Category Archives: gratitude

The Gift of an Ordinary Day

I’ve been reading The Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother’s Memoir by Katrina Kenison. This book is far and away the best book on motherhood I can remember reading. Many passages left me breathless, as if Kenison had somehow reached into the depths of my heart and pulled out the most private fears and thoughts I’ve had about life as I watch my children grow old too quickly.

I soon picked up a highlighter and began marking the sentences that spoke to me, but soon sentences became paragraphs and paragraphs became pages. I had to abandon the highlighter and admit that this book, in its entirety, was something special.

This would make an amazing Mother’s Day gift. I’m planning on giving it to my mother.

Below I encourage you to watch the video of the author, Katrina Kenison, reading an excerpt. (And I’m warning you – grab a tissue!)


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The Power of Half

This is the inspiring true story of a teenage girl who encouraged her family to sell their home and give half away to charity. The Power of Half by Kevin Salwen and Hannah Salwen causes readers to ask themselves how to make a difference in the world by giving more and taking less.

Here is an article by the authors which I have been authorized to share with you.

Hannah’s Take: Believe You Can Make a Difference
by Kevin and Hannah Salwen,
Authors of The Power of Half: One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back

About 111 women die of breast cancer every day in the United States. A million teenagers get pregnant each year. Someone dies every thirty-one minutes because of drunken drivers. I’m not writing this to bum you out. But you might be thinking, There are so many problems, there’s no way that I or any one person could solve anything.

When civil-rights activist Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a public bus in 1955, she never dreamed of the impact she would have on millions of lives. “I didn’t have any idea just what my actions would bring about,” she said years later. “At the time I was arrested I didn’t know how the community would react.” The reason Ms. Parks didn’t get up is that she knew the racist laws were wrong.

Rosa Parks is just one of the thousands of influential people whose actions changed the views of many people today. Think about Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Greg Mortenson, John Woolman, Madame Curie (if you don’t know them, check them out; they’re all remarkable). Sometimes small acts significantly affect a large group of people. But even when they don’t, they can have a big influence, maybe on just one individual.

So don’t get discouraged because you can’t solve a whole problem alone. As the British philosopher Edmund Burke said, “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.” I know exactly what he was talking about. Before our family project I kept telling myself that no matter how hard I tried or how much money I gave, I would never be able to fully solve any of the world’s big problems. When I worked at Café 458, the Atlanta restaurant for homeless men and women, I saw dozens of people come in looking depressed and lonely. But still I didn’t see them as individuals, but instead as a group, “the homeless.”

Then one day at Café 458 I heard two homeless men talking about a college basketball game that I had watched with my dad the night before. I snapped to the realization that these people are people. How stupid and rude I had been to see them as different from me. I realize now that having that epiphany was a big step for me. In that split second of comprehension, I switched from seeing them as a group of people to viewing them as individuals. When I started seeing people in need as individuals, the problem of homelessness and hunger seemed smaller and I felt like I could make more of a difference. I also started believing that I could help because the problem was on a personal level.


Think of a person from your community who inspires you. Look beyond his or her specific actions to the kind of qualities that person brings to work or volunteer activities. For example, some people are better at creating new programs than at actually putting them into action; other people are doers, ready to take someone else’s ideas and run with them. Is that aunt in your family a problem-solver? A good listener? An inspirer?

Now think about your strengths in the same light. If you took your best characteristics out into the world, how could you use them to make a difference? Are you patient? Maybe you would be a good tutor. Are you musical? Maybe you could be playing the guitar at a nursing home (and bringing your family along to sing — no talent required). We all have gifts the world can use.
The above is an excerpt from the book The Power of Half: One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back by Kevin and Hannah Salwen. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2010 Kevin and Hannah Salwen, authors of The Power of Half: One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back

Author Bios
Kevin Salwen, coauthor of The Power of Half: One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back, was reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal for over 18 years. After his tenure at The Wall Street Journal, he started a magazine, Motto. He serves on the board for Habitat for Humanity in Atlanta, and works with the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Hannah Salwen, coauthor of The Power of Half: One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back, will be a junior at the Atlanta Girls’ School, where she plays for the varsity volleyball team, and is her grade’s representative to the student council. She has been volunteering consistently since the 5th grade at the Atlanta Community Food Bank and Cafe 458, among others.

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In An Instant (Book Review)

In an Instant: A Family’s Journey of Love and Healing is a touching and inspirational story written by Bob Woodruff, the ABC News Anchor, and his wife Lee.

Like many American families, the Woodruff family seemed to have it all. Healthy children, great careers, and a happy marriage. The day Bob embedded with the military in Iraq, their lives changed forever.

An IED went off near the tank that he was traveling in, and he and his cameraman were badly injured. Bob suffered a traumatic brain injury that nearly killed him.

The book takes us through the stories of what life was like before the accident, as well as the heart wrenching events that followed, from both Bob and Lee’s unique points of view. There is not one emotion, from bliss, hope and happiness to fear, guilt, and heartache that is left unexamined in this memoir that will be sure to give you renewed perspective and appreciation for your loved ones, your health, your everyday blessings and your life in general.

A percentage of the proceeds from this book will be donated to the Bob Woodruff Family Fund for Traumatic Brain Injury.


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What is happiness?

A book I was reading (Geography of Bliss), made me really think about this. Here is a passage that made me stop, close the book, and sit in contemplation.

“[Philosopher, Robert Nozick], devised a thought experiment called the Experience Machine… Imagine that “superduper neuropsychologists” have figured out a way to stimulate a person’s brain in order to induce pleasurable experiences. It’s perfectly safe, no chance of a malfunction, and not harmful to your health. You would experience constant pleasure for the rest of your life. Would you do it? Would you plug into the Experience Machine?

If not, argued, Nozick, then you’ve just proved that there is more to life than pleasure. We want to achieve our happiness and not just experience it. Perhaps we even want to experience unhappiness, in order to truly appreciate happiness.” -copyright Eric Weiner/Geography of Bliss

So, would you plug into the Experience Machine? My immediate answer, before even finishing the paragraph in the book, was “No”. It was instinctual and I was puzzled by this answer until I finished the paragraph. Yes, he’s right. I want to feel unhappiness at times, and I want to achieve happiness on my own. I don’t want it artificially. Isn’t this, in part, the reason I stopped taking anti-depressants? Everyone told me to stay on my medication but I knew I couldn’t live like that. I felt numb and robotic. That wasn’t happiness because I knew deep down I hadn’t earned it.

And so, this gives perspective to the unhappy moments in life. It’s so easy to think, “If only I had this or that, I would be happy.” This or that can be many things. It could be money, a career, a college degree, a talent, a body type, a lover, children, a bigger home, a car, or even something as simple as a particular pair of shoes … but as we work towards acquiring these things in life, it’s funny how we never realize that whatever we had been striving for, once in our possession, is simply replaced by something else.

Part of happiness is simply enjoying the pursuit of that happiness. If everything you ever wanted was simply handed to you, how happy would your life really be?

“It’s not having what you want
It’s wanting what you’ve got.” ~ Sheryl Crow/Soak up the Sun


Filed under About me, books, culture, depression, gratitude, positive thinking