30 Days of Thanks

30 Days of Thanks: 8 Creative Ways to Show Gratitude

Show gratitude with these creative ideas.Mom always told you to write thank-you notes. But how about these creative ideas to show your gratitude instead?

Say it sweetly. Few things say thank you like homemade treats. Even if you slept through 7th grade home ec class, there are plenty of easy recipes to help you show your heartfelt gratitude.

Extend an invitation. Remember how good it feels to be invited? Say thank you to someone special by asking them to join you in something they enjoy – a long walk, a movie marathon at home, an afternoon at the driving range.

Make a phone call. It’s simple, but in our world of texts and tweets, a phone call can be a truly genuine way to remind someone how much they mean to you.

Use your talents. Showing gratitude becomes easier – not to mention more personal – when you utilize what you do best! If you have a way with words, write a heartfelt poem. If you’re musical, send a short video clip of yourself singing a message of thanks (they’ll love it!) Draw a picture, wash their car, cook them breakfast in bed – the possibilities are endless.

Bragging rights. Let’s face it – who doesn’t enjoy basking in praise delivered in front of others? Show your gratitude by giving a friend a shout-out on Facebook, or writing your colleague a five-star review on their LinkedIn profile. Who knows – your public display of gratitude may help them get that promotion they’ve been dreaming of!

Unleash your inner artist. Chalk a message on the driveway, hang a homemade banner over the front door, or write your thanks in a yard of freshly fallen snow.

Step up. From everyday tasks like walking the dog to bigger gestures such as housesitting for a friend while they go on vacation –  offering a helping hand is a powerful way to show your gratitude.

Picture this. No need for a lengthy letter when you can show your gratitude with a photo! If you’re thanking someone for a gift, be sure to send them a picture of you using it. Grateful for a great friendship? Make a photo collage of your favorite memories together, and give it to your bestie to show them how much he/she means to you.

In what creative ways do you say thank you?

Posted by Grace VanDeWeghe on Tue, Nov 12 2013 8:23 pm

30 Days of Thanks: Gratitude for Madeline

Miri McDonald and MadelineI’m one of those people who transforms into what I call a “crazy dog lady” when I pick up my dog Madeline’s leash and we head out for a walk.

You know the type. You’ll probably hear me talking to my dog. I’m more likely to know your dog’s name than yours. I’ve been known to kiss stranger’s dogs, too.

The other day, my son said to me, “Mom, you can never get enough of dogs.”

And he’s right. I really can’t. I point them out constantly to my kids and my husband. I’m grateful they know this part of who I am. I’m also grateful I’ve given them a love for animals, too.

As a child, I longed for a dog of my own, but my parents didn’t really want the responsibility of a pet. So, I had to wait until I was an adult. I think it’s interesting how expectations build up over time. I had this idea of what an ideal pet would be, and let’s just say it didn’t really turn out that way.

Our dog, Madeline, is probably not what you would call Kennel Club-approved black Labrador Retriever. When we first adopted her, she made a very loud, high-pitched noise that caused people to cross the street. She pulled the leash so hard, I cried because my arm was so sore.

I fell down a man hole once because of Madeline.

She also ate a dead squirrel, caught a live rabbit, a duck, many birds and more rodents than I care to remember. Several trainers told me she was the hardest dog they had ever worked with.

On the flip side, she’s also the reason I know many of my neighbors. She’s helped me train for several running races and is the reason I am so disciplined about walking every morning.

I never thought I would be someone who would laugh while getting drenched in the rain or falling in the snow, but I do with Madeline. I also find myself stopping to revel in my surroundings during our walks, looking at the shockingly red and orange leaves on the trees and marveling at snow we typically need to climb over on our sidewalks in the winter.

I laugh out loud as Madeline buries her snout – and sometimes entire head – in the snowbanks, looking for an animal or a piece of sandwich a child left behind.

Madeline and the doggie dipI’m grateful for many of the pet-specific experiences I’ve had because of Madeline. There’s one that stands out called the doggie dip. Imagine about a hundred dogs and their humans frantically running around a swimming pool, trying not to get trampled on or step in anything gross. I loved watching the dogs swim and play.

Madeline, being a Labrador, was in heaven. She loves to swim. And she doesn’t really understand what it means to take it easy. So, she jumped in hundreds of times until we had to drag her out of there. And she couldn't figure out how to get out of the pool by herself. So I had to pull her out by the scruff of her neck. So there I was, bracing myself at the edge of the pool, pulling her out, laughing so hard I’m crying. All of this, mind you, while I’m getting completely drenched. Then, I watch her dive exuberantly into the pool so many times that her nails bleed.

I’d love to have that kind of passion for something.

When my dad died recently, I found myself grieving the most honestly when I was with Madeline. I’m grateful she doesn’t need me to fill the silence with words. And then, there’s her fur – the tears just seem to melt right in there. Those Labradors are meant to be wet.

The other day my son said, “Madeline is magical. Whenever you feel bad, you just have to hug her and you feel better.”

I’ll take magical over ideal any day.

And for that, I feel so much gratitude.

30 Days of Thanks American Family InsuranceEditor's note: What makes you thankful this time of year? Visit us on Facebook during November for inspiration and ideas as we celebrate 30 Days of Thanks.  

Posted by Miri McDonald on Fri, Nov 08 2013 10:21 amMiri McDonald is a strategic communications consultant with American Family Insurance.

30 Days of Thanks: Community

30 Days of Thanks CommunityThis spring, my husband and I decided to build an orchard at our newly-purchased home.

We could have put it in the back, but I proposed installing the orchard in the front. One of my goals was to make the orchard a focal point for the block, and a learning opportunity about growing perennial food, alternatives to grass lawns and to build community. One way to accomplish my goal was to include our neighbors in building it and harvesting from it.

The last week in April, I walked door to door introducing myself to everyone on my block. I apologized for the giant piles of dirt, wood chips and hay bales spilling into the sidewalk. I explained that we were about to install an orchard for everyone on the block to enjoy. And finally, I invited people to stop by to watch, and pitch in, if they wanted.

On installation day, 25 people from many circles of my life showed up, including five neighbors. In four hours, we moved seven tons of compost, spread 25 bales of hay and planted eight fruit trees.

It was, by all accounts, wildly successful.

More than a month later, another remarkable event happened. My neighbor, we’ll call her Gloria, walked by while I was in the front yard. She’s on a fixed income and has a hard time getting around and immediately apologized for not being able to help plant trees. I told her she was participating by enjoying it. Then she lifted a small pack of flowers out of her walker’s basket, saying she found them on clearance at a local nursery. I accepted them them as precious gems, and thanked her for the beautiful gift.

The flowers were, however, just the start of what she had to offer. She told me that she’d lived on the block for years, and had never quite felt like she belonged. “But since you did this,” pointing at the orchard, “and invited people to participate, I feel like everyone is so much nicer and like I belong here.”

Her words stunned me.

I asked myself, “Did the block really change that much?” Or had Gloria’s perspective changed? Then I realized it didn’t matter what changed. Somehow, eight fruit trees in my front yard helped Gloria feel like she belonged. 

Turns out, I didn’t build an orchard, I started to build a community.

Watch the four-hour orchard installation in six chaotic minutes.

Josh also writes The Urbane Farmer blog.

30 Days of ThanksEditor's note: Give yourself permission to practice gratitude! Each day during November, American Family Insurance will share ideas for showing appreciation for the people, things and events in our lives. We hope you use these 30 Days of Thanks as an opportunity to share your gratitude -- or even just take a few moments each day to reflect on everything good in your life. Visit us on Facebook during November for inspiration and ideas as we celebrate 30 Days of Thanks. 

Posted by Josh Feyen on Sat, Nov 02 2013 10:06 am

30 Days of Thanks: Appreciating the gifts in your life

30 Days of ThanksI’m a big fan of autumn.

The crisp air, college football, apple picking. A large part of what I like about fall is the harvest. From pulling in the produce in my own garden to watching the farmers combine their corn fields, it’s a time I appreciate the hard work that’s gone into this harvest, and I’m thankful for the results.

For me, the harvest and November are a major time of gratitude. Every time I look at a combine in the field when it’s dark and cold out, I’m grateful that farmer is out there supplying the world with food. When I make my annual donation to our local food bank for their Thanksgiving baskets, I appreciate the organizations focused on helping people get enough to eat.

November is a time I slow down a bit before the commercial craziness of the holiday season begins. I take stock of the year that’s been, and all the people who supported me during it, and I start thinking about the year ahead and the dreams I want to pursue.  I’m thankful for the people I know who’ve helped me get where I am and will continue helping me achieve new dreams.

That’s the rationale behind American Family’s 30 Days of Thanks. During November, we’ll show our gratitude for different groups of people and say thanks for the things that brighten our lives every day – like laughter. Each of these days, we’ll ask you to share your gratitude by recognizing your favorite teacher, or giving a shout-out to your sister.

We’re kicking it off today by thanking veterans. Their sacrifices have defined us as a nation. They protect our dreams in ways most of us will never comprehend. So visit us on Facebook, leave a comment or share our post with your friends and family – and share your thanks for the veterans in your life.  

This is the second year we’ve done 30 Days of Thanks. Last year, I was blown away by the response we had from people who participated and took time to thank the people who’ve made a difference in their lives. This attitude of gratitude isn’t just about the other person; it makes us feel good, too.

Should we be grateful every day? Definitely.  In November, let’s make it a point not just to be grateful, but to let the people we love – the people who’ve inspired us – know we appreciate them.

30 days of Thanks Active MilitaryEditor's note: Give yourself permission to practice gratitude! Each day during November, American Family Insurance will share ideas for showing appreciation for the people, things and events in our lives. We hope you use these 30 Days of Thanks as an opportunity to share your gratitude. Visit us on Facebook this month for inspiration and ideas as we celebrate 30 Days of Thanks. 

Posted by Michele Wingate on Fri, Nov 01 2013 10:46 am

Home for Halloween? An adoption story

This is why Halloween is Pat Miller's favorite holiday.I love my children.

That’s not an unusual thing to say. Most parents love their children in a way they find hard to describe and might not even have imagined was possible before those children arrived.

But while I always love my children, I love them most this time of year. Right around Halloween.

Why? It all goes back 17 years or so. At that time, my husband and I had filed paperwork to adopt a child from China and were waiting to be matched with a baby. All things considered, we were being very calm and very patient.

Until our social worker left a message saying there might be a problem. We called back and found out that China was re-evaluating its rules for international adoption, and our application might be denied because we were younger than their stated age preference for parents. We would have to wait for a government committee miles and miles and miles away to make a decision.

Until that happened, our adoption was on hold.

As we waited, less patiently and less calmly, Halloween came. As each costumed toddler came to my door and looked up at me with wondering eyes or whispered, “Trick or treat!” I felt sadder. Eventually, I let myself indulge in some self-pity.

These people all had children. I did not. Maybe I never would. It wasn’t fair.

Once, I was telling this story to a friend – trying to explain why Halloween was my favorite holiday. She interrupted me at this point to say, “This is a horrible story! How can Halloween be your favorite holiday when that happened?”

Halloween is, indeed, my favorite holiday, but it isn’t because of the Halloween I didn’t have my daughter. It’s because of the Halloween that happened one year later.

By then, China had determined its guidelines. We had qualified to adopt, and we’d even traveled to China and returned with our oldest daughter.

By that Halloween, she was 18 months old. We dressed her in the cutest pumpkin costume ever and she toddled around the neighborhood holding my hand and looking up at everyone who answered the door with wondering eyes.

I would have enjoyed those moments under any circumstances. But comparing my happiness that Halloween to my sadness the previous one made the first Halloween with my daughter that much sweeter.

So every Halloween, I remember how thankful I am for that little pumpkin, who has grown up into a talented, intelligent and only occasionally exasperating teen.

She and I won’t be trick-or-treating this Halloween, but I will definitely be remembering how thankful I am that she is in my life. 

30 Days of ThanksEditor's note: Give yourself permission to practice gratitude! Each day during November, American Family Insurance will share ideas for showing appreciation for the people, things and events in our lives. We hope you use these 30 Days of Thanks as an opportunity to share your gratitude -- or even just take a few moments each day to reflect on everything good in your life. Visit us on Facebook during November for inspiration and ideas as we celebrate 30 Days of Thanks. 

Posted by Pat Zietlow Miller on Wed, Oct 30 2013 12:31 pm
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