Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Tag: creative gratitude

Mindfulness is key

The Artdog Quote of the Week

If ever there was a good argument for staying alert and practicing mindfulness, this is a great one. Whyte has focused a spotlight on an important principle of the human experience.

My Quotes of the Week during the past three Mondays have focused on maintaining an attitude of hope and gratitude in the face of adversity. It’s hard to do, but it’s important work, both in our personal lives and in the public discourse. I’m confident that, unfortunately, we’ll get plenty more practice as time goes forward.

IMAGE: Many thanks to Flowing Free for this quote from David Whyte

Where is your focus?

The Artdog Quote of the Week

It’s been shown that optimists tend to be healthier and live longer than pessimists. But are optimists born, or do they cultivate their attitude? If one is a pessimist “by nature,” is that person doomed?

No, in fact. Resistance to pessimistic thoughts is not futile. Resiliency can be learned. It doesn’t matter how horrible you think things are, bright spots exist. Look for them. Cultivate them. Foster positive things. Where life persists, hope is possible, but it depends on all of us and our choices.

It ultimately comes down to a basic choice: hope or despair. Where would you rather focus? Which would you rather pursue?

IMAGES: Many thanks to Kush and Wizdom’s Tumblr, for this quote image.

6 ways to be creatively grateful for a good Thanksgiving meal

mealtime-blessingviathemagiconionsMy theme this month has been about finding creative ways to express gratitude. As we approach the the US holiday of Thanksgiving, I thought perhaps we could examine some creative ways to show gratitude for our food.

This weekend, the weekend before Thanksgiving, is often a big “preparation weekend” in our household.

My husband Pascal is our household culinary artist (one of his early jobs was Head Chef at a health-foods restaurant, and cooking has always been a creative outlet for him). This weekend in particular is especially fruitful for those of us who love pie!

But how, I wondered, would be some good, creative ways to express gratitude for the food we eat?

Gratitude to/for Animals

animalwelfareapprovedIn some cultures there’s a tradition of thanking the animal that gave its life so a person can eat. Other than saying “grace,” though, how else might people express gratitude, and/or make certain their meal was humanely obtained?

This has been a thorny problem for years, because deceptive labeling practices abound. Recently we’ve been offered some help.

certified-humane-logoThe ASPCA has published guidelines for sorting among the labels you may find on food, as well as a downloadable PDF with comparisons and particulars. If you want to find humanely-sourced meat, milk, and eggs.

Look for the Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane, and Global Animal Partnership labels. These are much more well-defined than other, more amorphous, possibly misleading, and sometimes downright deceptive labels.

global-animal-partnership-logoDid you know that “Grass Fed” can apply to animals that were pastured on grass for a while before they went to the feedlot? Did you know “Cage Free” has no meaning when speaking of poultry meat, since only laying hens (for eggs) are routinely caged? Poultry reared for meat is housed in large, densely packed sheds . . . technically not caged, but also not free to act like a normal chicken, turkey, duck, or goose, and certainly not fed normal food.

Gratitude to/for the Providers: 

Migrant farm workers

thanksThere’s a meme going around that reminds us someone–most likely a Hispanic migrant worker–picked the crops that provide the food we eat. Even if you’ve seen it before, it seems appropriate to use it for this post.

Migrant workers certainly do provide essential services that are not easily replaced, as the state of Georgia found out in 2011.

They tightened up their immigration restrictions and enforcement–only to find that migrant workers were afraid to come there and work (even if they were “legal,” which of course many of them were not), for fear of harassment due to racial/ethnic profiling.

So much for the myth that immigrants take jobs away from American citizens: crops rotted in the fields. Don’t assume this was a one-off fluke or outlier, either. Alabama experienced the same problem that year. Indeed, we still have examples of this effect happening in 2016.

Don’t be part of this problem! If you’re grateful for the food on your table, seek intelligent immigration reform and fair practices toward those whose labor harvests our crops.

minimum-wage-not-a-living-wageRestaurant workers

I’ve recently written about the minimum wage issues facing millions of workers–certainly including restaurant workers–all over the United States.

If you’re eating out this Thanksgiving, please leave a generous tip, because (with only a few progressive exceptions) most restaurant servers depend on tips to survive.

But also please support efforts to raise the minimum wage in your state and in the US. No one should have to work two or more jobs, but still not be able to feed their children!

Fair Trade growers

“Fair trade” sounds kind of like one of those loosely defined designations, on the order of “Cage Free” or “Grass-Fed”–but for once it’s not just a nice-sounding logo on a box or bag. It actually means something.

fairtrade-logo-svgI’m old enough to remember a time when large corporations from Europe or North America practically owned–and in many ways controlled–entire, less-developed nations and pretty much controlled their economies, and provided the only source for many goods.

These “capitalist imperialists” (more recently called “corporate globalists“) monopolized markets to produce raw materials and food products such as sugar, coffee, and–most famously–bananasin a way that produced maximum profits for the companies, while ignoring the destruction of the environment, the rights of workers, and many other issues in the countries where they operated.

graphics-fairtrade-labelsThey may not have been “the highest stage of imperialism” as Lenin claimed, but there has been an undeniable link between unrestrained capitalism and imperialistic approaches that persists today.

The Fair Trade movement seeks to give indigenous growers and agricultural workers more leverage against the multinationals. When you buy products marked with one of the Fair Trade logos illustrated here, you know that a list of important standards has been applied, and the producers of these products have passed the certification standards.

fairtrad-certified-logoIt’s another creative way to say “thank you” to the people who produce our food, and vicariously to the Earth, because Fair Trade standards take environmental quality into consideration.


Many thanks to Waldorf Education and The Magic Onions via Pinterest, for the “Mealtime Blessing” image. The label images came from the websites of their sponsoring organizations. Please follow these links to learn more about the Animal Welfare Institute, Humane-itarian-dot-org, and The Global Animal Partnership. Many thanks to Blame it on the Voices via Duck Duck Gray Duck, for this image of the “Thanks, Jesus” meme. I also am indebted to Clay Bennett of the Christian Science Monitor, for his eloquent political cartoon about the inadequacy of the minimum wage. Many thanks to Fair Trade USA and YouTube for the Fair Trade logos and video.

3 creative ways to thank a veteran

Artdog Images of Interest, “with interest”

Last Tuesday, I, and many of my fellow Americans voted. Whether you like the outcome or not, the fact that we have the right to vote is largely because that right has been defended again and again through the years, most especially by the men and women of the United States Armed Services. In honor of them on Veterans Day, I’ve prepared a little photo tribute.

In between the pictures, I suggest three categories of practical ways that you can thank a vet or active service member–and do it in a way that makes a REAL difference. Have you thanked a vet today?

1. Say thank-you with a card, letter, or gift. If you have a deployed military service member in your circle of friends or family, here are some tips from Operation We are Here, on writing to them. Another good source of ideas for writing to either active-duty or hospitalized veterans is the National Remember Our Troops Campaign (NROTC). Or get involved in service projects such as knitting or crocheting cold-weather comforts for active-duty personnel or helping to fill care packages. There are countless opportunities, from local, grassroots efforts to national organizations. All it takes is a willing heart.

2. Prepare yourself ahead of time so you’ll have a better idea how to talk with military family members. Active-duty service members’ parents, spouses, and children all face unique challenges and encounter all too many unhelpful or ignorant reactions from people who have no idea what they’re dealing with. Even more so do the families of injured veterans and  the families of the fallenDon’t add to their struggle–educate yourself! 

3. Since today is Veterans Day, buy a Buddy Poppy. Buy a bunch of them! The VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) uses the proceeds to help disabled, needy and/or homeless veterans all year. There are many other organizations created to help, too. Go to Charlity Navigator to find the best services for injured or disabled veterans. There also are many ways to help homeless veterans. Find  programs to help at-risk veterans through the VA, too.

It’s one thing to express gratitude on a holiday such as this one–but it’s something better and more to “be there” for the veterans who put themselves on the line for us. Let’s be there for real.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Aaron Huss’s “Places to Visit” Pinterest Page for the Veteran’s Day graphic at the top. Thanks very much to KaytiDesigns and PrintFirm via Pinterest, for the “Thank You” montage with the flag and the soldiers, and to the Republican Party of Kentucky for the Thank You photo of the assembled soldiers in the red auditorium. Thank you, Mulpix on Instagram, for the “Thank You” with the emblems of the service branches. And finally, thank you for the Veterans Day poppies with Ronald Reagan quote, from the “Through the Garden Gate” blog. And a heartfelt THANK YOU also to all the brave and amazing people (and their families) who keep this nation safe and free.

Counting our . . . you’re kidding, right?

As I write this, we are one week and counting away from the most feared and dreaded election in recent memory. The news stories and commentary, and all too often our social media, email inboxes, offices and homes are rife with discord and polarization.

Seems like a strange time to talk about gratitude for blessings.

Yet, here we are at the dawn of November, the month of Thanksgiving. Traditionally, this is a time for Harvest, for in-gathering and coming together, and yes, for a time of meditation upon our blessings.

As you’ve possibly noticed, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, I’ve been following monthly themes in the images, quotes, and at least some of the articles I’ve been posting this year. Months ago, in my editorial calendar, it seemed a good idea to make this month’s theme “Creatively Grateful.”

I’m not sure what I was thinking. It’s certainly true that many of us are gonna have to get real creative to find anything at all to be grateful for, in this scorched, cratered battlefield of a social discourse.

Or so it seems, at first knee-jerk.

It’s true things have been tough, lately. We’re only gradually pulling out of a “jobless” recovery, and income disparity is wider now than many realize. Worse, that disparity may be polarizing us into ideological ‘tribes,’driving us further and further apart.

But with all these forces driving us apart, how can we buck that trend, and work together?

I’d like to start by invoking, with gratitude, the bedrock values that we’ve used as a guide and touchstone in the past: that we’re all created equal, that we all have certain rights, including the right to be heard, to follow our conscience, and to think for ourselves. We can’t dictate how others must believe–and, just as important–no one else can dictate how we must believe. 

Whatever happened to justice for all, and innocent until proven guilty? Whatever happened to generosity, and neighbor helping neighbor? Whatever happened to reaching across the aisle, and working for the common good?

We can reclaim those values. We can demand them. We can live them, no matter what others do. And when we consistently live them, we can change the climate of our social and political lives.

But first we must look beyond our fearful little tribes and realize we’re all just people. We may not see eye-to-eye on all things, but we also know that blood in the streets is not the road to peace. There is a more excellent way.

It starts with gratitude for our society’s foundations, and it blossoms into respect for our fellow citizens.

Let’s be grateful for an institutional framework that has kept our elections mostly un-rigged, our successions of power mostly peaceful, and our rule of law–while clearly not flawless–founded upon a thirst for true justice.

Let’s extend a hand, and curb our impulses to name-call and denigrate each others’ ethics or intelligence. We can do better. Let’s make that roll-call of blessings. Let’s remember the vital ties that bind us together–even now.

We can do well by ourselves, our neighbors, our political allies and opponents. We can do well by our country. Hope yet abides, and blessings abound. Can you count them?

IMAGES: Many thanks to The Sustainable Leader, for the “political tug-of-war” image, and to Lori Rosenberg for the meeting-of-hands image, and Hideaki Matsui for the handshake photo.

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