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Starting the New Year with an Attitude of Gratitude.

Let's face it. 2008 was not the best year for me, either personally or professionally. The difficult end of my marriage. Financial challenges. A tanking real estate market. Global financial market meltdown.

Yikes. It's about enough to drive me to move to Belize and rent lawn chairs to tourists.

Thusly, my year-end retreat to Southwest Florida was well timed and much needed. It provided me an opportunity to get out of my usual routine and take a fresh look at things. Get out of my fully-furnished rut, put some new eyeballs on my situation and get some sand in my Crocs.

I don't necessarily FEEL any better just yet. But I did remember a few things while I was gone. Most significantly, that it's my attitude that determines my outcomes. That in spite of the seemingly insurmountable circumstances, I do have the ability to choose to live my life with thankfulness, gratitude and a commitment to serve others.

And so I'm starting 2009 with a "Gratitude List." I hope you'll write your own today and create a way to help someone feel better about themselves, too.

Today, I'm grateful for:

1. My kids. If you're a parent, you understand the blessing of kids. I now am able to see my parents through different eyes and have a better relationship with them as a result. My kids remind me to lighten up on a regular basis.

2. Good friends. I spent a few hours last night with some friends. We ate chicken and noodle soup that my friend Liz lovingly prepared, and played Scrabble. It was simple. Drama-free. (Except that 3 the 4 of us are in varying stages of relationship breakup and variably whiny.) Heart-filled. And real. Thank you Liz, Ellen and Tim. I am grateful for you three.

3. Warm socks, gloves and a hat. I went out to walk the dog this morning and it was damned nippy. Those few little woolen things are so simple and so cheap. And they make my life better. I remember, too, that many people on this planet don't have these things, much less a dog to walk. Or a warm home to live in. Or a pot of hot coffee awaiting their return.

4. My teachers. There have been many people over the years - some actual teachers - who have had a profound impact on my life. Mr. Cox was my high school math teacher. He called me "Boots" and was, perhaps, the most joy-filled human I'd ever met to that point. Tragically, he was killed in a car accident many years ago. Then there are the spiritual teachers I've known in person and in writing: His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Wallace Black Elk, Pema Chodron, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Buddha, Ken Wilber, Lao Tzu, Jesus, Tim Laughter, Walt Wirth. Always reminding me to look outside of my self. Be of service to other people. Remember my place in things.

5. Support. I have been fortunate that for over 20 years I have chosen to surround myself with amazing people, individuals who work more than anything at being better people. I especially have a group of men that I meet with on a regular basis for encouragement and support. Texas Hold 'Em is NOT what we're about.

6. Mac. That's my dog. The little shit. Mac Attack. Angus Macduff. He has his own Facebook page, and friends that I don't know. Explain that one to me! He wakes me on mornings when I'd rather pull the covers over my head and hibernate. He loves me even when I feel unlovable. He keeps me warm at night. And he only occasionally eats things I'd rather he not.

7. All of my gadgets. I'm really lucky, you see. I have things that surround me that make my life easier. A microwave and an iPhone. My car and my iMac. A working furnace and a fax machine. I'm really lucky. Damned lucky.

8. Coffee. I love it and it loves me.

Here's to an ass-kicking 2009!