Stay Close - Plane WindowA reflection from 35,000 feet, Jeff wrote: For me, gratitude is about dialing it back and viewing life from the cruising altitude of an airplane. When I zoom into the minutia of my life, it’s easy to become unhappy. I see problems and challenges: arguments with friends, traffic jams and parking tickets, business disagreements and other life problems. But when I zoom out and look at things from 35,000 feet, I can see so much more for which to be grateful: people in my life who love me, own a company that I care about, my basic needs met, the ability to travel and have great experiences. Life is good. For me, it’s about looking at life from a distance and realizing how blessed I am.

My reflection: Sometimes my problems seem huge and they tend to suffocate gratitude. But when I look at the total of my life, from above, it looks pretty good. Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine Monk, says, “Grateful living is the awareness that we stand on holy ground.”

Today’s Promise to consider: It’s easy to look at what I don’t have or to focus on what I wish was different, but today I’ll look at my life from an altitude of 35,000 feet and be thankful for my blessings. It can be hard to stay in gratitude, but being grateful makes me a better person.


603665_10100213671856819_1431101592_nHenri Nouwen, Dutch philosopher and theologist, wrote in Here and NowJoy is not the same as happiness. We can be unhappy about many things, but joy can still be there. Joy does not simply happen to us – it is a choice. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. Each day, whatever may have happened, is a day to be grateful for.

My reflection: Nouwen says that joy and unhappiness can coexist. I used to think that one excluded the other and sometimes, especially in moments of deep trauma like Jeff’s addiction, I was overwhelmed with such great unhappiness that I didn’t allow joy a space in my life. Nouwen goes on to say that joy is a choice that is ours to make, regardless of what is happening in our daily lives. Although we might be unhappy in the moment, it does not need to extinguish our joy.

Today’s Promise to consider: Bad things happen to good people. At times, I might feel deeply unhappy, but I refuse to allow it to eliminate my joy. Today, I choose to stay in gratitude. All I have is today and I choose not to waste it.



IMG_2150A recovering addict wrote to me, I want to thank you. Your story inspired me to get to the point I am today. I read your book while being incarcerated and then passed it on to my mom. She read it and never lost hope in me, even though I am sure it was very hard at times, especially when I lost hope in myself. We now have the best relationship that we’ve ever had.

I didn’t truly know what it was like to be happy at the time, but now with just shy of a year clean I am truly happy. It’s amazing how much your life can change in just one year. I thank God for everyday I’m still alive.

My reflection: This young man is the hero. He fought for himself and his family. He is happy today, living a sober life and enjoying an honest relationship with himself and his mother. We celebrate his year of sobriety and we celebrate his today. We say thank you right back.

When my sons and I joined together to tell our story, publishing our fourteen-year tragedy was the last thing I expected to do. I wrote out of pain. But today is a new day and Jeff has been living a sober life for seven years. He is happy and our family is forever grateful that he came home to himself and to us.

Today’s Promise to consider: We will continue to reach out and help others. We won’t allow fear and shame to keep us silent or to suffocate our hope. Today, we choose to stay in gratitude.





Jeff and niece Iysabella

Jeff and niece Iysa

A mother wrote, My son is in active addiction. Last year, one day before Thanksgiving, he called home asking if he could come the next day to our family dinner. I asked everyone, including his brothers, and we all agreed we wanted him here. He brought flowers: two for me, and two for each of his grammas. I am grateful that our family was able to see that even though my son was in the throes of addiction and all the ugliness that goes with it, our son and his heart were still there.

My reflection: This entry reminds me of the time when I had a bilateral mastectomy and Jeff, still in active addiction, wanted to help me. For as chaotic as his life was then, I decided to find something positive in that moment, the humanity still present inside this child of mine. I asked him to wash my hair in the kitchen sink because I couldn’t raise my arms above my head. He washed, dried and styled my hair. He asked me if he had done a good job. I wrote:

I could see in his face the concerted effort this task required of him, but he never gave up. My son, my chameleon son, this was the tender child I remembered, the kid I knew, and I wondered how could such kindness be contrasted with such self destruction; the polarity, the duplicity was undeniable. But I looked at my boy who was now a young man and I replied, with a smile, “Yes, Jeff, it’s perfect. Better than my hairdresser in fact.” He returned my smile, going along with this loving game, played with a hair dryer and a brush.

Today’s Promise to consider: Beauty is all around us, but we need to open our eyes and our hearts to see it. Within the beauty, there is hope. Today, I choose to stay in gratitude.