If you’ve watched Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, you probably know me, Paige Hemmis. You know, that blonde gal on the construction site wearing a pink tool belt, gloves and hard hat?
I travelled for 10 years on an amazing show, that allowed me to build homes and dreams for families that have faced some of the hardest times and largest struggles in their life. I loved helping families, building homes, designing the ultimate kids bedroom, and I cried every day at the generosity and kindness of strangers.
I now work on the Hallmark Channel on the Home and Family Show as a DIY Expert. I get to be surrounded by amazing people everyday with truly amazing values … we just wrapped filming our Thanksgiving Special and it got me thinking about a lot of things …
Why I Love Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday here in the states and we are about to celebrate it!
I love Thanksgiving because it’s a time to get together with family and friends, and reflect on what truly makes you happy. It’s a time to be grateful, to express that gratitude to the loved ones in your life. For me, Thanksgiving is like Christmas without the presents. Of course, everyone likes giving and receiving fun things and Christmas brings its own special joy. But for me, the time we have to share with one another is a gift in itself. “Your presence is your present” is the best way that I can sum it up.
Not only do I love the opportunity to reflect and to be grateful, but I LOVE Thanksgiving food. It’s warm, tasty, filling, and satisfying…and not just to the tummy. The smells that surround this holiday make me happy. I don’t know if it’s how great the food actually tastes, or the memories that this food conjures up. Either way, I feel that a Thanksgiving meal is good for the heart, the soul and the tummy.
Let me give you a little history in the story of thanksgiving and how it came to be!
In the 1600’s, when settlers moved to America, there was a group of “Pilgrims” and “Indians”. Today, the more politically-correct term would be “colonists” and “native Americans”. Although there was fighting and discourse between the two groups, a group of allies from both sides met to share a feast and celebration. Legends say that this celebration lasted for three days and took place in 1621 sometime between September and November. It was a time to get together, and celebrate a bountiful harvest. Although legend has it that this was the first Thanksgiving, the holiday did not come into law until the 1800’s.
A side note for all those amazing women out there…A woman by the name of Sarah Hale decided that she was going to make it her mission to have Thanksgiving declared as a national holiday. Since we had experienced war and loss in our country, she believed that a special time of year for gratitude was important. She was a magazine editor and great writer (writing “Mary had a little lamb” among many others), and in 1827 started a campaign that included writing numerous editorials publically and privately to senators, officials and presidents. She did this continuously for 36 years (a lesson to us to never give up!). Finally, in 1863 she convinced Abraham Lincoln that this day was needed to heal the wounds of the nation, and to give care and love to those widows, orphans and all sufferers. He declared it a holiday that year, and it has continued to be a holiday to this day. This day was a day to reflect, to remember what our ancestors went through to create our country, and to forgive the wounds that civil war had caused. It was about putting aside differences and coming together for peace and gratitude.
So what is the modern day meaning of Thanksgiving?
The modern day meaning of Thanksgiving is not that different to the original spirit of the holiday. It is a time to express complete gratitude, to gather together as a group, to put aside differences, and to simply share love with one another.
How I practice Gratitude & How it’s changed my life
Being grateful is an attitude; it is a conscious decision and action to be thankful for whatever you have in life, and wherever you are in life.
Being on the road for so many years with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, I saw gratitude in many shapes and sizes. I saw families who had no material possessions have the biggest hearts and the most generosity. I saw others with every possession imaginable who were never grateful for any of it. The way I see it, you can practice being thankful. You can choose every day to be thankful for what you have, or lament on what you don’t have. Gratitude is a choice, and a very powerful choice at that. When you focus on what wonderful things you have in your life, and be thankful for what you have and who you are surrounded by, you will gain more and more things in life to be grateful for.
Gratitude is contagious, and can come in many shapes and sizes. Even something as simple as a smile in line at the grocery store can make gratitude grow. Try it. It’s powerful!
How to teach others the Gift of Gratitude
I believe that teaching gratitude starts at a very young age. I remember being in grade school (1st grade) and having to do community service. I thought it was such a waste of time…especially when I’d rather go play outside and ride my bike. What I thought was a “waste of time” turned out to be one of the greatest gifts of my life. It showed me how to give back…how to give of my time and myself to help someone else. It felt amazing, which is probably why I still cherish the gift of helping people. I’m grateful that I was taught at an early age how important and wonderful it is to give of yourself.
I know in Australia you don’t celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving but we can all celebrate and practice the art of gratitude … In a world of uncertain times, struggles & challenges it can be hard. But if you take the time to look really closely in your own backyard – there is so much to be grateful for and that is a beautiful thing.
5 things to be grateful for is easy … Try 30!
Writing a list of 5 things you a grateful for is easy … even 10! My challenge to all of you is to practice gratitude everyday for 30 days. You will find by Christmas time this year that Gratitude has been the greatest gift of all. Everything will have a new glow – trust me. To help you out and share with you my gratitude, here is my list of 30 things I am grateful in my life today!
- I’m grateful for my mom – who raised my brother and me alone yet still rocked every minute of it and gave us opportunities to be grateful every single day.
- I’m grateful for my step-mom Joy who showed me how to be a strong business woman, and who took me in when I was only three years old and treated me with the utmost kindness.
- I’m grateful for my husband who is the first person in my life to make me believe in truth and honesty and faithfulness.
- I’m grateful for the life my husband and I created together.
- I’m grateful for my brother who is one of my best friends. You can’t pick your family, but I would pick him to be my friend any day. He’s amazing.
- I’m grateful for the opportunity I had to love critters from a very early age. I’m grateful for the cats and dogs I have loved throughout the years.
- I’m grateful for my cat, Mercury, who was my traveling companion on the road for 8 years. She’s 17-years old now and I’m grateful every day that she’s still with us and fills my live with joy with her distinct meow-purr.
- I’m grateful for my tiger kitties…my two boys Eros and Simba who enrich my life every day (and night with snuggles)
- I’m grateful for my dogs who show me unconditional love and make me feel protected.
- I’m grateful for the amazing friends that I have in my life. These people are the people we pick for our family. I’m so grateful that I am surrounded by people I can count on. Whether an hour, a day, a week or a year goes by, I know that they would be here for me in an instant.
- I am grateful for my husband’s family. I’m grateful that I married into a wonderful family that brings joy to my life daily. I’m especially grateful for his parents that raised a wonderful husband and father to our furry children.
- I’m grateful for the ability I have to work…for the many years on Extreme that I got to touch lives and help families across the country have a better home.
- I’m grateful for my home – I’m grateful that I was able to work hard and afford a home that is inviting, welcoming and perfect for what we need. I love my home, and what we’ve done to make it feel like home. I love the guests that come to our home. I love that so much joy is generated here, and I’m so grateful that I get to share this joy with others.
- I’m grateful for my current job – the job that keeps me at home to truly appreciate my friends, family and fur babies. I dreamed of a job that would film locally so that I can stay home. I am soooo grateful for that!
- I’m grateful for my family in Cali and in the mid-west. I have been blessed with some of the most amazing people – people who feel like soul mates to me – and I’m so grateful that they were placed in my life. I’m even more grateful that I’m so close to them – if not in miles, then in spirit. I’m grateful that the matriarch of our family, “Dimmy” is 94 years old and is still taking care of all of us!
- I’m grateful for the people I’ve met throughout the years that have shared life lessons with me that helped me shape the person that I am today.
- I’m grateful to live in a country that allows us to be free.
- I’m grateful to live in a time when a woman can do anything she puts her mind to.
- I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to get a great education, both on the undergrad side and post-graduate side.
- I’m grateful that I get to work with people who I love dearly every single day.
- I’m grateful for the opportunity to teach others how to do what I know and love. I’m so thankful that I get to share my knowledge with others.
- I’m grateful that I get to work with others who I can learn from every single day. I’m surrounded by such talent…in so many different ways.
- I’m grateful that I can afford to have nice, safe (and sometimes fast) cars.
- Ok – this one might sound strange – but I’m really grateful for my Orkin man. With a crazy fear of spiders, I’m so grateful that I have someone helping spiders stay away from my house!
- I’m grateful for the basics – hot water, a comfortable bed, great food – things that can easily be taken for granted until you see those people without such basics that we overlook!
- I’m grateful that I live in a place where most of the year has amazing weather. I love the heat, and I love being able to drive (or fly) to another area that has a different landscape and weather system.
- I’m grateful for my sight, and even though it’s not perfect, I’m grateful that I can see and have the means to buy glasses when I need them!
- I’m grateful form my ability to hear. It’s an easy one to take for granted, but if you ever need a reminder, attend a Starkey Hearing Foundation mission and you will never take your hearing for granted again!
- I am grateful for my health. Every day that I’m healthy is a day to celebrate.
- I am grateful for the health and wellness of my friends and family. After going through sickness with two close members of the family, it is a blessing and gift that we wake up day after day with our health. My mom always says, “If you have your health, you have everything!”
What are you grateful for?