Practicing Gratitude Wherever You Go

Practicing Gratitude Wherever You Go

I’ve been back from Asia for a month now, living at my parent’s house in Michigan.

I am by far the happiest I’ve ever been at home. Readjusting last time after a long spell abroad was more difficult- I felt listless, bored and irritated with the return of bad habits like snacking and scrolling through Facebook on my phone.

But this year is different. I’m even enjoying winter this year despite the polar vortex‘s best efforts.

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This stems from something I learned while studying yoga in Bali- in order to survive a grueling, ninety-minute yoga session, it’s best to be present.

Don’t focus on the clock; suffer through discomfort to achieve your personal best. Don’t compare yourself to others; strive to be present, just you, on your mat.

This mindful little mantra of “staying present” not only applies well to yoga, but also to life in general.

I remember reading about Elizabeth Gilbert’s idea of happiness when I was 16 in her memoir Eat Pray Love. She wrote of “diligent joy”, or the idea that happiness is something you fight for every day.

“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort,” she wrote.

Seven years later, I’ve finally realized this is true. And in addition to striving for “diligent joy”, I also strive to practice gratitude, another lesson I learned on my yoga retreat in Bali.

Not in the mood for class?

Be grateful to be practicing yoga in Bali with some of the world’s best instructors.

Be grateful for the crickets that chirp, the soft rain that falls down on the thatched roof, for the lush greenery.

Be so, so grateful that you have been given this opportunity to be here.

And along with a great tan, I’ve tried to take that lesson of practicing gratitude home with me. Cranbrook Winter 2014 LR

Be grateful for the snow. Be grateful to be sitting fireside with a glass of pinot noir and an addictive TV show.

Be grateful for a winter walk with a friend, watching my little dog trip over snow-banks.

Be grateful for Starbucks dates with my sweet little sister.

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Cranbrook Winter 2014 LR1

And in accordance with my new year’s resolutions I’m making an effort to see my friends more. As my fellow Instagram addicts may know I spent last weekend in Chicago in a flurry of dinner parties, craft beer at the bar and catching up with friends. It was wonderful.

I’ll write about this soon, but I’ve realized my priorities have changed; I now know I need a community, a group of friends, people who I know and love and care about.

Chicago

Chicago Beer

Along with many other lessons, Asia taught me long-term nomadic life is not for me.

I guess what it all boils down to is this; I’m really happy and I’d like to stay that way.

Trying (and Failing) at Michigan Duck Hunting

Trying (and Failing) at Michigan Duck Hunting

Last weekend, as we Michiganians say, my family and I went “up north.” Meaning we went to our cottage on Lake Huron to go duck hunting.

And as a person who has spent a lot of time in France, I jumped at the opportunity to shoot and hopefully eat some duckies.

Along for the ride was my good friend, Elliot, who has hunted with my dad in the past. Unfortunately they didn’t trust me with a gun, but I did get to try out these bad boys…

Duck Hunting

Have I ever looked better? I think these waders were outfitted for Andre the Giant.

All morning my sister and I took turns playing with the duck whistle, which when you blow into it sounds exactly like a duck. After repeatedly blowing it, and remarking, “Wow, this duck whistle sounds just like a dying duck,” Elliot quietly remarked, “Ash, it’s called a duck call.”

Michigan Duck Hunting

Whoa. Duck call. Sorry.

The hardest part of the journey was detaching the duck boat from the minivan. (Did I really just write that?) While my offers to help were swiftly rejected (ASHLEY! JUST STAY ON THE DOCK!) Elliot finally freed boat and we were reading to get hunting.

Michigan Duck Hunting

Michigan Duck Hunting

My dad was the capitan of this voyage. My dad is a big duck-hunter, and during my childhood he would bring me trinkets like wooden jaguar heads and pretty silver necklaces back from his hunting trips down to South America.

His hunting partners have always regaled me with stories of his Annie Oakley-esque shot which I was excited to see in action. I kind of like to think of him as a suburban Indiana Jones.

Michigan Duck Hunting

This is my little sister, Bee. She truly looks cute in anything.

Michigan Duck Hunting

Michigan Duck Hunting

I loved being surrounded by Lake Huron water, which is always so clear and cold and lovely – well, lovely until you repeatedly fall into it. And for the clumsiest person in the world, walking in the Andre the Giant boots was extra challenging. I literally completely fell forward in the water four times. Poor Elliot had to walk me like a granny back to the boat. Which I also fell into, naturally.

Michigan Duck Hunting

But alas, the water was too shallow and we turned around soon after setting up the blind. These were the only ducks we got.

Michigan Duck Hunting

Which was really okay, considering the blood and gore and neck-twisting of innocent ducks may have been a little too much for me anyway. I just enjoyed being outside during such a sunny fall day, with the flaming Michigan foliage all around.

This part of Michigan is very close to my heart, and I’ll be up north again soon.

Have you ever gone duck hunting in Michigan?

Saturday Snapshot 3

Saturday Snapshot 3

So I have some big (and good) news! One – I received my au pair visa in record time and ended up buying my ticket to France yesterday. I will be leaving in 10 days and I am beyond excited.

Secondly, and please excuse the exclamation points – my dad surprised me with an early Christmas present, a Canon EOS Rebel T2i and telephoto lens! I’m such a lucky girl these days! The camera has almost twice the pixels of my old camera and is SO much faster. Not to mention the telephoto lens is so much fun to play with.

So back to the photos – these are the first shots I took with my new camera. The fall is so stunningly colorful around here so I just had to take some pictures.

I liked several that I took so please tell me, which is your favorite?

Photo 1
Cranbrook
I was taking a walk at Cranbrook and noticed all the beautiful leaves covering the forest floor. It’s funny how cameras can make you take in the details.

 

Photo 2

Cranbrook

I then looked up and loved how the dark boughs of the tree contrasted with the golden leaves. Ah, fall.

 

Photo 3

Cranbrook
Finally, these are two art students I spotted walking about a half-mile away. This new lens can do some serious creeping, right? It kind of makes me feel like a superspy. Or maybe a stalker, but superspy sounds way cooler.

 

So, which photo is your favorite? I would love to hear your comments below!

Saturday Snapshot 1

Saturday Snapshot 1

Please meet the first post of my Saturday Snapshot series! I wanted to post a photo each week of the coolest or most inspiring thing I had seen all week. As I am currently living in Michigan my life is not that interesting, but bear with me – I just got news from France that the ministry of labor approved my au pair papers! I should be in Paris in less than three weeks.

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