Write Team: Live life with a grateful heart

Being grateful is good for the mind, body and soul.

Expressing gratitude enhances empathy, better sleep, improves mood and opens the door to living a more fulfilling life.

As I move closer to my sixth decade of living (I find that hard to believe, and my maturity level has not caught up), I reflect on my experiences, memories, hills and valleys, life choices and growth. I needed those to lead me to the life I have now. Even when days were dark, I was still grateful for the lessons I learned and the opportunity to make things better.

I think back to my younger years and remember all my parents did for me. I was an only adopted child who was spoiled rotten, but I tried my best not to act like it. I was shy and soft-spoken, which is so unlike me now. I was in dance, local theater, played an electric red fender finger style — oh yeah, I was so proud of that — and also played the organ.

As I entered high school, I expressed great interest in becoming a nun and even looked into that path. That would have been like “Sister Act” on steroids. I could only imagine what chaos Large Marge would have caused. In case you are wondering, Large Marge is my nickname. That in itself speaks volumes. I am so thankful for my parents choosing me and giving me all I could ask for. They were wonderful parents and grandparents.

My greatest treasures are my children and grandchildren. A deep and unconditional love for these humans fills my heart with so much happiness and joy. I want to be the best version of myself for them. I want to live a healthy lifestyle and be the rowdy, high-energy fruitcake I am when we spend time together. I want them all to know how loved they are. I am so grateful for every second we spend together. Just hanging out, talking and being present is more than enough. Being a grandparent is something extra special. It’s a different kind of love I am so lucky to experience.

I am blessed to have spent the last 27 years with my better half. We are fortunate with the life we have built, and I am grateful for his constant support of my dreams, antics and passions. There is no Large Marge without Big Daddy. Come on, there had to be a fitting nickname to go with Large Marge.

All my colleagues and students deserve my appreciation. Throughout my career, they have challenged me, opened my eyes to different perspectives and made me laugh, cry and everything in between. They have shared in the good and bad times, and they have offered a shoulder to lean on when needed. Most of all, we pushed each other to rise and persevere.

We tend to focus on what we don’t have instead of what we have. Being grateful offers hope, reduces stress and builds happier relationships. Every interaction matters. A quote I once saw sums it up. “People come into your life for two reasons — they’re either a lesson or a blessing.” Be thankful for both.

We know life is full of adversity but also full of goodness. Practicing gratitude daily can significantly impact your life. Just like your thoughts and mindset, focus on the positive, not the negative. Count your blessings. Live life with a grateful heart and reap the benefits.

  • Lee Ann Raikes is a resident of Ottawa, and works as a seventh grade ELA educator at Marseilles Elementary. She’s been teaching for 17 years.