like the yearly trips I take to the South and this one was no exception. There wasn’t enough time but the time we were in Georgia and South Carolina was relaxed. The reconnections I have made there the last three years are invaluable. Links to what was, links to what might be.

Looking back, I feel like I don’t do enough, don’t accomplish enough of my yearly goals. I hate setting them anymore, but I must. I feel like I get so little done. Recently a friend called and mused that we might feel an urgency to get more done because of our age. We are not spring chickens, not in our twenties, not even in our thirties, and here we are trying to make some kind of alternative life work out. Looking back, my car Greta made it through the recession with only the need for a radiator and some new wiper blades. Sylvia the Saturn made it, too. No new car payments — yet.

Looking back, I am happy where I live. Indria is humble, tiny, small. But every day I wake up and look out over the oaks, ash, and cedar. I feel happy to come home and watch the moon rise behind the cottage. I wish it was larger, that we had two more bedrooms, one to write, one for art. Hers and hers. Should we build on? Or buy a new house? Is it ever in the cards to have enough room? Small is good, too. I’m used to small, crowded houses. That’s the way I grew up with 5 younger siblings. There is something comforting about small.

Looking back, I don’t want to trade my life for anyone else’s. My mistakes are my mistakes. I can live with them. I have to. I don’t often remember the bad that happens in a year, mostly the good. And the gratitude I feel for the richness in my life, no matter how much I might be lacking. Is that keeping me from going forward? Have I gotten lazy. Or am I simply tired. Looking back, I’m happy to have a job, though it takes a toll on me. If you had asked me even a year ago, I would have said, “No, I’m never going to be driving truck.” But here I am. Never say never.

There is an opening in there somewhere. Gratitude for the abundance of having a job. Money coming in. So many are without work. Yet my work is my art, my writing, my photography. It will be the dilemma of every artist — how to make a living while being a creative soul. Our world does not support it. We have to. We create our own worlds, surround ourselves with people who help hold the dream. People matter. But it is each of us who has to do the work. Am I doing the work?



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Post Script: I wanted to combine several of my yearly practices in this post on looking back. Above is a tanka I wrote on the trip to Georgia this year, the Reflection part of my Writing Practice on WRITING TOPIC — REFLECTION & INTENTION, and a photograph of the Blue Moon from my photo practice. Below is my yearly Gratitude list. I do one at the end of every year, a result of peering through the looking glass, looking back on the good things in life.


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A – Accept loss forever. Learned this from Kerouac, then from Natalie Goldberg.  Easy to say, hard to do. Makes the world a much better place to live.


B – Breaking free. From the ties that bind. I am the one who keeps me back. It was a constant battle over the year to let myself be. To do nothing when I needed it. To sit and stare into space. To break free from old worn out habits that are keeping me back.


C – Cats. These 3 bundles of joy brought much happiness to my life in 2009. Chaco has moved on but we don’t forget. We scattered his ashes this year around the fire at Winter Solstice. Sometimes I still hear him pattering through the house, keeping night watch on the back of the couch. Chaco was a Nightowl.


D – Dead of Winter. I love Winter. It makes me feel alive. January to January, the Midwest Winter is nothing to sneeze at. It was -21 this morning. It’s warmed up to -8. Sometimes the Dead of Winter is when I have the most ripeness going on inside.


E – The letter “E”. I’m thankful for the vowels. They hold up a lot of words. Like Elizabeth. I thank my lucky stars every day that she’s my partner, that she’s in my life.


F – Fathers. I have a new respect for the role that fathers play with their children. Young children. Adult children. I have learned from reconnecting with my step-father in the South that it is never too late to heal. Never too late to realize the love. I have learned from my brothers who are good fathers how important it is to be there for your kids. I have learned from ybonesy and Jim how good fathers make a difference.


G – Gratitude – humble gratitude for others, those who came before us, those who run parallel, the children of the future, all teach me perspective. Sometimes I feel great loss. I try hard to get back to Gratitude for what remains.


H – Humble Pie. I’ve eaten a lot of it. Humility helps me remember — Do not waste this precious life. Humility always takes me back to center — Home. (Oh, and wasn’t Humble Pie a band from the 1970’s?)


I – Itches, those nagging, pesky things that make you want to jump out of your skin. You can’t scratch every itch. But don’t the itches raise the most important questions?


J – January. Some years I’m glad to be starting over, to walk into the clean slate of a New Year. This is one of them. Time may be boundless but the calendar offers a structure. Something that helps keep me on track.


K – Kindred Spirits. Make the list again this year. Not just community or people who are alive. But those who travel with us across the Ethers. And animals, like our cat Kiev. She’s solid as a rock. There are so many life forms that walk the Earth with us. The veil is thin.


L – Love. Love is underappreciated. The word is thrown around loosely. There are so many kinds of love, I have lost count. But the feeling of giving or receiving love — I would not trade it for money, fame, or fortune.


M – Mothers. Most of the nurturing of the world falls to women. This was true when I was born, it may still be true at the end of my life. I wish I could say it’s different, that all nurture the world. But it doesn’t seem to be women that take us into war. Or perpetrate most of the violence in the world. If I was wrong, I’d happily admit it. If I’m right, I pray for more balance. That’s too heavy a weight to carry.


N – North Carolina. I know it seems odd. But driving through North Carolina, it seems like one of the most beautiful places. I’ve also discovered that many of my relatives come from North Carolina, something I didn’t expect. This is true on the paternal and maternal side. I am rooted in the South.


O – Overdrive. Wait, I guess this is something that should go on my future Intentions list. But it popped into my head. People who run on Overdrive teach me about reaching goals. I don’t want to be a Type A personality–I only want a pinch of their drive.


P – Pants. Mr. Stripeypants is over a decade old; he acts like a kitten. I can’t explain the joy this cat brings into my life. He plays fetch with me in the morning, drapes over my arm when I write, greets us at the door after a hard day at work, follows us around the house in a constant state of curious abandon. I learn a lot from Mr. Pants.


Q – Quest. I’m always questing. Like a Knight but not in shining armor. I’d be one of those Dark Knights. After all, you need them, too. The ones that sit at the Round Table contemplating, one foot underground, one foot in the sky. They are all searching for the Grail. I think curiosity is an asset. I just wish it would quit jumping around. Hopscotch, 1-2-1-2-1-2-1, back again. Once in a while I wish throwing the rock was enough, just to see where it lands.


R – red Ravine. It makes the list again. Every year there is something different. It’s a practice in the collaborative spirit. Sometimes it’s the thing that keeps me going when things get hard. Where will it lead? Right here, right now. I’m grateful for every single person who has ever visited red Ravine.


S – Snow. It’s practical and romantic. A water reserve for dry summers, a heart bouncer for Winter rides on the horse-drawn sleigh. We got a boatload in December. It snowed like a banshee over the Christmas weekend. I used to ski but these days I’m happy to get out and walk in the snow. I don’t mind shoveling. But I have to admit, this year I thought about buying a snow blower.


T – Tracks. Animal cairns. We follow tracks in the snow in our front yard. Raven, crow, moles and voles. Rabbits, squirrels, raccoon. Tracking takes patience and an eye for detail. I’m not that good at identifying which tracks go to what animal. But I love to guess. Then check my tracking book for the right answer.


U – Understanding. It’s the brother of forgiveness. I had to live a while before I understood what it meant to forgive. Not everyone can be understood. But it helps to try. I understand that not everyone is perfect or impeccable. I forgive myself for not being those things either.


V – Veracity. An unwillingness to tell lies. A propensity for the truth.  They even made a movie about it — The Invention of Lying. Is telling the truth always the best route? What truth? Whose truth? I like looking at the Underbelly — the unwillingness to tell lies seems more realistic.


W – Woodpeckers. We had two sightings of the Pileated Woodpecker on our property this year. What a joy it is to see them. They’ve got to be the closest thing to seeing a prehistoric Ivory-Billed. The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker is a lot like the Loch Ness monster — now you see it, now you don’t.


X – X-Ray Vision. The absence of it. I’m thinking if I had X-Ray vision, I could see into the future. But I wouldn’t want to know. I’d rather take my chances. And make small decisions along the way.


Y – ybonesy makes the list again. She’s made leaps and bounds with her art this year. That inspires me, fires me up for my own creative endeavors. She’s a woman who seems to be able to do it all. I admire that. And feel so much gratitude that she’s collaborating with me on red Ravine.


Z – ZigZags. Like lightning. I’m grateful for zigzags because they are the way I live my life. Cancer the Crab rarely takes the straight line anywhere. Back and forth, testing the waters. She does finally land. Solid. For a day or two. Then off again on her quest. You can’t have a zig without a zag.


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, January 2nd, 2009

-related posts and to read more about the practice of Gratitude: Feelin’ Down For The Holidays? Make A Gratitude List, The ABC’s Of A Prosperous 2008 – Gratitude, I Am Grateful For The Alphabet ;-), Runes, Oracles, & Alphabets

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Summer Tea Rose, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Summer Tea Rose, from our summer garden, forms a perfect natural mandala, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



I try to end the year with a Gratitude List. I find it a good practice to honor having lived another year. And to equally honor the people, places, and sentient beings who make life rich and worth living.

Last year, I used the ABC’s as a format for a 2007 Gratitude List and liked that structure, so I’m going to continue with it this year. I kept it simple, and I’m sure have only touched the surface. If I’ve forgotten anything or anyone, please know you are in my heart.

What are you grateful for? For many, 2008 was a hard year financially, emotionally, and physically. I find that a belief in something bigger than me, and faith, keep me going in the down times. I want to try to remember to live one day at a time.

On the 2nd day of 2009, it is sunny, blue, clear, and I woke up to exactly 0 degree temperatures, a perfect circle — the best of winter in Minnesota. Winter is all whites, blacks, blues and grays and makes me feel alive. And, for some reason, Winter always reminds me of the color of Spring.



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A – Afterglow – making Art, making love, walking in the sun, glistening humidity on the face of a July Savannah day


B – Building & Blooming – a writing life, a life together, a community, a garden, a studio space, a spiritual foundation


C – Chaco, Cravings, Creating – creating anything: a photograph, a piece of writing, a mandala, a clay set of Runes, a painting, a community, a blog. Chaco — I’m so grateful he is alive to take us into the New Year, our little miracle. Cravings – what do you crave? That’s where your passions lie.


D – Death & Dying – the threat of death wakes us up; the death of dry summer flowers makes way for next year’s Spring blooms; the death of one career makes space for the life of another; the death of a loved one or pet leaves us grieving, sad, yet appreciative at the miracle of one more day.


E – Eating! – food, food, food, all kinds of food. Don’t like to cook but love to try new foods and savor the old Family Recipes.


F – Friends & Family & Fathers – circles of closeness, moving out from center. Different levels of intimacy, all important to a thriving life. It would be lonely without family and friends. Fathers — I have had quite a few. I’m thankful for what they have each brought to my life, and the chance to rebuild broken bridges.


G – Gratitude – humble gratitude for others, those who came before us, those who run parallel, the children of the future, all teach me perspective


H – Humility & Home – it’s a gift to be alive. Humility helps me remember — Do not waste this precious life. Home is the place that holds history, the place I feel safe.


I – Introspection — most comfortable in the cave of Bear, what I learn there can make me a wiser, better person when I go back out into the world


J – J. & January – I’m grateful my brother walks with us into another year after spending time last summer in the ICU. It’s always scary when family members are gravely ill. January offers the promise of a New Year.


K – Kindred Spirits – those who travel beside us. They change faces from time to time, but that is to be expected. Endings lead to new beginnings.


L – Love & Liz – sappy, I know, but love is a wondrous thing. It heals many wounds. Was it in Bucket List where the narrator said, “We are not the things that love us; we are the things we love.” Giving is better than receiving.  Love lost brings the opportunity to love again. You never know when you will fall in love.


M – Mothers & Grandmothers – mothers continue to provide much of the nurturing in this world. My mother is my biggest fan and offers loving support to me in this crazy writing life. Thanks for traveling with me and continuing to answer my endless questions about family history. Thanks for believing in me. And for instilling into your children permission to follow their dreams. Thanks to my Grandmothers who walk with me every day.


N – Noses – medium, broad, ski-jump, upturned, and small. Noses hold glasses close to the eyes. Smells are the best connectors to memories. Think of your favorite smells. A keen sense of smell leads to a keen sense of detail.


O – Optimism – I tend to see the glass half-full. I am of the belief that setting positive intention creates cairns that guide through the tough times. Right or wrong, it helps me through sadness and grief and is the philosophy I live by.


P – Passion & Peace – do they go hand in hand? Maybe not. It’s hard to believe the things people do to each other out of passion. It makes it hard to keep the peace. Still, I believe it is possible.


Q – Quagmire – one of my favorite words. noun:  a soft wet area of low-lying land that sinks underfoot. What would life be without the uncertainty of sinking quagmires that eventually lead back to solid ground.


R – red Ravine – so grateful for the community who visits here. And for the creative practice that has developed around red Ravine. Every day offers new surprises. Thanks for dropping by, for what you have given to creating this space.


S – Summer — the longer I live in a Winter climate, the more I appreciate Summer and the Southern roots I grew up with. When I lived there as a child (and now when I visit) I never stop sweating!


T – Teachers & Time – the gift of time. Every moment is a gift. The next could be our last breath. Or something could happen that changes our lives forever. There is no way to prepare except to honor each moment. Teachers, mentors who are wiser than I am. If only I would remember to keep listening.


U – Underwear – it’s a simple thing, isn’t it, underwear? Some people don’t wear it but I can’t imagine not having it. Cotton, all cotton, please, and I only wear Jockeys For Her. More expensive but they last longer. So worth it!


V – Vacations – oh, how I long for another vacation where I sit on a beach somewhere and do nothing. No writing, no thinking, no work, no nothing. Simply being still and silent and listening to the ocean, Zen heartbeat of the Universe.


W – Writing & Art Buddies – they take many forms. Writing Practice groups, community on red Ravine, writing retreat friends, local writers, regional writers, artists who inspire, writers and poets who have written books that changed the world. It’s too lonely to try to do this alone.


X – X-Treme Living – life goes on with or without us. It can be an extreme act of grace to make it through another day.


Y – ybonesy – I couldn’t do this without her. The creative collaboration of red Ravine has led down many fruitful, winding roads. And it all started that day in Taos after a writing retreat with Natalie Goldberg. I have so much gratitude for Natalie who taught me about the practice of writing and helped me believe in myself.


Z – Zest for Life – passion and doing what we love keep us from becoming complacent. Please, don’t let me take life for granted. (Plus, Zest is a fun word to say!)




Raindrops On Roses, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved   Rose Mandala, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Rose Mandala, Raindrops On Roses, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



-posted on red Ravine, Friday, January 2nd, 2009

-related posts and to read more about the practice of Gratitude:  Feelin’ Down For The Holidays? Make A Gratitude List, The ABC’s Of A Prosperous 2008 – Gratitude, I Am Grateful For The Alphabet 😉

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A   art, all things Art and Artist, absolute passion for Art, artsy-fartsy

B   billies, that’s what I call the Boys in my life: Jim, Otis, Rafael

C   children, my girls, chattering sitting in the same chair

D   daylight growing, Dad

E   evenings, eating dinner with my family more often than not

F   friends, family, fields (of dreams, of birds, of grass)

G   Goldberg, Natalie

H   home, heart, honesty, humility, hope

I   as in me, the person I am, iffy, imaginative, ignoramous

J   just a job, a just job

K   kindness, kinship, kindred spirits

L   life, what it deals me, love, longing, loyalty

M   Mom, menopause (bring it on), milk for my coffee

N   oh fair NEW MEX-ico, we-love-we-love-you-so

O   old age, grateful for every day of it my parents have

P   pain, parenting, parents, passion, pens (fast-writing), practice

Q   QuoinMonkey, questions never answered, quriosity

R   rest, relaxation, reading, responsibility, romance rekindled

S   sunlight, snow, seasons, siblings

T   truth, trees

U   us, my family, uneven, unfinished, unconditional love

V   Virgin Mary, vulnerability, view of the mountains

W   water, agua, cool muddy brown

X   eXcitement, eXistential, X marks the spot, you are here

Y   saying YES to taking risks (moving, blogging, writing)

Z   zest for life, zaniness at times, zen everyday





-Related to posts, The ABCs Of A Prosperous 2008 – Gratitude and Feelin’ Down For The Holidays? Make A Gratitude List

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The Places I've Walked, brick labyrinth, Martinez, Georgia, June 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved

The Places I’ve Walked, walking a brick labyrinth, Martinez, Georgia, June 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved


It’s New Year’s Eve (almost a whole New Year, ybonesy!). I’m working on the black-eyed peas and rice post. And I’ve got to say the orangutan’s butt is a pretty hard act to follow! But I’m going to risk it and post an ABC meme morph of my practice and Gratitude List for 2007.

I met with friends a few nights ago for poetry, music, and silence. We did timed writings. I chose to make a Gratitude List. It was 99 items long. I admit, I was slowing down a bit near the end, but I think I could have gone longer. My scattered, discursive thoughts turned a corner into this giant web of connection.

When I got stuck, I’d think of the places I walked over the last year. Where did my feet hit solid ground? From there, the strong, silky tendrils spun out across the room, connecting one detail to another.

Each place held its own blessings. I was an unreluctant traveler. There is some sadness in looking back. But through the lens of gratitude, it’s mostly Joy.


Some things I learned along the way:


  • Looking back with gratitude, provides clear vision for the future.   After we reflected and wrote about 2007, we shared. Then we visioned about 2008. Not resolutions – Visions. I took the web of gratitude and laid out a detailed visual map of 2008. In the cluster map, everything seemed clear.

  • The Vision for 2008 is in place. Creating a workable structure and learning how to prioritize my time (balancing internal with external) are paramount to making the Vision reality.   Balancing writing, work, art, relationships, and care of the self are my challenges: (1) Setting up a structure detailing where I spend my time and sticking to it. (2) Limiting the things that seem most addictive or time wasting. I find that I can easily get lost in frittering away time. I know exactly how long it takes to get a task done. I am good at planning. I need a yearly structure that honors and balances internal time with outer action.

  • Time alone is a must for me. Taking action out in the world will be the hardest part of realizing my Visions. Setting intention. Following through.   A friend said how she needs creative space every day, time to just sit and stare at a wall. Most extroverts don’t understand the act of wall-staring, but I’m in full agreement! I get my energy from going within, not from other people (true definition of an introvert). I love connecting with people. I have good social skills. But my creative energy, my refilling of the well, comes from reflection, internal musings, silence.



Practice. Structure. Community. Intention. Follow through. Action. Many of these connections came from sharing my writing practices in community. My original gratitude practice was a free form list. I revisited the list and boiled everything down into general categories, the ABC’s.

May your New Year be filled with peace and gratitude, as close to balance as humans can get, and some semblance of what we homo sapiens like to call happiness.



Walking The Winding Brick Road, labyrinth in Martinez, Georgia, June 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved  Walking The Winding Brick Road, labyrinth in Martinez, Georgia, June 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved  Walking The Winding Brick Road, labyrinth in Martinez, Georgia, June 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved  Walking The Winding Brick Road, labyrinth in Martinez, Georgia, June 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved  Walking The Winding Brick Road, labyrinth in Martinez, Georgia, June 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved



A – APPRECIATION – appreciation for what has passed. People, places, and spaces – I want to preserve and write about them. Places contain our roots. People are memories. History, I don’t want to repeat it or make the same mistakes. I have to know the past for a clear future. The ability to deeply feel leads me to empathy and compassion.

B – BUZZING AROUND ON THE MOTORCYCLES – our little purple Honda Rebel 250 (Ramona) and Suzuki Savage 650 (Suzi) floating by the Mississippi River in summer. Can’t ya smell that smell.

C – COFFEE & CATS – Colombian or French Roast every morning. We make one pot and split it. That’s it for the day. Hmmmm. Don’t forget to take a good long whiff. And then there are the 3 Musketeers: Mr. StripeyPants who made it through a near-death experience in the last few months (a miracle); the elegant mistress of the house, Kiev; and nervous but sleek, Chaco (after the canyon).

D – DULUTH – going up to Lake Superior at Duluth once a year for our weekend getaway. I look so forward to that. Lake Superior is like the Womb of the Earth. It feels like I could be anywhere in the world.

E – EXPLORATION – outside of my comfort zone. In many ways, it was a hard year for me. I was challenged to push myself through situations that were not comfortable but were good for my growth. Sometimes I failed and went back to the drawing board. It was a hard year financially. But I didn’t give up. Looking at 2008, I feel willing to do more exploration. I’m hoping all the structures I put into place this year will bear fruit. Both financially and spiritually.

F – FRIENDS & FAMILY – many communities. I only have a few very close, intimate friends (I’ve known my friend, Gail, since 1980). My blogging partner, ybonesy. And ever-widening circles of communities like red Ravine, Flickr, Taos writers and people at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, recovery communities, all people I’ve met by showing up and stretching myself beyond my comfort zone. Family and extended family – at least one person in my blood/extended family supports me and my writing in some small or large way, every single day.

G – GRANDMOTHERS, GHOSTS, & GENERATIONAL HEALING – the Grandmothers that guide me, not only the Ancestors, but Elise and Ada who come to visit me often. The ghost of Mabel Dodge visited in Taos and I often feel her when I’m there. Her creative vision was admirable. And I wonder if she feels how writers and artists are still convening under her roof. I believe these Spirits guide us in healing the wounds of the past. In letting go between generations. I saw this on every trip I took home this year.

H – HOMETOWN – Minneapolis, living in the most literate, clean, and green city in the U.S. We’ve got the Walker, the Loft, the Guthrie, Intermedia Arts, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, MN Book Arts, Talking Volumes, Minnesota Public Radio, the Fitzgerald (oh, that’s Saint Paul!), all the warehouse district artists and writers, and on and on and on.

I – INDRIA – the white cottage on the gently sloping hill, new gutters, freshly painted deck, small flower gardens, cardinals, flickers, downys, nuthatches, bluejays, view of the sunset, changing of the seasons, I love living just outside the city proper. It’s silent, quiet, peaceful.

J – JOY – the pure joy of doing art and writing every day. Journaling, blogging, business, lists, practices, poetry. Photography, papermaking, painting, printmaking, sketching, mapping. Any of it. All of it. These creative endeavors bring me JOY.

K – KINDRED SPIRITS – those who walk parallel paths. The faces change from time to time. Some walk hand in hand for a while, then drop away. So many different reasons. But I’m grateful for the time I walked with them. And now I’m grateful for those who are new to me and have come into my life at just the right time.

L – LIZ – her belief in me, her love, acceptance, gratitude, giving nature, smile, giggle, support of my writing, huge and open heart. When she’s in the mood, she also loves to cook, bake, and do laundry. 8)

M – MENTORS – Natalie Goldberg, books, writers that came before me, great literature, my business partners and clients of every nature. What about all the writers and artists I saw this year in the Twin Cities: Ann Patchett, Galway Kinnell, Mary Oliver, Josephine Dickinson, Steve Almond, Jean Shinoda Bolen, Riane Eisler, Mirabai Starr (oh, that was Taos), Ani DiFranco, Nancy Crampton, Diane Arbus (retrospective). All the art profs who mentored me in school.

N – NO REGRETS – I’m never bored. I don’t regret anything I’ve done. I haven’t always made the best choices. But I’ve learned from them. I’m learning to forgive myself.

O – OPPORTUNITIES – so many presented themselves this year. Teaching with and assisting Natalie twice, helping others to write and structure their time, the writing Intensive at Taos, unexpectedly traveling home for Mom’s 70th, cheap flights to New Mexico (twice) and Pennsylvania (twice), road trips to New Mexico and Georgia, quality time at Mabel Dodge Luhan House, time spent in my childhood homes, researching, taping, discovering personal histories of the past.

P – PROMISES & PROSPERITY – the Promises of Recovery hooked me on letting go of self-destructive behaviors. It works if you work it. And you’re worth it. I’m lucky to be able to (almost) make a living doing something I love. I’ve also got a part-time job that is flexible, supportive, and allows me independence in my writing. I’m getting there. I believe.

Q – QUALITY TIME – with myself, with the people I love. The most important thing to me is connecting with those close to me. And learning how to keep the well full so I still have something to give back. I’m especially thankful for all the extra time I had with my mother this year. To walk along the Susquehanna and Savannah rivers, to meditate together, to travel to Georgia, to work on the family tree, to spread mud masks on our faces, to excavate memories, to eat homecooked meals, to be with family.

R – RECONNECTING & RED RAVINE – Mrs. Juarez (after 39 years), Aunt Annette (after 50 years), Aunt Emmalyne (after 41 years), my step-dad (after 41 years), my immediate family, siblings, and Mom and I are the closest we’ve ever been. Launching red Ravine has reconnected me to writers and creative people I’ve met in Taos, to extended family and friends, to other writers all over the world. Through writing and comments I learn new things about people I’ve known all my life. And old things about people I only just met.

S – SILENCE & SNOW – the golden sound of silence, meditation, practice, slow walking the labyrinths of the world. The silence of snow and winter. Winter Solstice by the fire. The exercise from shoveling the driveway with every muscle in my body. Strength in the vulnerability of silence.

T – TAOS MOUNTAIN – for sitting there century after century, just being the mountain.

U – UNDISCOVERED DREAMS – an openness and willingness to go where no QM has gone before!

V – VINTAGE – I’m into what’s old, not what’s new, borrowed or blue. Studying vintage items (books, music, stereos, lawnmowers, tools, historic places, etc.) how they work, the place they once held in the world, fascinates me.

W – WARM COATS, HATS, MITTENS – And don’t forget all my hooded sweatshirts that keep my body thermometer (the neck) warm. I’m grateful for the warmth every day. Your survival here depends on knowing how to dress and being prepared for anything in winter. There are some who only have the clothes on their backs.

X – X-RAY VISION – No, just kidding. I’m more thankful for my Wonderwoman wrist cuffs and strange powers of getting people to tell the truth.

Y – YOU – whoever is reading this at this moment. I’m grateful for you.

Z – piZZaZZ – I lived 2007 with courage, bravery, and pizzazz. I haven’t been perfect. I’ve had sleepless nights. I’ve made bad choices, hard choices, but I tried to do the right thing for the moment. I ran myself ragged early in the year. I rested in December. But life keeps me on my toes. I’ve got gratitude for pizzazz.


Walking The Winding Brick Road, labyrinth in Martinez, Georgia, June 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved  Walking The Winding Brick Road, labyrinth in Martinez, Georgia, June 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved  Walking The Winding Brick Road, labyrinth in Martinez, Georgia, June 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved  Walking The Winding Brick Road, labyrinth in Martinez, Georgia, June 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved  Walking The Winding Brick Road, labyrinth in Martinez, Georgia, June 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved


-Happy New Year, posted on red Ravine, Monday, December 31th, 2007



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