PERMISSION TO PLAY : Gratitude : #p2play


Welcome to PERMISSION TO PLAY! For late Spring and Summer of 2013, Chel Micheline will be hosting a creative challenge (a sort of  “summer camp” for your inner child here) at Bliss Habits every Tuesday. And she’d love for you to join her.

All you have to do is this:
Once a week, every week, make the time to HAVE SOME CREATIVE FUN– something that allows you to let go, drop the inner critic for a while, and just have fun.

Every Tuesday, we’ll do a little “show-and-tell” about our creative experiments- you are welcome to leave a comment or link up to your own blog post about your adventure. (If you want to know more about PERMISSION TO PLAY, click here.)  And since today is Tuesday … here we go!

memorial for my mother-in-law
memorial for my mother-in-law

“The way to express our gratitude for life is by being truly alive, not hiding from life in a corner, or watching life pass us by. The biggest fear we have is not the fear of dying, but the fear to be alive, to be ourselves, to say what we feel, to ask for what we want, to say yes when we want to say yes, and no when we want to say no. To express what is in our hearts is to be truly alive. If we pretend to be what we are not, how can we be truly alive?”

– Don Miguel Ruiz

On the average day, I’ll give my parrot, Winnie, a few treats- a walnut, a whole grain chip, etc, throughout the day.  She can’t articulate “thank you” (yet! she seems to be working on that word, actually), but I can tell she’s grateful for the treats. She expresses her gratitude by her behavior- she  eagerly comes to the front of the cage, waits for me to open the door, and then takes the treat in her little claw and devours it with vigor. She chatters and whistles and tweets happily as she does so.

When I give my cat their breakfast every morning (eight hours without food- how did they survive?!) how do they say “thank you”? They eat, like crazy. They devour their food, tails in the air, purring, too. It’s like that every meal time.

When I water my plants after a few dry days, they express gratitude by standing tall, and maybe even growing a few new leaves in the following week.

And when Gracie gets something she *really* likes, how does she show it? Sure, she always says “thank you”.

But you know how I can really tell that she likes something? She’ll USE it. If it’s a new pair of fancy sneakers, she’ll put them straight on and wear them every day for weeks. If it’s a new game, she’ll play it, constantly, and talk to me about it. If it’s a edible treat, she’ll ask for just one more after she eats the first. She’ll ask for more every day until the treat is gone.

You see what I am getting at? Gratitude is not about the words- it’s not about articulating the right message or getting on your knees and fervently saying “thank you thank you thank you” to the universe.

True gratitude is expressed by *living*- living fully. By embracing life. By enjoying life. By doing the things you love. By pursuing happiness. By being truly and deeply alive in any way you know how. And if you don’t know how, you express gratitude by investing time into discovering what it is that makes you happy.

My mother-in-law, Patty, passed away unexpectedly a few days ago. She was just 71. I know for some that’s considered far in life, but my grandmother lived until her mid-90’s and went out fighting, so 71 is pretty damn young for me. And for everyone who knew Patty. To say we were shocked in the understatement of a lifetime. To say our hearts are broken… well, that just goes without saying.

I loved my mother-in-law, but I didn’t know her well. She lived on the other side of the country, and spent a lot of time traveling around the world and pursuing different hobbies. We spent a few weeks with her during a few summers, and she visited whenever she had the chance. But one thing I *do* know about Patty is that she lived fully.

As soon as she retired from her grueling job, she began to pursue her life with vigor. She began to travel regularly (including going along with my husband Tom to Vietnam when it was time to bring Gracie home…), she began to make friends, the life-long kind. She began rug hooking. And she began an obsession with Starbucks. No matter where she went, or who she was with, there would be Starbucks. And not any old drink, either- she had her own special blend that she liked and insisted on.

I’ll be honest-  I didn’t quite know what to make of my mother-in-law’s approach to post-retirement life. I grew up with my grandmother living in the bedroom next to mine.  In my close knit Italian family, it was super common for one of the adult children to have their mothers and fathers live with them after marriage, and I was the lucky grandkid who got to spend every single day with her grandma. She cooked and she went shopping and she went out to Senior Citizens Club every Tuesday and Thursday and had lunch with friends and she watched TV and and she read books outside and she was just always around. She was my best friend.

And a lot of the other kids in my neighborhood had the same thing going on. Live-in grandparents. Or grandparents who lived a few blocks away.

While my parents do not live with me, they do live a few blocks away. I didn’t really plan this, but it happened anyway. Gracie spends several days a week with them,  and when they’re not with Gracie, they’re on the phone with me, arranging schedules so that she can get right back there. So Gracie has a similar relationship with my parents as I did with my own grandparents. I’m happy about that.

But Patty was her own person. She wasn’t going to sit in a chair in the corner and wear granny glasses and start watching soap operas all hours of the day. Why? Because that wasn’t who she was or who she wanted to be. She went to Egypt, Spain, Chile. She went on cruises. She sent us postcards from foreign locales and cool little gifts from all the different places she went to. She started rug hooking. And she drank a lot of Starbucks. When she came to visit, she plotted out all the locations of Starbucks in a 30 mile radius and became friendly with the baristas.

I thought it was all very odd, to be brutally honest. But now, in hindight, I realize it wasn’t odd at all. It was just her own individual approach to life.

Patty was living. She was being grateful to life by embracing her post-retirement time and doing all the things she only dreamed of when she was younger. She was true to herself. She honored life by enjoying it. She liked to travel and she liked to rug hook and she liked her Starbucks a specific way. So why shouldn’t she have those things?

It was no surprise that her local Starbucks baristas attended her funeral and created a little memorial at the store for her (see above). She appreciated what they did, and they appreciated Patty for being herself, which entailed being a keen appreciator of a good cup of Starbucks coffee.

So this week I come here with the reminder that we all *need* to be doing more living. More being true to ourselves, more enjoying, more discovering what it is that makes us happy. Because we don’t know when our time will end. All we know for sure is that we get the privilege of having these amazing human bodies that come complete with minds that can process ideas and make decisions, and hearts that can beat and then break from sadness.

How on earth do we say thank you for that? For this chance to be alive? We live. We pursue happiness.  We embrace what it means to be alive. Whatever that means for you- whether it’s global travel, or just curling up on the couch with a great book. Just go do it. Allow yourself to live a little.


“Our Creator gives us the gift of life, and the way to say, “Thank you” is by enjoying our lives, by living our lives intensely, by being who we really are. Life is passing so quickly. Even if we live one hundred years, life is too short. What will we do with our lives? Should we spend our lives feeling sorry for ourselves? Should we spend our lives creating conflict with the people we love by judging them, trying to control them, or telling them how we want them to be? Should we spend our lives being afraid to be alive, afraid to express what we are in the world?”
– Don Miguel Ruiz

It’s never too late to join in. Simply have some creative fun and get ready to share it next Tuesday. You can leave a comment here or create a blog post over on your site and link it to Bliss Habits on Tuesdays. We’re even on Twitter: Kathy added a # to p2play to make #p2play for twitter! Share your creations there too! We are @BlissHabits (Kathy) and @GingerblueArt (Chel) if you’d like to copy us too!

Here’s a banner you can put on your blog:


the code for this badge (just copy/paste into your own blog):

<a href=””><img alt=”playchallenge” src=”” width=”200″ height=”142″ /></a>

Chel Micheline is a mixed-media artist, curator, writer, and avid gardener/reader/swimmer who lives in Southwest Florida with her husband and daughter. When Chel’s not making art or pondering the Bliss Habits, she’s blogging at (come say hi!) or posting new things in the gingerblue etsy shop.

9 thoughts on “PERMISSION TO PLAY : Gratitude : #p2play

  1. Once again, my condolences to you and your family. Patty sounds like a wonderfully spirited woman and it sounds like you knew her better than you thought. This is a sweet tribute to her.

  2. My dad has a Starbucks passion too. He goes to the same one every morning and sees the same people. They go to each other’s parties and such—two of them even came to my niece’s funeral three years ago. There’s something about Starbucks…if I had one closer I would probably visit more often.

    I’m sorry about the sudden loss…:(

    • I moved here just when the Starbucks thing was starting (late 90’s) and we only got one a few years ago so I never really understood it (ours is more of a tourist trap). But I know it’s sort of become a community gathering spot in a lot of places and I know that if we had something like that when I first moved here, I’d be there all the time!

  3. BIG heartfelt condolences going out to you & yours, Chel… Keeping you & your family in my metta prayers. Lovely to meet Patty by way of this post, and what she inspired and fully she lived her life. Funny about the Starbucks… sweet, really… I’m not a Starbucks person (more tea than coffee! ;o), but I get the wanting to be living close to something important. Lots to reflect on here… Be taking good care, Chel. Emailing you… ((LOVE & HUGS))

    • Thank you so much, Tracy. I think the whole Starbucks thing is teaching me that it’s *okay* to love what you love and seek it out wherever you go. Patty was a proud Starbucks fan. She loved her coffee and wasn’t afraid to ask for it exactly how she wanted. We should all do more of that in life, I think. <3

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