In Gratitude, Life Management

Sharing Stories of Gratitude

Gratitude is easy to express when life is going well, and a lot tougher when things are not the way we’d like them to be.

This month in the US we celebrate Thanksgiving — a time set aside each year to count our blessings and express gratitude. This is the first of a four-part blog series dedicated to sharing stories that exemplify the power of expressing gratitude.

I recall many years ago, when I was a junior in high school and I had applied to attend an internationally-acclaimed private high school in Michigan for my senior year.  As a singer who had outgrown the music program in my public high school in Phoenix, I was thrilled to be accepted into Interlochen Arts Academy for my final year of high school. The next challenge was figuring out how to pay for it. Interlochen had offered me a small scholarship, but my family still had to come up with the majority of the tuition, room and board in order for me to attend.

My parents were having serious financial problems, and I did not see any way that they could pay for it…until my mother’s diamond ring was stolen and the insurance money provided exactly the amount needed to cover the cost.

While attending Interlochen, I met my first serious boyfriend.  As is often the case with young love, we both thought that we were meant to be together forever. Then we graduated from high school; he went to a college in Minnesota and I went to Eastman School of Music in New York.

Showing gratitude in the lean times

It was hard being apart. It was also a real financial stretch for me to attend Eastman. My father’s income was too high for me to qualify for any financial aid, but my parents were in the process of filing for bankruptcy and getting a divorce, and there was no money available to help me with college expenses. Since I didn’t qualify for any student loans, I had to take out regular bank loans to cover all expenses for my freshman year. My plan was to legally establish my financial independence during my freshman year, and then reapply for financial aid beginning my sophomore year.

More Disappointment

At the end of my freshman year, I went into the Financial Aid Office at Eastman … tax records in hand to prove that I had become financially independent from my parents, and to reapply for aid under my new status. That’s when I learned that whatever status I entered with, that was the status Eastman would recognize for all four years of my time there.  Although my parents were not providing me with any financial support, I was still not eligible for any form of financial aid — not even student loans or work-study — as long as I remained at Eastman. I had no choice but to transfer to another school. I was devastated!

I researched several colleges I could transfer to, including the one my boyfriend was attending—Macalester College, a small private liberal arts college in St. Paul, Minnesota. When I visited Macalester, I fell in love with the school and with Emma Small, the private voice teacher I’d study with. In addition, they offered me a generous financial aid package that included a scholarship, work study, and student loans. I was sad to leave Eastman, but thrilled to be going to a great school that provided financial assistance, and also happy about being reunited with my boyfriend after we’d spent a whole a year apart. It couldn’t get any better than that!

gratitude, trust and loveLife was great … until I discovered that my boyfriend was not as committed to our relationship as I was. He had been “fooling around” during my freshman year at Eastman, and he continued to be unfaithful even after I transferred to the same college. I remember how painful it was to realize there would be no future for us as a couple. I felt devastated the day I finally broke up with him. That night, I met the man who would eventually become my husband.


From Bad Can Come Good

Why I am I telling you all of this?  

I’ve experienced many disappointments in my life, and each time something that seemed bad turned into something good. I’ve learned to feel gratitude for everything that has happened to me.

I could go so far as to say that if my mother’s ring had not been stolen back in 1976, I would not have met and married my husband of 36 years. That ring funded my year at Interlochen, where I met my boyfriend, who eventually led me to Macalester College, which is where I met my husband. Each of the “unfortunate” circumstances I shared with you became a true blessing in my life.

This chain of events reminds me of The Butterfly Effect–the concept that small causes can have larger effects.

When have you experienced a major life change because of one tiny, seemingly insignificant decision you made or event that happened that completely changed the trajectory of your life? Please comment below.

You Have a Choice!

If your life isn’t what you want it to be—whether that’s due to a cluttered schedule, disorganized space, or disempowering thoughts that hold you back—then I want you to know you have a choice. You can choose to create new surroundings, a new mindset and a new life. When you realize that you have a choice, you give yourself the power to create change and to direct your life.

Are you ready to make the choice, right now?

Let me help you. Let’s schedule a no-cost, no-pressure Discovery Call today!

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Showing 3 comments
  • Paula S.

    I love reading about your personal journey! Thanks for sharing it. This blog reminds me of the movie “Sliders,” where a young woman misses her train one morning on the way to work and that single event leads to many others(some good and some bad). The movie continually switches scenes between what would have happened had she not missed her train and what happened when she did actually miss her train. I found it fascinating to watch the events unfold in each scenario. It taught me that every decision counts! It all starts with the lens through which we choose to look at the events of our life. Look forward to reading the rest of the postings in this series!

    • Kathy Paauw

      Paula, thanks for sharing your takeaway after watching the movie “Sliders.” The lens through which we view our experiences has a huge effect on our outcomes. I have more to say about that in the next three posts in this series, so stay tuned!

  • Sheida Majlessi

    Dear Kathy, love your story…..It is a great example of how different the outcome would become when we choose different responses to events that come our way….I would love to watch that movie “Sliders” or many more of similar situations which would teach us great lessons in life. Thank you for sharing your personal story with us….

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