Turkey cartoonI hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving. Mine was great. My wife, kids, kids-in-law, and grandkids were all there. Our tiny house was crammed full of family and love.

My wife and I are called Amma and Afi. That’s Icelandic for Grandma and Grandpa. We’ve reached that point in life where we can relax and enjoy all we have. Of course, everyone should do that regardless of age but it is twice as good when the demands of life are less and there is time for contemplation and appreciation. Even Leuk was far from my mind that day.

Leukemia has a way of making me appreciate what I have. My perceived limitation of time until ‘D-day’ makes me even more focused on the blessings at hand. So much of the stuff that really matters, the really important stuff that my formally busy life kept me from appreciating, is now at the forefront. Life is good.

I say that despite the leukemia. There are of course days when Leuk brings me down and I get into a real pity party, but most days not.

Thanksgiving Day comes around every November to make us stop and be grateful for what we have. Leuk is always with us but he can’t take who we are away. Not if we focus on being grateful.

I hope that day brought you a healing moment of thankfulness too.

Scott Firefighter Stairclimb coin

I think being grateful is a good way to reduce stress and combat depression. But it is easy to forget to be grateful. Unfortunately the opposite is not true. It is easy to develop a negative attitude. We don’t have to remember to be negative. The downers of life can simply lead us there. But they don’t have to.

So I’ve decided to take action. I am creating a habit of gratefulness.

Habits are formed by repeated practice until they seem like the most natural thing to do. But in order to build a new habit you need someway of reminding yourself to practice it. Here’s mine:

I now carry in my pocket a memorial coin my son gave me. It is from his first Scott Firefighter Stair Climb to raise money for leukemia research. Each year he dedicates his climb to me. And two weeks later I do the civilian version, called The Big Climb, with him.

Anyway, I have a rule that every time I touch that coin I will think of something I’m grateful for. The coin gets touched at least twice each day: in the morning when I put it in my pocket and the evening when I take it out. That means that every day I have to come up with a minimum of two things. Of course I reach into my pocket during the day to fetch keys, change, etc. Sometimes I find myself just fidgeting with the coin for no particular reason. So I might touch that coin four or five times a day. That’s a LOT of thank you’s.

It is already making a difference in my attitude and thinking in general.

So give it a shot. I’ve heard of one person who uses a small rock. It doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s an object of special significance to you.

But don’t chose something too large or Mae West might think you’re just happy to see her.

I dropped all my photography work. I quit doing real estate photography awhile back. But I had planned on keeping my interior design clients because they pay more.

One called just a few days ago. She had a job for me in Anacortes, Washington shooting a new house she’d worked on. I was going to do it but decided to call her back today and cancel. I’m finding Leuk is making me feel more tired.

I’ve done commercial work for a long time, mostly of products, harvesters, houses, and other things that don’t move much. If you’d like to see my site it is at www.jimwsmith.com.

I’m down to one client now – an architect who is also my son-in-law. His projects are usually closer to home. I hope I can keep working for him. We’ll see.

I’m really not too bummed out about this. After nearly 20 years it’s time for a change anyway.

Actually, Leuk is still being fairly good to me; though my oncologist is talking more about treatments. Probably won’t be for a while yet, but he is starting to bring the subject up more.

I hope you all won’t see this as one of those downer posts. It’s not. I’m just learning to let go of some things so I can enjoy others.

I have a loving wife, a roof over my head, no debt (except a small mortgage), creative projects, a great family, and wonderful grandchildren.

Just now, as I was writing this post my wife came in my office to say good night. I asked if she is alright with all this – the changes in me that are effecting our income. “I’m fine with it,” she said. “You’ve just got to stop worrying. We have enough coming in now and I feel secure no matter what happens.”

I hugged her telling her that, considering how this thing is effecting our income, not too many wives would be like this.

“I don’t care about other wives,” she said. “I’m fine with it.”  She has no idea how much that helped me.

In the past there were times when I took her for granted. Not now. I’m finally seeing, really seeing, who she is and how much she means to me. Sometimes love is not a strong enough word. The Bible speaks of a still small voice – the voice of God. More and more that voice speaks to me of her.

So, as you can see, despite the changes that are happening, everything is alright.

All is well.

After my oncologist appointment today, I had a great talk with my wife at Dairy Queen of all places. Seems we talk more when we’re not home… go figure.

Anyway, I’ve been slowing down and working less. I guess it’s a guy thing, but producing less on the money side of things is a hard transition for me. I used to have a full-time job but can’t seem to do that anymore.

Financially we’re doing okay. It’s just hard for me  to see her going off to work each morning while I am just working a part-time (make that very part-time, no, make that extremely part-time) business.

She reassured me that she is very happy and wants me to accept and enjoy this time of semi-retirement. In other, more direct words, she was saying – get over it!

It’s funny. Over a lot of our marriage I was reassuring and supporting her. Now the coin has flipped.

Sometimes we men think less about relationships and more about our jobs. We do selfish things. We take our spouse and all she gives us for granted. Now the older I get the more I realize just how important she is to me.

I love her.

I want to write a note to the spouses, partners, parents, siblings, and children who live with, care for, and love us.

It’s true we live with the possibility of death, but you are facing the possibility of loss. Some of us will beat Leuk and some won’t. Death is frightening but at least it has an ending. Losing the one you love is not so easily blotted out.

Some of my readers, like Darla (she sometimes makes comments on this blog), don’t have leukemia but are the loved ones of someone who does. It’s not quite correct to say they don’t have the disease because when Leuk is in the home he, in some ways, infects everyone in it.

Their white blood cells and bone marrow remain healthy, but their souls are fighting for sanity. Their hearts are beating for answers. They struggle to make sense of a senseless situation.

We carry the disease, but our loved ones carry us.

So I hope we would all say this to our lovers and family:

It is okay to tell me you are afraid. You might be holding back, stoically thinking you have to be strong for me. But, my love, I won’t break. I won’t get more sick if you cry in front of me. I know you are even more afraid than I am. You have a right to be afraid.

You are doing so much, giving so much, and I feel like I give so little back. Yes, I’m sick, but I am still in love. In love with you. I know how hard this is for you and I love you all the more for sticking with me.

But go and take some time off for yourself. Find moments away from the house. Unload your burdens to a friend. Breathe fresh air so you can come back to me all the stronger.

I know you pray for me. What you may not know is I am praying for you.