Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tell me a Story: Valarie From Jump Into a Book

I am excited to welcome today's guest. Valarie and I have been in a variety of projects together around the web. Her blogs are a place to get lost in beauty, learn some thing new and appreciate the world around you. So today, take sometime to deeply listen to what she has to say about gratitude. 

Welcome, Valarie, tell us a story.

Where do you live?
We live in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in Tennesse.

Tell me about your family?
My husband and I live together with our three children. My husband is a surgeon and from the country of Lebanon, I’m a music teacher and composer, as well as a blogger, writer, and photographer. Our eldest daughter is a senior at the University studying public relations and communications. Currently she is producing a TV show for a local TV station. Our second daughter is a freshman at the University studying music as a second major and discovering what her first major will be. Joining the girls is their younger brother, who is 11. He is an inventor, animator, and future farmer. Currently, he’s wanting to turn our lawn into a wheat field. All together we live with our cat Oscar.

What activity or circumstance makes you feel most alive?

I love to walk and do so every morning by a stream near the house. Traveling can also get my blood going as well as a good bookstore.

What gratitude did you feel today?
I feel most thankful for having good health, and being able to watch my children grow up and explore their world around them.

What gave you peace? Autumn is arriving here very quickly now. When I was washing the dishes this morning I looked out of the window over the sink and there was the most beautiful poppy waving in the wind. It was so exquisite and so unusual this time of year.

Any A-ha moments?
The more things I find to be thankful for, the more things I have to be thankful for.

How do you see gratitude or mindfulness? Is this a daily practice?
About four years ago I hit a really hard spell that completely absorbed my heart, mind, and soul. I felt so weary and just wanted that pain to go away , to stop droning over and over in my mind. I was reading a book which mentioned that you can complain all you want to but until you change what you are doing, the result will be the same. This person suggested starting a gratitude practice, mentioning just 4 things you are thankful for at the end of the day. So I started a gratitude journal listing 4 things a day for about two weeks. After that time I moved my gratitude practice to the morning and let myself write as many things as I could think of that I was thankful for. The practice has continued and has evolved into my written practice but also a daily practice of being thankful as I see things come up, during the day. In the evening as I’m lying in bed, I give it one more layer of gratitude for the day I have just lived before I hit the lights.

Valarie, I know gratitude is a something you strive for, practice and philosophize about? Can you share what it means to you and your family? Has this changed over the years, as you have older and younger children?
This is such an interesting question because I really can pinpoint when gratitude became absolutely apparent in my life. The year was 1990. It was my first trip to Lebanon with my new husband and our 7 month old daughter. The civil war was still continuing and as we were landing on the runway, bombs were dropping in the mountains. There was no electricity, no water; it was being shipped in from Syria, and limited times of day to buy food. The country was completely ravaged by 20 years of war. There wasn’t a building where a bomb or bullet holes didn’t exist. When asked why I was in Lebanon at such a time? My response was always the same, “I’m here for a family vacation to meet my in-laws.” People would look at me like I was mad. Maybe I was, but the lesson that was to be learned on that trip has lasted a lifetime in parenting, and just being human on this planet.

Regardless of religion, ( in Lebanon alone there are over 18 religions and sects) the Arabic language has several words of gratitude. The two that you hear constantly are humdillah and n’shukar allah. Both mean thank god. It didn’t matter what circumstances I found people in: 4 families living in a one room house, no legs, no arms, a gardener with a garden, no bread to sell, etc., all of these people would say thank god. They lived life so fully, simply, and filled with complete gratitude for everything in their life good and bad.

There was a man who sat in a wheelchair on the corner. From his little place he would have boxes surrounding him filled with different sorts of chocolate and candy. All the kids would buy their chocolate from him. When asked how he was and what had happened to him he said, “It doesn’t matter. Humdillah (thank god) that I’m here and that I am learning patience. Humdillah, humdillah. Isn’t today beautiful? “

As we have traveled around the world we have met many people and the people who have the least always seem to be the most thankful. As a family we are always thankful. It is our mode of operation.

Does your love of nature, and the natural world help you to live in gratitude? How does this shape who you are as a family?
As a family we have a great respect and love of nature. In nature one can see the boundaries slip away and have an awareness of how interconnected everything is. Recently, there has been a lot of talk in our home about sustainable living and nature preservation. How our survival as a human race and as a planet depend on it.


Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book, derives the greatest pleasure from taking the books she reads and helping them come alive with her family, book club, friends, and workshops. An advocate for literacy, Valarie spends many quality hours helping at risk readers. She spends her days with her husband, three creative children, and one adored cat. Together they live in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. You can also visit Valerie on her blog, A Place Like This.

You can find Valarie on the web in a variety of places:

Twitter: @bookjumper
Facebook: Valarie Budayr

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