Of all the wonderful people in my life, I am the most grateful for my family. My parents taught me to be kind, to assert myself, and to appreciate a good chocolate chip cookie. They are empathetic listeners and seasoned advice givers.
My mom especially has taught me about respect and gratitude. One of my favorite pieces of advice is something she would tell me if I gave her attitude for no reason: “Alicia, it’s okay to be mad or to have a bad day…but it isn’t okay to take it out on me.” Writing that reminds me that I could be a pretty bratty teenager…sorry Mama! This phrase comes to mind whenever I’m frazzled and not acting like my best self. It grounds me to remember her wise words, and I strive to put them into practice every day.
Gratitude is another mindset we both try to practice. When I was growing up, every holiday gift required a thank you note to the giver before playtime. I now appreciate thoughtfulness, whether it’s packaged in a box with a bow or comes as a gesture, and try to recognize others for their kindness. My mom is someone who regularly puts her thoughts into words. She delivers compliments, asks questions, apologizes, and asserts herself in a way I can only hope to emulate.
This year, I’ve put a lot of effort into creating thoughtful gifts instead of buying something for the holidays. When I saw this beautiful gratitude calendar on Stratejoy, I knew it would be a perfect gift for her birthday. We both make gratitude lists, and creating a daily practice of gratitude is a simple way to embrace all the good that comes our way. Here are my simple instructions for making your own gratitude calendar, which you can start any day of the year.
195 4 x 6 inch lined notecards
colorful pens or Sharpies
pictures or magazine pages
a box to hold completed calendar
optional: stickers, small pictures, pieces of ephemera
Count out 183 notecards and cut them in half to make 366 cards, or one for each day of the year plus one for Leap Year. Count out cards into stacks by month (remember the old rhyme: “Thirty days hath September,April, June, and November;February has twenty-eight alone,All the rest have thirty-one;Excepting leap year, that’s the time,When February’s days are twenty-nine“).
Label each card with a day of the year. January 1, January 2, and so on. Jazz up the cards however you want: spontaneous stickers, underlining the days of each month in a different color, and little doodles will add brightness to each day. Write the upcoming year one line down from the day. Since I wanted the calendar to start on April 14, 2013, I wrote 2013 for April 14 and all dates past that. For days that have already passed this year, I wrote 2014. Pro tip: this part of the process is much more fun if done while watching old episodes of Arrested Development!
Next, make 12 dividers, one for each month. Make a template with tabs like file folders: one with a tab sticking up on the left, one in the middle, and one on the right. Trace four of each of these on whole notecards and select pictures/magazine pages to decorate. Think seasonally and choose images to inspire you throughout the year! Glue on then trim any excess paper from the edges. Press dividers using a heavy book or weight if necessary to prevent rippling.
Decorate and label your calendar box. Organize the months and separate by file folder. If you’re giving the calendar as a gift, you may want to include a card explaining how to use the calendar:
Choose a time of day to think gratefully and give thanks. Each day, write down the year and one thing for which you are grateful. Move the card to the back of the box. Repeat each day. As the years go by, you will create a gratitude journal of positive moments and ideas. Flip through for memories that will make you smile.