Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to this week’s Grateful Heart Monday entry, which is always an entry in gratitude from somewhere in my life. Today, I want to give thanks for a very relaxing day trip my friend Ronn Musser and I took one Friday afternoon just over a week ago now to the small town of Yellow Springs, Ohio, a town that really felt a lot like it was straight off the set of the movie Pleasantville!

If you’ve never had the chance to see the movie Pleasantville, I encourage you to give it a whirl. While this entry in gratitude isn’t necessarily about that movie, the warming and welcoming energy from all the townsfolk in Pleasantville is exactly what I felt during my entire afternoon stay in Yellow Springs. From the very moment we drove into the downtown vicinity where all the cute little shops and restaurants were, I noticed people everywhere were smiling and conversing amongst one another. It felt very inviting indeed.

Our day began at a 19th Century restaurant named the Ye Olde Trail Tavern, which had a number of entrance ways I had to duck below, assumingely because people of my height didn’t probably exist with great regularity in the early 1800s. Built in 1827, the tavern and restaurant definitely held the air of stepping back in time, which could be felt immediately upon walking in. As we were cheerfully greeted and seated on the outdoor patio on a 68-degree sunny day, I noticed the menu was quite eclectic, from German fare to beer battered fish to a number of very interesting sandwiches and burgers. My personal favorite was the huge piping hot pretzel sticks and beer cheese we started our meal with. Everything else we ate was absolutely delectable as well and I want to give our waitress kudos too for giving us plenty of friendly tips for things to see and do during our visit, including where I could get some sweet treats, something I always do when visiting somewhere in small town America.

Most of the rest of our day after our lunch was done was spent going into all the neat little shoppes in town, where I can honestly say that every worker or owner greeted us with not just a smile, but also bountiful conversation. I very much appreciated the owner of the first store we entered, the Village Herb Shoppe, who gave me a free white sage bundle after I shared some of my spiritual journey with him. With each subsequent store, the warm feeling continued. At Basho apparel, the store owner was from Greece who made his own shirt designs, one of which I liked so much I bought. Another store owner took pride in how he’s doing his part to protect the environment with products that create sustainability. At Yellow Springs Toy Company, the employee had a great chat with my friend Ronn and talked about totally loving his unique job. At Tom’s Market, we walked up and down the aisles just taking in the variety of products that we never get to see in the big supermarkets near our homes where I also noticed all the employees seemed very happy. We ended up getting a few homemade desserts there that included a “key limb bomb” and a “cheesecake cone”. Wow is all I can say about how tasty they were! A few other key notables to mention from a few other stores we visited that brought a warm smile to my face included seeing a black cat sleeping so soundly in an empty bin at the comic book store that she didn’t even stir an ounce when petted, or the shopkeeper who busily swept off his sidewalk until not one spec of debris remained and his area was spotless, or the friendly metaphysical shop workers who guided me to find a few owl crystals for my partner, or the amazing photo work I saw in one store that when I asked who the incredible photographer was, the employee said it was him (Ryan L. Taylor) and thanked me profusely while talking about where many of his pictures were taken.

Overall, I must say that I thoroughly felt uplifted and renewed during my entire afternoon visit to Yellow Springs, Ohio. It’s no secret that I’ve struggled immensely trying to feel that way in Toledo, Ohio, where on most days, it feels the exact opposite. So, this was truly refreshing and uplifting to my heart and soul. Yellow Springs is beautiful town that I could totally see myself living in, especially when I saw a community board near the local market that posted many of the things to do around town, including countless free spiritual classes of things I’m totally interested in. I actually wished after seeing that board that I could have stayed much longer.

Nevertheless, Yellow Springs, Ohio is a lovely town with plenty of lovely people who take great pride and joy in not only their stores, but also in their town itself, a town I hope to visit again one day and a town most definitely worthy of being the subject of today’s Grateful Heart Monday entry!

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude remains the sole expression of my writing at the start of every week, which for today is for meeting Pastor Troy Budreau of the Faith Baptist Church in Ray, Michigan, a man who was randomly assigned the seat next to me on a plane ride home recently, in a row I hadn’t originally intended to be in.

Just over a week ago now, I returned from a five-day visit to the Washington, DC region after catching up and connecting with some dear friends (Love you Peter, Sammy, Sterling, Lee, and Darrell!). I was flying Delta and had picked my seat months prior at the time the flight got booked. I usually choose the same seats whenever I fly, generally near back of the plane because I have the unfortunate tendency of always needing to go the restroom more than once during every flight. That being said, at the time of my check in, 24 hours before flight time, I noticed my seat had been changed from 18C, the one that I had booked, to 12C, which was the aisle seat of an emergency exit row. I was surprised because typically those aren’t assigned till the day of the flight and only by the gate agents. Nevertheless, shortly after boarding the plane on a sunny Wednesday afternoon, a sharply dressed gentleman in a full business suit pointed to the only seat next to me indicating that he would be sitting by the window. While I had planned to watch an episode of The Orville during my flight that I had downloaded prior to getting to the airport, for some reason I decided to ask this man what the occasion was for his fancy attire. That was ironic in itself because in recent years with all my chronic pain issues, I tend to tune out any passengers sitting next to me because quite often most conversations with random passengers are usually superficial in nature and feel awkward to me. I was pleasantly surprised though that what transpired for the rest of the flight after I asked that question was an amazing conversation with a humble man who was able to lift my spirits quite incredibly.

I believe everyone has a story that’s worth listening to and Pastor Troy Budreau definitely has one of those. While it’s not my intention to share any of that for the subject of this article in gratitude today, it is my intention to say that Troy is a very kind soul, who I honestly believe was meant to sit next to me. I don’t think there are any accidents because not once during the flight did I want our conversation to end. I felt God was very present in our entire conversation, as Troy talked about the pain of his journey and the many learning lessons he’s had along the way, even sharing with me a story or two about the ups and downs of being a pastor. In turn, he intently listened to much of the pain of my own journey in life, never once judging me for any of it, never once bringing any admonishment upon me whatsoever, something that so many religious people often do to me whenever I converse with them. What Troy did instead was hold space, as I did for him, where two souls were able to embrace with Light for the approximate hour and a half flight.

As I’ve spoken about so many times before, the common response when an individual shares about the pain being endured in their life is usually to be offered some piece of advice, something I loathe and detest more than anything now. When it comes to many Christians I’ve come across and shared some of my painful journey with, that is frequently what I’m given, the result of which is me feeling more down than up. I am thankful that Troy didn’t do this at all. Troy instead carried the love of Christ in a way I haven’t experienced through much of my life, especially as of late. For those brief moments our paths crossed randomly above 10,000 feet, I truly felt as if Christ himself was embracing me gently through Troy’s kind and loving words.

So, on this Grateful Heart Monday, I dedicate my sole piece of gratitude to you Pastor Troy Budreau, for carrying the love of Christ in a way that left me feeling uplifted and renewed. I hope our paths may cross again one day, but until then, may God bless you, my friend.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Oh, and P.S. – Just before I left the plane, I learned Troy too had been placed in the seat next to me at the last minute, when he got to the gate! Now if that’s not God working, then I don’t know what is!

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where the focus is always on a piece of gratitude from my life, which for today is for a show I wrote about on my Facebook timeline a few times lately that has been really helping me to laugh lately…and A LOT at that…something I’ve needed badly in my life for some time. What’s the show? The Orville, starring Seth MacFarland, on Hulu streaming. A show I initially didn’t give a chance, but one I finally did, am so very grateful I did.

I was never really a Seth MacFarland fan given his type of sarcastic humor in the Family Guy show that he created, which is why when I saw his new Star Trek-type show coming out in 2017 titled The Orville, I was uninterested in watching it, even though I’m a fan of most Star Trek type shows and movies. But after one of my fraternity brothers (thank you Matt Christiansen) recently asked me to give it a whirl for at least a few episodes, I decided I would, mostly because Matt’s a great guy who has a type of humor that totally makes me laugh. I assumed that if Matt’s humor was anything like what The Orville’s humor was like, then maybe I would like it. And I totally have!

Once I passed the second episode of the first season, I never turned back and have been regularly binge-watching this series. The belly laughs I’ve had thus far while watching it, along with its numerous positive messages, have left me constantly feeling uplifted every time I’ve sat down to catch a new episode. If you’ve ever seen the movie, Galaxy Quest, starring Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver, which is essentially a Star Trek spoof of a film, and one of my favorite comedies of all time, then you most likely would like this show as much as I have.

Laughing is hard for me. Living in chronic pain on most days honestly makes it hard to laugh, let alone even smile. But there hasn’t been a single episode yet of The Orville where I haven’t laughed incredibly hard or felt better by the end of it. I have to give it to Seth MacFarland for creating something that I feel is dramatically different than Family Guy, which essentially to me has always been a type of potty humor that doesn’t interest me.

Currently, I’m in the midst of Season 3 and can’t wait to see where the direction of this show continues to head. I’ve come to learn this show has a huge fan base and every time I bring it up with friends, I find so many others who seem to like it just as much as I do. I truly am hoping that this show gets renewed for a 4th Season, but at least for now, I found an outlet that definitely induces laughter in me, something I desperately need as it’s a great pain releaser.

If you haven’t watched this show, I encourage you to give it a whirl yourself, as I highly recommend it and dedicate today’s Grateful Heart Monday to Seth MacFarland’s, The Orville.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to this week’s Grateful Heart Monday entry, which for today is for Katelyn Smith, who is the District Manager of Starbucks in my region and someone who went above and beyond to help me with a growing issue I’ve been having with my usual coffee order at a number of her stores.

It’s no secret that I’m addicted to Starbucks coffee. If you ever want to find me on any given afternoon, there’s a good chance I’m consuming a coffee during that time at one of the Starbucks locations in my region. Over the last few years, I have grown to love one single drink more than any other, and on most days many baristas know me well enough that they are already placing my order as soon as I walk up to the register. My drink is a Venti (large) Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew, sub out the vanilla syrup for 5 pumps of mocha, no ice, vanilla sweet cream on the side, and two Trenta (extra-large) cups of ice on the side.

For many, me included, Starbucks coffee is too strong on its own, so I always dilute my large beverage into two extra-large cups of ice, adding my vanilla sweet cream to both. I generally consume one in the afternoon, and one later at night, as I do try to limit my caffeine intake. In recent months though, I began facing an issue with this drink where employees were trying to charge me for the amount of vanilla sweet cream I use. I tend to like my coffee more sweet than bitter and use the additional vanilla sweet cream in each of those extra-large cups of ice. For the longest time, none of the baristas anywhere had an issue with this. In recent months though, that changed. Some employees, including even a manager, began telling me that I need to start paying $1.25 for the extra vanilla sweet cream. One employee recently even went so far as to tell me I needed to pay $4 for the extra vanilla sweet cream because it constituted an entirely new beverage. I began to feel shamed by employees over this issue, and as it continued to happen, I became embarrassed just to order my drink, which is why I opted one day to contact Corporate Starbucks to see what they had to say.

I spoke with a senior supervisor there who told me that because my vanilla sweet cream was already part of the cost of the beverage I order, that having the additional amount wasn’t a problem and I should never be charged anything extra for it. They then contacted my local District Manager, Katelyn Smith, to follow up with me on the issue, who in turn reached out and set up an in-person meeting with me. I was nervous about this meeting, as I had been given so much flack lately about this silly issue. What I received though from her was a very warm welcome, a sincere understanding, and an immense amount of gratitude for just bringing the issue to her attention in the first place, something she said most normally don’t and she wished they would. She assured me she would correct the problem by talking to all her store managers and even told me to reach out to her if I encountered the problem again, as she would immediately address it. We actually spent an hour together discussing this and many other things about Starbucks in general, which I must say, Katelyn is a really great listener who has a huge amount of empathy. I could see why she is a District Manager, because of how much she made sure to address all my concerns with the level of compassion she had. At the end of our meeting before she had to leave, she even bought me my usual beverage, an action that simply blew me away.

I honestly wish all managers and supervisors in this world were like Katelyn Smith. Talking to her felt very down-to-earth and was truly a sincere pleasure. Because of it, I’ve dedicated today’s Grateful Heart Monday to her, not just because she addressed my Starbucks issue with grace, but also for reminding me why Starbucks is a company that always does go above and beyond to retain their customers, which is why I keep going back daily for my coffee. Thank you, Katelyn, for being an amazing District Manager and for helping me! I’m very grateful.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, which for today is for having a spiritual belief system that doesn’t conform to what the masses say and one that accepts everyone on their own uniquely tailored spiritual path.

Having grown up in a Christian family that didn’t practice good Christian values whatsoever behind the scenes, who put on more of a persona that they were good Christians when out and about, made me despise for the longest time the Christian faith. Thankfully, I no longer feel that way about Christianity, nor about any other religion either. And while I do believe and follow in the teachings of Christ, I no longer label myself as a Christian because I felt it was too conforming, leaving people out more than welcoming them in.

I’m definitely not a conformer. as I tend to go against the masses in my life more than not, so much so that it often gets me in trouble, sometimes even unfriended because of it. While I’m not against any specific religious path, including Christianity, I do believe there are an infinite number of paths to the same Source, or God if you will. I also believe that everyone’s spiritual path is specifically tailored in a way that’s unique to them, one that helps them communicate to Source in a way they’ll understand, even if they haven’t become aware of it yet.

Nevertheless, if I was to label myself spiritually, I’d say I carry both Christian values and Buddhist beliefs. Yet, I also relate much to Quakerism for their freeform style of worship and Wiccans mostly for their love of nature. But ultimately, I don’t think it matters what I or anyone else defines themselves as when it comes to their spiritual side. So long as one isn’t trying to play God themselves or purposely trying to hurt others in the name of whatever their Higher Power is, I do my best to accept everyone as they are on their spiritual walks, no matter what spiritual path looks like.

The fact is, I accept everyone at their core for whatever their spiritual beliefs are and am grateful I feel that way today. Ironically, I once was a guy who would only associate myself to fellow Christians and would scoff at anyone of other religions and faith systems different than mine, even going so far as to let them know I felt they were wrong and misguided. Sometimes I even said they wouldn’t ever enter the gates of Heaven because they weren’t accepting Christ as their Lord and Savior. I’m grateful to say I don’t say things like that anymore and believe now it’s my purpose to accept each person as they are, which comes from my love of Christ’s teachings. It’s precisely how I embrace people of all faiths now. I know plenty of people from many different walks of faith who are incredibly wonderful and beautiful souls who quite probably are more worthy and deserving of being in a place like Heaven than I would have been in many years of my life, especially during my active addiction days.

To have arrived at where I am with my spiritual belief system now, one where I still follow the Trinity but believe I’ve lived many lives before this one as well, and one where I also respect others on their own individual spiritual walks, is something that didn’t come easily. Honestly, it took me being judged by a vast number of ultra-religious people throughout my life due to my sexuality to arrive at my open acceptance now of others when it comes to spirituality. I’m also grateful that my 12 Step recovery work has helped me to meet so many from different spiritual backgrounds, as each who accepted me just as I am, contributed to developing the very open faith system I have now.

So on this Grateful Heart Monday, I am thankful for the spiritual belief system I have nowadays. One that doesn’t conform to what the masses say, and one that accepts everyone on their own uniquely tailored spiritual path, paths I believe forged by Source in ways meant for each of us to individually find our own way Home, even when it seems far different from my own…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where the week always begins with an expression of gratitude from my life. Today’s piece of gratefulness is for not being a barfly anymore, something that many of those long sober from a former drinking addiction will probably agree with, and something I was greatly reminded of when I briefly stopped into a local saloon just recently solely to use their bathroom.

A few Fridays ago I opted to pick up a pizza at one of my favorite joints here in the Toledo area, that being Mama Mary’s, for dinner for my partner and I. While I waited for it to be made, I asked if they had a bathroom as I had consumed a large coffee that seemed to have gone right through me. Unfortunately, the pizza shop did not have one for its customers, so I was directed a few doors down to a bar to use their facilities. I’m really not a big fan of walking into bars unless I have a specific reason for being there, which these days is generally never. The last time I stepped foot in a bar was for a fraternity alumni event back in April in Rochester, where I felt like a fish out of water.

Nevertheless, as soon as I walked in through the doors of this tavern, it didn’t take long to feel incredibly grateful for no longer hanging out in places like it. Grateful for not having to regularly smell that stale beer smell always implanted upon sticky floors. Grateful for not being that first guy I saw at the bar totally immersed in his phone trying to pass the time or his life by, as he most certainly didn’t look happy. Grateful for not being the second guy I saw who was desperately trying to be the center of attention in front of a bunch of people he was obviously attracted to by telling jokes that weren’t funny. Grateful for not being the third guy I saw who was noticeably buzzed or drunk, talking exceptionally loudly. Grateful for not buying a ton of scratch tickets or playing any keno hoping to win big. And grateful for not trying to play games of pool or darts under the influence where skills drastically disappear with each drink.

It’s funny how I saw my old self so easily in the brief moments I remained in this bar only to use the restroom there. The energy I felt in that place immediately upon entering was certainly not an uplifting one, but the energy I felt upon leaving and re-emerging outside was most certainly elevating.

So, I truly have an immense amount of appreciation on this Grateful Heart Monday for no longer being a barfly, for not being a guy who spends any of his weekends or free time in general anymore at bars or clubs or anything of the sort. While I never cultivated much gratitude hanging out in them during my drunken years or even in many of my sober years, I have been able to cultivate it hanging out at plenty of other healthier places, which yes, for those who know me, includes Starbucks! LOL!

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Time for another Grateful Heart Monday entry, where gratitude remains the sole focus of my writing at the start of each week, which for today is for the Maumee Bay State Park in Oregon, Ohio, a park that’s become a favorite over all the years I’ve lived in the Toledo community.

One of the best things about living in Ohio is that all their state parks are free, something many other places I lived didn’t have as an amenity. Currently Ohio touts 75 of them and Maumee Bay State Park is on that list. It was the first place in nature I visited when I began getting to know my partner Chris and was still living in Massachusetts.

I’ve always been drawn to nature and living in Massachusetts had no shortage of parks nearby with countless beaches, forests, mountains, lakes, and oceanside places to visit within an hour or less. I spent much of my free time there during all my years of residence driving around to so many of them, which made moving to Toledo a big adjustment. One of the hardest parts of that move was being away from the abundance of so many different ways to experience nature. Having spent countless hours at unique parks all across the New England area made it challenging for me to find similar escapes here. But, when my partner brought us to Maumee Bay State Park, it immediately became my favorite escape from city living.

Situated approximately 10 miles or so from downtown Toledo, you wouldn’t know how close the city actually was once you enter the grounds of Maumee Bay State Park, as it truly feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere. The park itself sits on the edge of Lake Erie and has a beach to sit on if you want. But I’ve been more drawn there to the grounds themselves, as there’s been no shortage of spotting wildlife on them whenever I’ve visited the park.

Deer, raccoons, rabbits, muskrats, over 300 species of birds, otters, beavers, and much more have been on the regular list of things to look for with each visit. Quite often my partner and I will drive over to the park at dusk, as many of them come out during that time of the day. I’ve snapped a number of great pictures there of a lot of its wildlife, especially its deer that never really seemed bothered by park guests.

One of the nicest parts of this park is the Boardwalk Trail that covers several miles through the marsh that borders the lake. At sunset, it’s nice to walk this planked trail situated only a few feet up above the marsh, as I normally never come across anyone else during that time. It’s a wonderful place to take a meditative walk for that very reason. On my last visit there, I silently observed a muskrat eating marsh grass and with it being so quiet that night, I could hear it’s every chew, which brought a smile to my face on a day that I had been really struggling to find any joy at all.

Sometimes I also visit the lodge that’s part of Maumee Bay State Park. While Chris and I have never stayed there, we’ve spent time in its lobby many times, especially during the winter, as they always have huge hearths rocking big crackling fires. They welcome visitors, even those not staying there, to sit down on the rocking chairs and take in the serenity of it all. A few times I’ve eaten in the restaurant there as well as the view of Lake Erie from your table is amazing.

Nevertheless, there is no shortage of places to visit at Maumee Bay State Park given it’s 1,336-acre size. I’ve walked most of its trails and continue to find serenity within the parks boundaries every time I have a visit there whether alone, with Chris, or with visitors from out-of-town who I usually tend to bring there. By far this park has become my favorite go-to-place in nature in the Toledo vicinity and has given me plenty to be grateful for whenever I’m there.

So, I’m very thankful for the peace and joy I’ve cultivated whenever I’ve visited Maumee Bay State Park and because of it, I’ve dedicated today’s Grateful Heart Monday entry to a park that has become a wonderful place to get away and feel just a little bit closer to God, something I tend to feel every time I’m there.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where expressing a slice of gratitude remains the sole focus of my writing at the start of each week, which for today is for all the people who know and do their best to practice the art of holding space, which I tend to believe is the best form of support for those who’ve been going through pain and suffering for a long time in life. And for all those as well who responded with love to a posting I placed on Facebook a few weeks ago that dealt with this very thing, which was written as follows:

“Sometimes what your friends really need the most ISN’T advice, or suggestions, or reminding you there are people out there far worse, or telling you to focus on the gratitude in your life. Sometimes what you friends really need the most IS to know they aren’t alone in a world that often feels alone to them, which isn’t being codependent or needy, it’s simply being unconditionally loving, something this world is lacking in greatly right now in my humble opinion…” 

I’ve come to witness over the many years I’ve been going through a life that isn’t a pleasurable one whatsoever that most don’t know how to be there for someone like me, someone truly struggling with life circumstances out of their control no matter how much effort is placed into trying to change them. Most people think that offering advice, suggestions, reminding you of others suffering far worse, or telling you to focus more on gratitude is going to help and maybe even cheer the suffering person up somehow. The only person who’s typically cheered up by saying such things though is the one offering it, because the person receiving it tends to have already had plenty of that thrown their way for a very long time, most of which never having helped change any of their circumstances.

This is why I’m very thankful for the few who practice the art of holding space. The basic definition of this technique is to be present with someone, without judgment. It means you donate your ears and heart without wanting anything in return. It involves practicing empathy and compassion. You accept someone’s truths, no matter what they may be, and put your needs and opinions aside, allowing someone to just be. And most don’t know how to do this. Rather, they lean towards trying to fix or solve the crisis in front of them that is their friend.

I am so thankful to have a few people in my life who don’t try to fix me because I’m not broken, I’m hurting. And when I hurt to the level I do on most days, the last thing I need from someone who says they are my friend is their advice, judgments, reminders of others suffering worse, or told to be more grateful. Even worse is when someone just tells me to suck it up and get over it. None of this is ever helpful because none of it ever helps me to feel truly loved and supported.

People tend to think that they can somehow alter a person’s suffering by offering some form of advice, except it’s really nothing more than a judgment. Yet there are those who have discovered this art of holding space and the benefit it brings to those deep in despair. Many of them have become excellent nurses, counselors, and helpers in things like hospice care. My therapist in Toledo is an excellent holder of space for me and has made room for me to fall apart in her office without advice or judgment countless times. I’m sure some of you reading this carry this gift as well and it’s a priceless gift when offered to people like me, who are suffering immensely.

And as I said in my Facebook musing, holding space for someone isn’t being needy or codependent, it’s simply being unconditionally loving, and sometimes that’s as simple as just listening to a person and letting them know you care by NOT responding with some piece of advice or judgement when they’re done and instead offering a hug and saying, “I love you and do care.”

So, for those who appreciated my little Facebook blurb on this subject, and those who do their best to hold space for others who have been long in pain and suffering, I am truly grateful for each of you and dedicate today’s Grateful Heart Monday to all of you. Because when I’m in the lowest of lows, which seems to be quite a bit these days, it’s each of you that has helped me to keep going for one more day, something that advice-givers, tough-love offerers, and those who think I should just suck it up, accomplish the exact opposite, leading me only into greater despair and away from having any heart connection with them.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another entry for my Grateful Heart Monday series on my blog, TheTwelfthStep, where gratitude remains the sole focus of my writing at the start of every week, which for today is for all those who carry the trait of believing everyone is filled with good and focus first on the positive traits they see in others, rather than the negative.

It’s so easy to focus on the negative traits we see in others, and when that is done repeatedly, it becomes harder and harder to ever see any positive or any good in an individual. I inherently believe that everyone is filled with positive and good traits and that somewhere along the line the downsides of life begin to cause us to fall away from emanating that. But, even when this happens, I tend to feel that there is always positive and good in even the angriest and most resentful of souls and I most certainly work hard to find that, praising people for even the smallest of positive qualities, rather than choosing to point out any glaring negative traits.

There are many out there who continue to point out my negative traits, refusing to see that there is any good in me. While I do have number of negative traits I’m still working on healing, there is plenty of good in me today, far more than when I was an active addict. But there are those who believe I’ll never be a good person and will always be that addict they once knew and continue to point out every time I make a mistake, rather than focus on any of my positive actions and good qualities within me. While I inherently know those who do this are blinded by their own negative energies they haven’t released within and choose to see those negative traits within me instead, I’m thankful for those who do the exact opposite and remind me of the good they see in me, especially on those days when I’m really down.

I am thankful as well for those who do this regularly with others, who go through their days complimenting people, praising individuals, lifting them up, even those who might be considered by the masses to be people to avoid due to their negative energy. One thing I’ve always loved about Christ’s story was how he helped those that no one else wanted to and that no one else believed was worth saving. If it wasn’t for a few individuals in this world who always saw the good in me and focused on my positive traits, I probably would still be deep into addict behavior. It’s why I now return the favor, always on the lookout for the positive and good in even the most difficult of people I come across, even those who often yell first and express judgment and anger more than not. Because even they have plenty of positive and good in them, it’s just buried, yet my quest is to find it and shed more light onto it, just like others have done with me over the years.

Always looking for the positive and good in each other, I believe this is a strong spiritual trait to have, and one I feel represents a true Christ love and the message Christ did his best to portray throughout his life. It’s a trait I seek to exude myself every day, and while I often find myself coming up short in that task, as I’m sure many of us do, I’m thankful and dedicate today’s Grateful Heart Monday for all of us who keep trying, who keep doing our best to focus on the good in others and not the bad, and on the positive rather than the negative. We all have positive and good in us, we just need to take a moment to find it, as it’s always there…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday entry where gratitude remains the sole focus of my writing at the start of every week, which for today is for Bobby Anspach, a friend to many, including me, who passed away far too soon in this world just a few weeks ago, at the young age of 34.

When I learned about Bobby’s tragic passing from his brother Michael, I was devastated, not just for the entire Anspach family, a family I have grown to care greatly for and close to in recent years, but also for the world losing yet another amazing individual far before they really ever got the chance to show the world just how amazing they were.

In the brief time I came to know Bobby, what I learned first and foremost was that he had a heart of gold who truly cared about everyone he spent time with. When you spoke to Bobby, it was as if he was reading your soul with his crystal blue eyes, and I always felt a warm presence and glow emanating through them, one that consistently felt extremely welcoming.

Bobby was also the type of guy who frequently wanted to help others and be of service to those who asked for his help. I think it was just in his nature to be of support to those in need, as was overly evident in his life, even with me when I asked him once for assistance with a speaking engagement, which came one Thanksgiving a few years ago. Then, Bobby had come home to spend time with his family, and I asked if he would take some time out of it to come speak at my weekly 12 Step volunteer commitment. There was no hesitation whatsoever and he gladly was of service, something many others besides me saw of him throughout his life. And I must say that whenever Bobby spoke, even that day at that weekly commitment, it was always done with plenty of passion and compassion, enough so to captivate anyone in attendance.

I think what I also loved about Bobby was his sense of humor and his ability to enjoy life in the moment. The last time I saw Bobby was at his brother Michael’s wedding. There he spent much of it careening around the dance floor, truly living it up, as if there wasn’t a care in the world. Bobby always did his best to live life like that, to the fullest really, and that energy he carried was so infectious, that it often drove many others, including me, to try to do the same.

Bobby Anspach was just that type of guy you would have liked from the onset of meeting him, who constantly seemed to smile from ear to ear and was never afraid to give you the warmest of hugs. His love and affection for people in general was very strong, so much so that he often pulled someone out of the lowest of places and moods, easily turning a frown to a smile, and sorrow into laughter. This was more than evident at his Celebration of Life that came a few weeks after his passing.

There, it was obvious how many he had touched throughout his brief time on this planet, as the event drew well over a hundred people, all who had much to say in support of him. Listening to the personal testimonies there of those he grew closest to in his life and learning about the many other talents he had that I had never really got to see, including his gift with art, I found myself wishing I had gotten to know him far more than I did.

Regardless, I am so thankful on this Grateful Heart Monday, for even the brief moments my path walked side by side with Bobby, as during each of them, I got to know another beautiful child of God who shined incredibly brightly during his limited time here. I will miss you Bobby Anspach, and I hope my path may cross yours again one day, may you be at peace with God now, I will always love you my dear friend.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another chapter of Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude remains the sole expression in my writing for the day, which for today is for having compassion for even the smallest of God’s creatures, even a tiny baby robin that fell from its nest the other day.

About a week ago, I was outside doing my typical morning chores when I noticed on the street across from me were three tiny objects that looked rather strange. I opted to stop what I was doing to go take a closer look and it’s then I discovered that a robin’s nest overhead in the tree there had shifted during the previous night’s windstorm causing all three babies to fall from it to the ground. Sadly, two of them had already died, but one was still flailing around and way too young to take care of itself. My heart wrenched as I looked down at the creature, mother nowhere in sight. Years ago, in my addiction days, I would have said “oh well” to something like this, just chalked it up as another one of those misfortunes of life and gone back to whatever I was doing prior. It’s sad to say but there was a time when I didn’t care about things like this and even did things like throw eggs from bird’s nests out of anger and rage in my life. Thankfully, I don’t carry that energy anymore. Now, I carry far more compassionate energy, especially with God’s creatures.

In light of that, watching that tiny bird flail around, so helpless in its first few weeks of life, my heart stirred greatly, so much so that I went and got my ladder, put on some gloves, and scooped that bird up. I then climbed all the way up to the very top rung where I realized I was glad I didn’t have any fear of heights, as looking down from that top step would probably have made one who does, feel some sense of vertigo. Anyway, I was just high enough to reach the nest and gently moved it back into a safe resting spot, making sure the hole the baby robins fell through was now protected. I placed the sole remaining survivor back into it and lastly said a blessing as I took the two babies that had passed on already and placed them in branches within the tree high up off the ground. After I was done with the task and the ladder put away, I wondered if that one survivor would make it. I wondered as well if it’s mother would be thankful or abandon it. Either way, I was filled with gratitude, gratitude for what 12 Step recovery has given me, which was a deeper connection to God and to my heart to care about things like this, something I never had before I ever did 12 Step recovery and lived in addictions instead.

Having an open heart today that feels compassion for things like tiny baby robins and other of God’s creatures means the world to me, because deep in addiction, the heart is often sealed shut, and life filled with nothing but anger and resentment. So, on this Grateful Heart Monday, I’m thankful to have compassion today for things like baby robins that fall from their nest, as I think that’s also symbolic of how God is with all of us, when we too fall from our nests in life like I once did with my former life of non-stop addiction…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude remains the sole expression at the start of every week on TheTwelfthStep, which for today is for my sister Laura’s recent summer birthday trip to Toledo!

A few months ago, just prior to me turning 50, Laura asked me what I wanted as a gift for the big milestone that was coming up. My answer was the only one I truly wanted, which was for her to come visit me. Seeing any of my remaining family at any point is an absolute blessing in my life, and her recent trip to Toledo was no exception.

From the moment I picked her up, our weekend was filled with many things to be grateful for. Our first day together we went to downtown Detroit and saw the Van Gogh Immersion exhibit, something we both have wanted to see for some time, and it was such an amazing experience, especially for the visual and hearing senses. Dinner that night was at Mark Wahlberg’s restaurant, Wahlburgers, in Greektown, and dessert afterwards from Astoria Bakery, quite possibly one of the best bakeries I’ve ever been to.

Our second day began with breakfast at The Speedtrap Diner in Woodville, Ohio. This diner is one of my favorite out-of-the-way unique joints to go to locally for a meal where the walls and ceiling have so much to look at and where it honestly feels like I’ve travelled back in time to the 1950’s. Not too far from there is The Schedel Gardens, a beautiful botanical garden and arboretum situated alongside the bank of a small river in Elmore, Ohio. There, we spent the afternoon and it might just have been the most peaceful and unique gardens I’ve ever visited, where there are multiple places to relax, each with a different theme that makes it ultimately feel like you’ve travelled to several different parks in the world. Dinner that night was a homecooked meal that included a sausage and cheddar lasagna, tossed salad, and garlic bread, all prepared from scratch by my partner Chris. The evening ended with watching a moving romantic film titled “Finding You”, a movie I first discovered on Prime and later bought for re-watching at home because I liked it so much.

Our final day included a trip to one of my top ten restaurants, The Melting Pot, which is an amazing experience if you like fondue. There, we had three courses of it beginning with a cheddar-based one, then a meat, fish, and vegetables one in a Coq Au Vin broth, and finally one with a cookies and cream milk and dark chocolate concoction that had an incredible assortment of things to dip into including cream puffs, salted caramel cheesecake, brownies, macaroons, and much more. It was most definitely a huge caloric experience that’s for sure, which is probably good that we went and played a totally fun game of putt-putt in Garden City, Michigan at Garden City Mini Golf.

While all of the experiences I shared with my sister were things to be grateful for, what I have the greatest gratitude for from her trip here was simply all the time we shared together talking, reconnecting, and bonding further together, given all the years we once were more apart as brother and sister. I will most certainly treasure the memories from her visit for some time to come, and it’s most definitely something to dedicate today’s Grateful Heart Monday to!

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude always gets expressed to kick the week off, which for today is for something I’ve already written about ever so slightly in my last few articles but wanted to take the time to express more deeply, and that’s the recent summer trip I took to see my closest friend, Cedric.

It’s amazing to think that Cedric and I started our journey in this life together when I was only 25 years old, and he was 34. The amazing memories we now have over two and a half decades are endless and if there’s one thing we always seem to enjoy doing together it’s taking trips somewhere. This summer it was to York, Maine, where we spent four days enjoying a section of the country neither of us had ever spent any time there.

In addition to the enjoyment of swimming in the chilly waters there and hanging out on the oceanfront top-floor balcony listening to music, especially at dark, the highlights I’m most grateful for are for the entire day we got to play six games of mini-golf (Schooner Mini Golf, Raptor Falls Mini Golf, Wells Beach Mini Golf, and Wonder Mountain Mini Golf), the drives we took along the scenic Route 1 from Saco, Maine down to Portsmouth, NH, the restaurants we dined at (Three Sisters in Biddeford, Maine, Luigi’s West End Pizzeria in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, So Zap in Ogunquit, Maine, and The Kitchen in Portsmouth, New Hampshire), the daily Starbucks hangouts that were filled with lots of laughter, especially the one in downtown Portsmouth where a total stranger named Tim told us his entire life story in an hour, watching the entire new season of The Umbrella Academy on Netflix together late at night, having the best cookies ever from Crumbl Cookies in Newington, Rhode Island, visiting Nubble Lighthouse in York, Maine, which I think might just be the prettiest lighthouse I’ve ever seen, and taking a long walk into downtown York after the sun set for the evening.

Beyond our four-day visit to Maine, I wanted to also mention a few other things I was grateful for on this weeklong vacation. The first is for reconnecting with my dear friend Sean Slater who picked me up from the Providence airport and took me to dinner in North Kingstown to Wickford on the Water where we had the best fish tacos next to an inlet and then enjoyed some Starbucks afterwards in downtown Providence. The second is for reconnecting with my dear friend Debbie Coon who met us in Quincy, Massachusetts for an early dinner at Port 305 where we sat by the water and enjoyed coffee afterwards in Braintree at another Starbucks (Yes, I know, I have an addiction to Starbucks! LOL!). And lastly, for visiting Nobska Lighthouse on my final day of the trip where they were giving away free homemade ice cream (Yum!), for pizza afterwards at Marc Anthony’s in Onset with my recovery friend Nick L., and for him coordinating for me to do a 12 Step recovery lead at his home group, Buzzards Bay Monday night, to end the evening.

So yes, I have much to be grateful for on this Grateful Heart Monday’s recap of my recent trip back east and want to end by thanking Cedric for making it all possible and leaving me with plenty of lasting memories from another vacation in our decades long friendship.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude remains the sole focus on my writing for the start of each week, which for today is for one simple fact of my life, that I haven’t given up on God or myself.

For those of you who have continued to follow my spiritual journey and musings of life via this blog, it’s definitely not a secret that I’ve struggled immensely with the health issues I’ve faced for years now. How many times at this point have I written about the pain and sorrow I’ve endured is probably countless? But also countless is the number of times I’ve written about me not being a quitter and continuing to fight on.

While I do have regular urges to give up and check out early, I haven’t. Honestly, it’s easy to think about doing so when both of my parents did by their own hands. In my worst of days and in my worst of pain- filled moments of life, I often find myself in my ego feeling that death would be better than life and that at least in death I might see my parents again. But deep down in my heart and soul, that’s truly not what I desire, as my deepest desire is to fulfill whatever God’s purpose is for me.

I tend to believe each of us on this planet have a purpose that’s not just to exist and find pleasure in life. I have come to a level of understanding on my own spiritual journey that we all have a Higher Calling. But far too often we never achieve it because we get lost in finding temporary happiness on this planet. In my case, all those things I found temporary happiness in were never enough to keep me going. What has kept me going though has been in continuing to believe that I have some Higher Calling, some greater purpose.

So, on those days when my pain is great, when my emotions run low, and my mental state gets frayed, I tell myself there is a great purpose to all of it and I fight on. I fight on to live rather than to die and remind myself I’m not a quitter like my parents were. And I do my best to not listen to my ego’s urgings that tell me I was just dealt a bad hand in life and that it’s never going to get better. Because somewhere within me, there still is a voice fighting on and telling me it will get better.

This is why on this Grateful Heart Monday, I am sharing my gratitude for still having a fighting spirit that not only continues to help me believe in myself, but also believe in God, and in having a greater purpose beyond all this. These may not be spiritual values I was shown, but they are ones I have learned over the years in all my pain and suffering, of which I’m sincerely thankful to have, especially on those days when my mind does it’s best to convince me to give up, yet my Spirit says to fight on, and so I do…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where expressing a slice of gratitude remains the sole focus of my writing at the start of each week, which for today is for something many probably wouldn’t ever discuss openly or be something to ever express gratitude for in a public blog. But in light of all the massive losses of life happening lately by the hands of another, I want to express my gratefulness today for having kept to the 6th Commandment of the 10 Commandments my entire life, that being I’ve never killed anyone, including myself.

“Thou shalt not kill.” I’ve never thought much about the 6th Commandment for two reasons. One, I’m not a religious type of guy who has ever placed much thought on living out the 10 Commandments. And two, I’ve never been a violent person, as I’ve always been more of a pacifist. But recently, I found myself thinking about this specific commandment due to all the rising gun violence and mass shootings in our country, the Russian/Ukraine War and 26 other active wars/conflicts in the world, and a constantly rising suicide rate on our planet with one happening every 40 seconds now. Add in the fact that both of my parents died by their own hands and the many wrongful deaths I’ve come to learn in my 12 Step recovery from those who were under the influence of alcohol and drugs, and I suddenly am finding myself thankful I’ve never took the life of another, including my own.

I truly am grateful that I’ve never killed another in all my years, especially during those when I was addicted to alcohol and drugs, because I most certainly drove under the influence and was out of my mind far too many times. I also am truly grateful that I haven’t successfully taken my own life, as I most assuredly have attempted it in my past. I’ve even thought about it in recent years due to all the chronic health issues that constantly plague me. But my deepest truth is that I want to live, and I want to protect all the lives of others too, which is why I know I absolutely would be a Conscientious Objector if I was ever put in a war time situation. In light of that, I’ve often had people ask me if I would take a life if someone was coming at me or a loved one with a weapon in hand. My answer was still no because I just couldn’t live with myself and the guilt of it all.

So, on this Grateful Heart Monday, I wanted to express my gratitude for knowing with 100% assurance that I’ve never taken a life (including any animals!) and kept to the 6th commandment my entire existence thus far. While I’ve broken several of the other commandments in my life, especially during my active addiction years, I felt the need today to express my thankfulness for having kept to at least this one. I truly do value all lives and am doing my best to value my own as well, because ultimately, I believe all lives matter…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude is the only thing that gets expressed, which for today is for the recent birthday trip my partner Chris and I took to the Smokey Mountains for our 60th and 50th birthdays.

I’ve never been to or through the Smokey Mountains, unless of course you include flying over them a few times towards other destinations. But, after numerous times where friends came back from the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area raving about their vacations there, we opted to do a trip there for his big 6-0 and my big 5-0. So, I wanted to honor that trip on this Grateful Heart Monday, for even as much as I was in heightened pain during much of it, like I have been on most vacations in recent years, there was much to still be thankful for.

At the top of that list was having my eyesight to see all the wonders of the Smokey Mountains. I’ve visited a few other mountain ranges around our country, but the Smokies are unusual in themselves and quite breathtaking, especially when the clouds get stuck in the valleys below them, giving them their very name. Chris and I drove extensively through the Smokies while visiting the area and witnessed some incredible views, including many natural waterfalls and springs, and especially from the tallest peak, Clingmans Dome, which sits 6,643 feet above sea level! The day we visited there it was around 70 degrees when we left on the 1/2-mile paved walk from the parking lot to the top, and in the mid 40’s by the time we reached it. I was very grateful that Chris and I made it there with all the pain we were experiencing in our bodies, as sitting on a cement bench in the clouds was definitely a spectacle to behold. Just as breathtaking, but in another way, was Cades Cove Loop, an 11-mile one lane road that goes through some of the most amazing scenery and wildlife in a valley far below the Smokies. There, we saw plenty of turkey and deer, two black bears, and several two-hundred-year-old homes and churches.

Gratitude on this trip also greatly includes the place we stayed at for the five nights we were away, as it afforded us a beautiful view of Dollywood and Pigeon Forge and the mountains beyond. It was a log cabin home situated high atop a mountainside in a town named Sevierville and was adorned with an outdoor hot tub, rocking chairs on two different balconies, a billiards table, an indoor jacuzzi tub, and plenty of space to spread out and relax. Personally, I was most grateful for the nighttime views I had of Pigeon Forge’s tourist strip as I soaked in the hot tub, especially when several storms rolled in over the mountains.

And speaking of Pigeon’s Forge’s tourist strip, we opted to dabble a little in both its activities and some in Gatlinburg. While there are some rather extreme tourist things to do in this area, we opted for the less extreme side of things, which included playing three different mini-golf courses (Toy Box, Ripley’s Davy Crocket’s, and Hillbilly Golf), rode several mountain coasters (Smokey Mountain Alpine Coaster and Rocky Top Coaster), which if you haven’t ever done one, it’s essentially a self-controlled roller coaster down the side of a mountain, trips to three different Starbucks (yes, I know, my one addiction got satisfied!), and ate in town twice (The Park Grill on Chris’s birthday and Sunliner Diner on mine).

Something that others might not find gratitude in, but I did, was how friendly people in the Smokey Mountain area seemed to me. Compared to what I’ve become accustomed to in the Midwest, which at least for me hasn’t felt all too friendly mainly because people say I’m too transparent and personal for them, I was quite thankful to have struck up so many random conversations with total strangers who shared much of their own personal life stories with me!

And last, but definitely not least, I want to end this Grateful Heart Monday with gratitude for my partner for doing his best to make my 50th’ birthday special and unique, for finding the log cabin we called home for five days, for orchestrating the majority of this trip, and for doing his best to help me through my bouts of pain and suffering, including patiently drive on roads that at times, frankly terrified me, especially high up in those Smokey Mountains!

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

It’s time for another Grateful Heart Monday, where the subject of today’s writing is always on a piece of gratitude from my life, which for today I wanted to follow up my writing from two days ago, the day where I turned the big 5-0, where I talked about the question I kept asking myself of, “Why I am here?”. I thought it’d appropriate to focus today on something connected to turning the big 5-0, and that’s all the major things I’m grateful for from the first five decades of my life. So here goes…and in no particular order of importance…

I’m grateful for all the lessons my parents taught me growing up that helped me to both learn what to do in life and not to do.

I’m grateful for getting my diploma from Arlington High School in Lagrange, NY, with an average of 94%, and a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, NY, with a GPA of 3.76.

I’m grateful to have become both a brother and founding father of Phi Kappa Psi New York Theta at RIT as well.

I’m grateful to have spent ten years in the computer industry doing everything from computer programming and software testing to quality assurance and quality control, all of which helped me to finally realize it wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

I’m grateful to have owned an 8-guest room bed and breakfast for seven years (1848 Island Manor House) on a remote island in Chincoteague, Virginia where I learned much about owning my own business and realized it too wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

I’m grateful to have found sobriety and recovery from so many addictions, including alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, sex, love, codependency, and spending money.

I’m grateful to have found healing from the PTSD I endured from family alcoholism and mental health issues, from being bullied, from being molested, and from both my mother and father’s tragic and sudden deaths at their own hands.

I’m grateful to have greatly excelled in a good number of physical activities throughout my life prior to the chronic pain starting up in my life, including swimming, basketball, bowling, tennis, hiking, and biking.

I’m grateful to have travelled as much as I have both outside this country and within it, to Europe, Mexico, the Caribbean, Canada, and much of the contiguous United States.

I’m grateful to have loved and been loved by a number of partners and friends over many years to learn what loving another and being loved by another actually feels like.

I’m grateful to have lived as close as I have to major cities including New York City, Washington D.C., and Boston, where I got to explore city life as deeply as I did.

I’m grateful for the 15 hard years of volunteer work I’ve put into the addiction recovery field and all the people I’ve sponsored in the 12 Step program along the way.

I’m grateful to have had quite a few amazing spiritual experiences in my life that I can’t rationalize or explain that have led me to know there is something “out there”, “up there”, “around me”, and “within me”, that helps me to keep going in all the suffering I continue to go through with my health.

I’m grateful to the many who have prayed with me, over me, and for me throughout my life, especially in recent years with all the struggles I’ve faced.

I’m grateful to still have some family alive, including my sister and my three nephews, who love me dearly and who I love dearly as well.

I’m grateful to have survived many things that should have taken my life but never did, things that still baffle me to this day how I made it through them when so many in this world haven’t.

I’m grateful to still have all my senses present and my limbs still functioning enough to walk and drive.

I’m grateful for never having gone without food, water, or shelter at any point in my life.

I’m grateful to have been given the gift to write and speak motivationally, two things I never even knew I had until this past decade.

I’m grateful for my present partner, someone who has endured so much of my health issues and pain struggles yet remained by my side for over 10 years now, trusting and believing that I will get better, even when I’ve had a hard time believing it myself on many days.

And I’m grateful to God for having made all these things to be grateful for even possible.

So, on this Grateful Heart Monday, I choose to thank God all these things and all the things I didn’t list here yet are still upon my heart. After five decades of living, I truly have much to be thankful for, and know there will be more to be thankful for in the years to come. I pray that when my time finally comes, however many days, weeks, months, or years that is from now, that I leave this plane of existence still having a grateful heart, something I know is crucial to living a healthy spiritual life…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday! Today’s piece of gratitude is dedicated to another reader of my blog who took the time to write me personally and thank me for the all the personal testimony of my life that I continue to share on this site, TheTwelfthStep. Today’s piece of gratitude is solely dedicated to them because I feel truly blessed to having received yet another confirmation from God that this blog continues to help others.

As I’ve mentioned multiple times in my writing over the past few years, I’ve often wondered if my transparent sharing of my life about recovery from addiction, the PTSD I’ve suffered from, all my health struggles, and many other aspects of my life has even helped anyone besides me. This reader’s personal letter is yet another confirmation that it is, which I am so very thankful for and so, today’s Grateful Heart Monday is dedicated to “D.” (name removed for anonymity purposes) and their sincere words to me, which are included below…

Good morning! My name is D., and I found your site maybe a year ago by accident looking up various things about addiction. I think your journey and ongoing one is amazing. I get overwhelmed (even as an adult) by how much a single person can go through, and joyful when they find God to sustain them. I am currently reading a book called “All the Feels” by Elizabeth Laing Thompson on how to deal with feeling big emotions. She reminds readers of Isaiah 43:13 “From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can snatch anyone out of my hand. No one can undo what I have done.” One verse out of many to remind us how He sustains us. I love the jokes too!! They are some of the best I’ve come across in a long time. Keep up your good work touching others. Best wishes, D.

D., thank you so much for reaching out, as it means more to me than you may know. I dedicate today’s Grateful Heart Monday to your sincerity and kindness to me. And best wishes to you as well…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another chapter of Grateful Heart Monday, which for today is for one of my Facebook friends I have yet to meet in person, but someone who still made a big impact upon my life a few weeks ago when they reached out to me via Facebook Messenger. Due to the subject material of the conversation we had, I opted to leave their name anonymous in today’s entry.

I know many don’t use the Facebook messaging client anymore or never have. I still do though and tend to check my messages multiple times a day there. A few weeks ago, when this person reached out to me there via the video side of it, I was hesitant to answer because I had never communicated to them before, yet something told me I should at least respond via the texting side of it. They told me they were a fellow person in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction and would like to talk to me when I was available. I made time later that day and called them where I learned they had just come through a battle with cancer and were now in remission. They told me the purpose of wanting to talk to me through was more about how much my blog has helped them through many of the difficulties they’ve been facing in life.

Honestly, I was speechless. Here was someone who had just come through a serious health crisis that was taking the time to let me know how much I had helped them when I had never even met them. Sometimes I don’t really know the impact of the words I write in this blog. Sad to say I seem to irritate many with my writing, especially when I discuss things involving God or in recent years the pandemic or politics.

Nevertheless, I was told how much my words had moved them again and again, comforting them and helping them on their own spiritual journey. I think what moved my heart the most though in the conversation was being told how much they felt I was doing a good job in life and making an impact here in Toledo, a place where they were from as well.

I have lost count of the number of days over the years here in Toledo where the darkness has tried to convince me that my writing is pointless and that I should just hang the towel up. Given the fact that maintaining this site costs me several hundred dollars a year, it seems as God keeps giving me one reminder after another that the price I’m paying to keep it going is worth it. This is why I’m so grateful today for this individual who had the courage to reach out to a total stranger and share about their recovery, both from their addiction and from a cancer battle, and also provide me an invaluable message of love in their own words. Words that said I do matter in this world and words that said someone was proud of me too, things I never heard much of in my life ever since I was a kid.

So, thank you my friend, you know who you are because I know you said you continue to follow my writing. I’m grateful that you took the time amidst your own struggles and spiritual journey of life, all to thank me, and let me know in your own way, that God is watching me and is proud of me. You have no idea how much your words affected me greatly in a beautiful way, I dedicate today’s Grateful Heart Monday to you my friend.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude remains the sole focus of my writing for the day, which for today is for Ed. D., a fellow 12-stepper in recovery from the addiction world.

While my blog work does seem to get several comments a day via re-sharing them on Facebook, I normally don’t have much contact that comes via my personal website (andrewarthurdawson). So, when I received an email just over a week ago now from one of the readers of my blog, Ed. D., I was both surprised and grateful. Thankfully, I also received his permission to re-share his words, as they truly were heartfelt and ones that resonate within my own that have helped motivate me to keep writing, especially on those days when I struggle coming up with reasons to do so, as that does happen for me at times. The following are Ed’s words… (with location and precise 12 Step program removed per 12 Step tradition.)

Hi Andrew,

Just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your writing. The reflections are thought-provoking and inspiring. I chair an online meeting and sometimes use your reflections as a guide for meeting topics, and whenever I do so, the quality of the shares is spectacular and in many cases I am simply moved to tears.

Keep up the wonderful work and know that you are helping to change lives for the better.

Kindest Regards,
Ed D.

So, to my new recovery connection, Ed. D., I am dedicating today’s Grateful Heart Monday entry to you, for being a beautiful reminder from my Higher Power that I do matter in this world, that my writing is continuing to help others, and that I need to keep trusting I’m making a positive difference in the lives of others. I truly am very much thankful for you Ed today and thank you as well for letting me re-share this with the rest of my readers.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another chapter in gratitude. For this week’s Grateful Heart Monday entry, I’d like to express my gratefulness for my friendship with a guy named Ronn Musser.

A few weeks ago, when I messaged my friend Ronn, I inquired if he was open to going and seeing this movie I had a desire to go see at the time. His response was one I didn’t expect because it showed nothing but unconditional love for me. He said, “I’d be open to seeing any movie with you.” He further clarified he just wanted to spend time with me and that it didn’t matter what we did.

You see that’s what I’ve come to know about Ronn, he’s that type of guy who isn’t interested in what he can get out of a friendship, he’s more interested in what he can bring to it, including just being present with someone he cares about. Ronn is far more about simply being there with his friends just because, rather than expecting it to meet one of his own interests.

It often seems like that far too many people these days make plans with others only when it’s doing something they want to do, rather than simply because they just want to be with their friend. When my health went downhill years ago, I felt like I became an outcast in this world because many stopped spending time with me anymore mainly because I wasn’t able to do much. My best friend Cedric was the first to show me otherwise. Eventually others came into my life who I could add to that list, which can now include Ronn.

I desire to have people in my life today like Ronn, who want to be around me because they just like being around me. That they love me for me and enjoy my company, not because of what I can offer them or what we are going to be doing together.

That’s why Ronn is such a good friend to those in his life, as he does care about the people he spends time with. He’s also an incredible listener as well and I often feel far better after spending time with him because I feel heard in life. That’s in stark contrast to many I’ve spent time with where I felt more invisible than not, and left feeling more down than up.

So, I’m grateful today for Ronn Musser continuing to remind me there are people out there in this world and in my life who do care more about just spending time with me than meeting one of their own selfish interests. It’s people like Ronn who are priceless in a world where so many pursue friendships out of selfishness rather than selflessness…So, thank you Ronn for being my friend…and thank you for those friends in my life like Ronn who have stuck by my side as well just because they care about me, no matter what.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

It’s time for another chapter in gratitude, which for this Grateful Heart Monday, I wanted to officially express my thankfulness for the ongoing reminders I continue to get from time to time from Source to keep doing what I’m doing in life for work.

I often find myself getting caught up in my head wondering if I’m even doing what I’m meant to be doing in life, mostly because it’s quite far from what I once went to college for and presently it’s only volunteer based. Having gone to a major university to earn a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems and working 10 years in that field, then engaging myself in the bed and breakfast/inn-keeping industry for 7 years beyond that, never truly enjoying either other than the money both brought in, I’ve thankfully chosen to spend the last decade of my life doing something far different.

Over the last ten years, I’ve immersed myself in what I believe to be a third career iteration, one that’s primarily in the addiction recovery realm with me simply donating my time and energy just to help others via my speaking and writing. Doing this specific work has been both exceptionally fulfilling yet totally frustrating at times, only in that I frequently find myself wondering if it’s even making a difference. It’s easy to think that way when I see so many relapses and deaths from addiction with such regularity and when so many of my speaking presentations and articles I write receive little to no feedback. Thus, I’m extremely grateful when I get those occasional reminders from others telling me how much what I do has helped them.

One came recently from a fraternity brother who heard my alcohol and drug story at the chapter house years ago who just never let me know until recently how much it had impacted their life back then. Another came recently as well from a reader of my blog who told me how much my words continue to make an impact upon their life due to my openness and transparency with what I’ve been through. Other reminders have come at times via the addiction centers I volunteer at where me simply telling my story of addiction to recovery has planted seeds I never even knew sprouted until I randomly ran into them long down their road of recovery.

I have really seen the truth that one never really knows the depth of the seeds they plant from their acts of freely giving of themselves in life. Even though my current work path isn’t one that’s income bearing, I continue to remain grateful, especially on this Grateful Heart Monday, to God for the ongoing reminders I receive that the work I’m dong now is important and is what I’m meant to be doing in life presently, as it’s not only clearly helping others, it’s also providing me far more fulfillment, something I can most assuredly say never did happen in either of my prior careers…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Expressing My Gratitude For The 30th Alumni Reunion Of NY Theta Phi Kappa Psi…

Welcome to Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude remains the only expression in my writing to start my week off, which for today is for my 30th Alumni Reunion of the New York Theta chapter of Phi Kappa Psi at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my hope for this reunion as I was holding great fear surrounding my toxic past that affected my relationship with my fraternity for a long time. I’m thankful to report how blessed I felt from this reunion and how connected I felt afterwards, the following is my gratitude to the brothers who made this truly special for me…

To Geoff Taylor, a brother whose heart runs deep, whose love for helping others and being a servant of God was more than prevalent through the entire weekend, and for helping me to see more of the positive side of life, I’m grateful for you.

To Chris Kay, a brother who has never given up on me, who has always believed in me, always supported me, and the only brother who makes me smile for being the only one taller than me!, I’m grateful for you.

To Brian Uhlin, a brother who showed me I’m loved by God even with having the tainted past I do, I’m grateful for you.

To Mike Van Bruinesse, Jay Williams, Eric Harrington, Tom Rehm, Phil Farchione, and Don Derrenbacher, six brothers who gave me amazingly huge hugs when they saw me, who each offered me many words of love, connection, and encouragement, I’m grateful for each of you.

To John Finter, Rob Parada, and Seth Gitner, three brothers who have remained incredibly active in our chapter for all these years, we wouldn’t have the chapter we have today or even have a reunion if it wasn’t for each of you, I’m grateful for each of you.

To John Hamblett, my pledge brother who spent much of the first day with me, treating me to an Indian meal and a Starbucks, reminiscing and laughing about the craziness during our undergraduate years and pledging days (“It’s making me do weird things!!!”), I’m grateful to you.

To Joel Feldman, a brother I have come to know over the years on a much deeper level, sharing a bond I don’t have with most, who spent time with me over coffee and during much of the weekend, reminding me of the good times we had together during our undergraduate days, I’m grateful for you.

To Daniel Sarata, a brother who has most assuredly helped me remain connected to our fraternity just by reading my blog and maintaining contact with me, who took the time at the barbecue to open up to me as he always does, sharing from his heart, and introducing me to his very spiritual and inspirational wife, those tears I shed there with you both were real, I’m grateful for you.

To Matt Christen, a brother who came long after I graduated that I met at the 20th but really came to know at the 30th, who spoke great words of wisdom with me, made me laugh A LOT, who truly has the kindest of heart, (and someone I’m definitely coming to in a zombie apocalypse with all those special set of hunting skills!), I’m grateful for you.

To Justin Steinhard, a brother who reached out to me personally on the phone prior to even coming to the reunion, letting me know I mattered to him, who checked in with me at every single event to make sure I was ok, and who did an incredible amount of work to make the reunion possible this year, I’m grateful for you.

To Craig Pettingill, a brother who took the time to introduce me to all of our family tree at the reunion, for helping to coordinate a huge family photo that I will always cherish, for the number of connecting conversations we had there and since I returned home, I’m grateful for you.

To Andy Molinaro, a brother who’s currently our chaplain, who reminded me so much of Jim Harmon, our chapter’s first chaplain, for playing a game of pool with me at The Landing Strip when I needed a double’s partner, and for spending time getting to know me and sharing about his life as well, I’m grateful for you.

To Bryan Takeuchi, a brother I continue to find great inspiration in, in the energy he carries, in the fatherhood principles he exudes, for continuing to follow the musings of my blog, and for the deep moments of connection I got with him prior to the reunion’s chapter meeting, I’m grateful for you.

To JaJuan Webster, a brother who shared with me a big hug, who helped me feel very much welcomed and embraced at the first event, and for sharing with me deeply on your career aspirations, I’m grateful for you.

To Greg Springer, a brother who has a story as deep as mine, for your open honesty on all the trials and tribulations you’ve faced in life, and for the hard work you’ve put into this weekend and our chapter in general, I’m grateful for you.

To Mark Butts, and all the other brothers who tagged along in my car to events, each of you reminded me why I always loved spending time on the road with my brothers way back when, talking and listening to music, I’m grateful for each of you.

To Trevor McClenon, a brother who although we only shared a quick hello during the weekend, reached out once I was home via messenger, who reminded me that the work I do in my 12 Step recovery often has blessings I may never know of, and has talked to me at length several times already, I’m grateful for you.

To Wade O’Brien and Jack Kalina, two undergraduate brothers who led much of the coordination of this reunion, for their leadership in general, and for the friendliness I had each time I talked to either of you, I’m grateful for both of you.

To Peter Radman, a brother who took the time to open up to me about his upcoming work in Croatia while roasting next to that blazing bonfire, I’m grateful for you.

To Greg Villafane, one of the newest brothers in my family tree, who I believe carries a level of energy that is destined for true leadership and greatness in this world, for learning you come from Glen Cove where my father’s family was from, and for really going out of your way to get to know me in a big way, I’m grateful for you.

And for all the rest of the attendees of this 30th reunion who I hugged, shook hands with, spent time connecting with for the moments we did, no matter how brief, each of you are why I remain a loyal Phi Kappa Psi brother, I’m so grateful for each of you.

Brothers, I love you all and dedicate today’s Grateful Heart Monday entry to the 30th Reunion of the New York Theta Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi, to our fraternity in general, and to each of you…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Because I don’t tune into the news much, sometimes it takes me a good while to hear about newsworthy spiritual content that I’d really enjoy sharing with my readers. Today’s expression of gratitude on this Grateful Heart Monday is one of those that actually occurred a few years ago and deals with Derek Prue, a father from Alberta, Canada, and his then 8-year-old son Derek Jr.

When Prue noticed his son was constantly wearing a shirt whenever they were at the pool and learned it was due to his son’s self-consciousness and embarrassment with the large birthmark on his torso, Prue wanted to make a difference in his son’s life. So, Prue found a tattoo artist who could ink him with a very similar marking to his son’s, which ended up requiring over 30 hours of painful tattooing. While Prue received quite a bit of attention and praise from the news, friends, and social media surrounding what he did, he maintains the only motivation was to show his son how much he loved him unconditionally.

After I read the article about Prue and his son Derek Jr., I was deeply moved. Seeing the picture of Prue standing next to his son with them both proudly displaying their torsos and both grinning ear to ear, I looked for other examples of beautiful parental love actions like this. I was surprised to see a number of other parents did the same with actions that ranged from tattoos of their kid’s surgical scars to shaving their heads. All of this led me to thinking about one specific thing my father did for me before he died.

When I came out to my father in the summer of 1995, a time when sexuality was far more rejected in families than it is today, his response was something I’ll never forget. He told me that I could have said I had HIV and was dying of AIDS and that he would still love me unconditionally. Shortly after that he even joined a PFLAG meeting all to show his loving support of the new journey I had just embarked upon with my sexuality. While it was a rare unconditionally loving memory from my past with parents who were alcoholic and often showed actions saying otherwise, it’s this memory that I hold near and dear. This is precisely why whenever I give my 12 Step recovery presentations now, I ask who the parents are there. When any hands get raised, I make sure to always tell them the most important thing they can ever show their children is how much they are loved unconditionally and how proud they are of them just as they are. I’m thankful for that memory I have with my father, as I’m sure Derek Jr. is now of his father, because it’s that memory that will help a kid get through any moment in life they end up feeling unloved in a world that can often feel unloving.

So, I’m thankful to report on this story of Derek Prue and his son Derek Jr., someone I’m sure will grow up always remembering every time he sees his Dad’s chest now bearing the same birthmark as his own, how much he’s truly loved and embraced unconditionally. I dedicate today’s Grateful Heart Monday to all the parents like Prue who have done similar actions in their lives all to show their children they are loved NO MATTER WHAT…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another entry in gratitude on this Grateful Heart Monday! For today, I wish to express my gratefulness for what I’m about to achieve in just a few days, God willing, and that is passing a huge sobriety milestone in my S.L.A.A. program.

For those who aren’t aware of what S.L.A.A. is, it’s Sex and Love Addiction, a 12 Step recovery program that works the same steps as Alcoholics Anonymous. Sex and love addiction is something I battled with quite a bit in my 20’s and 30’s. But thankfully, a few months shy of my 40th birthday, I finally began a true path of sobriety and recovery from an addiction that I felt did far more damage to my life than drinking and drugging ever did to me. And that’s probably only because the drinking and drugging part of my addition life spanned just six years, where I spent the majority of two decades living in toxic sex and love patterns.

Nevertheless, I’m just a few days shy of reaching my 10th milestone where I’ll have been free from an addiction that I know would still be there if it wasn’t for the S.L.A.A. program and God of course. By the grace of both, I’ve been abstinent from pornography, infidelity, romantic obsession and attachment, and promiscuity for a decade and I have immense gratitude for this.

This addiction is insidious and often beckons me back into it, especially when my partner and I have had those moments where we find ourselves on opposite sides of the boxing ring so to speak. It’s time like that or times when my physical and/or emotional pain have gotten the best of me where my ego tries to tell me that some of my behaviors with this addiction weren’t so bad back then and provided me more comfort than pain. If I didn’t have my S.L.A.A. 12 Step meeting on Monday nights, my sponsorship work in that program, a decent list of recovering individuals to connect with from that program, and a strong recovery relationship with my Higher Power, there’s no way I ever would have achieved a decade of sobriety with this addiction.

While I have zero desire to go back to drinking and drugging and haven’t really been tempted to do either in decades, I can’t say the same with my sex and love addiction. I think the truth behind that is that sex and love is inherent to a human being’s nature, especially touch. While a person can live without alcohol and drugs forever with no issues, it’s been proven that human beings require human touch. But that innate craving can become quite warped when that pit within grows deeper. My sex and love addiction began with the simple desire to be touched and loved, something I didn’t get much of at all growing up. The toxic behaviors that came out of my sex and love addiction all stemmed from that feeling. It may not have started out so toxic, but it eventually became that way the more I allowed it to control me. It’s why I remain so devoted to a program that plenty from other 12 Step programs haven’t understood or haven’t wanted to understand because many struggle themselves with these types of behaviors and aren’t ready to face them yet.

Regardless, I dedicate today’s Grateful Heart Monday to reaching a major milestone in my 12 Step recovery from sex and love addiction and thank the S.L.A.A. program and God for making that happen. Without both, I’m quite sure this addiction would have been the one to take me out of this world for good…but 10 years later, I can thankfully say I’m still here, doing my recovery, and heading into the next decade of sobriety from it and hopefully many beyond.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday entry, where gratitude remains the sole focus on my writing to start each of my week’s off, which for today is for Sherman Kardatzke, owner of Not Just Rocks Lapidary Supply and sincere hobby enthusiast of precious stones, crystals, and rocks.

For those who see me with regularity, I tend to wear a lot of 18” crystal necklaces of many different varieties. At this point, I probably have at least thirty or more of them and that number only continues to grow with every year. While many may argue that crystals don’t really do anything except look nice, I’ve seen much of my health change incredibly just in wearing one of my necklaces and learned each of them carries specific healing qualities, with my favorite one being howlite, as it’s used to ward off and remove negative energy.

Nevertheless, for my first few years here in Toledo, a sponsee I had in recovery had a wife who repaired my crystal necklaces whenever they broke. She did amazing work, but sadly one day a few years ago she said she wasn’t open to doing that type of work anymore. When she had no suggestions for who could help me in the future with that type of work, I began having a pile of broken crystal necklaces grow, usually due to the cheap strings and/or clasps that were used to originally make them. Thankfully, last year that changed when I met Sherman Kardatzke at the Toledo Gem and Rockhound Club annual show in September.

Every year I tend to go to this show solely looking for new crystal necklaces to wear or precious stones to place around my home or to carry in my pocket. During this past show though, I decided to go with a different purpose, one that mainly looked for a merchant who could repair my growing pile of broken necklaces. Most of the vendors I met there weren’t interested in repairing them though and were only looking to sell what they had. And when a few did offer to repair them, it was for prices far higher than what they were worth. I was about to give up until I came to the last vendor table where I’d meet Sherman.

Outgoing, cheerful, upbeat, energetic, and an all-around nice guy, Sherman answered all my questions and offered to repair my necklaces for an affordable price. He said he’d even make them far stronger at that. I gave him one of my broken necklaces to start and he told me to come back the next day to the show where he’d have it ready. And sure enough, it was!

Ever since then, I’ve been giving him all my necklaces to repair where each have come back with far stronger wire and magnetic clasps. In the process, I’ve built a working friendship with Sherman and become very grateful in getting to know someone who’s vastly knowledgeable in this area of expertise.

Sherman lives in Adrian, Michigan, but comes to Toledo quite often to run the Toledo Gem and Rockhound Clubhouse, which isn’t too far from my home. There, I’ve come to learn a lot about an entire hobby I never knew much about and seen a passion in Sherman that is indeed special. Sherman has now saved a good number of necklaces in my collection and has even added to my collection with the creation of new ones I didn’t have.

So, I’m thankful for my growing connection with Sherman, for his knowledge with crystals, rocks, and precious stones, for his ability to repair necklaces I loved that I thought were broken for good, for creating new necklaces for me from other crystals I never had, and for him just being a good-natured gentleman who was more interested in sharing his gift with me at the start than in making me a sale. For all of this and more, it’s why I’m dedicating today’s Grateful Heart Monday entry to you Sherman Kardatzke, please keep doing what you do!

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Lunana, A Yak in the Classroom”, A Moving Testimony Of A Film About Where True Happiness Comes From…

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday where I share my weekly writing entry in gratitude. For today, I’d like to express my gratefulness for a 2022 Academy Award nominee in the Best Foreign Picture category titled, “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom”, a movie that is a moving testimony of where true happiness comes from.

“Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” is based upon the true story of a young man named Ugyen (Sherab Dorji) from Bhutan who dreams of moving to Australia to pursue his dream of a singing career. Having completed four of his five mandatory years of training as a teacher for the government, Ugyen is tired of doing that career path and considers quitting, especially after getting his final assignment, which is at the most remote school of his country in the mountain village of Lunana. With a population of only 56 people and an eight-day hike to get there from the closest town, Lunana is the last place Ugyen wants to be at. But, after considerable urging by his grandmother to complete his last teaching assignment, Ugyen sets off on the journey into the mountains with two guides, Michen (Ugyen Norbu Lhendup) and Signye (Tshering Dorji). It’s overly apparent how at peace and grateful Michen and Signye are with what they are given from the land and the people who help them along the way, and how ungrateful and frustrated Ugyen is with his current life’s circumstances. It becomes even more apparent the difference in attitudes upon his arrival in the village where Ugyen is greeted with the warmest showing and unconditional love that should melt anyone’s heart, but all Ugyen can think of is how quickly he can turn around and head back home to the life he thinks he’s meant to be living. That all begins to change though when he meets a very young bright-eyed class captain named Pem Zam (playing herself), who somehow finds a way into Ugyen’s heart. “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” tells the wonderful story of how one young man ends up travelling what some say is the longest distance to travel in our world, that being from living in our minds to one of living in our hearts.

While I wrote the other day of how so many films and television shows these days seem to be becoming so dark and depressing, “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” stands the complete opposite and most definitely moved my soul. Having been filmed on a measly $300,000 budget in the actual remote village of Lunana where nothing but solar power exists and only when the sun is fully out, I was blown away at how real the film still felt. I learned the director wasn’t even able to review his daily footage because of his lack of electrical power. To have a film of this caliber shoot on such limited constraints and move me as much as it did says a lot. In contrast, many of these dark and depressing big studio films these days cost upwards of $50 million to $150 million. Nevertheless, on some level, this film felt so real to me that I actually thought I was watching a documentary about the life of these villagers!

One of the biggest reasons why I was moved so incredibly by “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” is how much I could relate to Ugyen’s spiritual journey to find himself. Having once been a big city kid myself who thought that having more meant a better life, only to discover that having less brought about far greater contentment in life, I saw strong similarities between myself and Ugyen. I also experienced plenty of gratitude for the villagers in this remote location who have learned to appreciate all of God’s beauty in each other and in the land around them.

In our society today, we often overlook the things that are beautiful right around us, like the bald eagle I would have missed seeing years ago, but thankfully saw in a farm field I was driving by the other day, who was just staring at me as I drove by. Instead, we often are constantly immersed in our phones and other technology, missing out on some of the best things to see that don’t cost a thing. Seeing the life of these remote villagers find happiness in just singing, communing, and supporting each other, I ultimately felt a ping in my heart by the end of the film wishing I could go spend a week with them.

I feel so many of us have forgotten in this world how to be thankful for what we have, even on the smallest of level, and “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” was a great reminder of both that and how far I’ve come from the days where I once thought I knew were happiness came from, only to discover that sometimes happiness comes in just being with another and sharing with them a piece of my heart.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday where gratitude remains the sole expression of my writing at the start of every week, which for today is for a woman named Taran Chellis New, a real estate agent in the Tampa, Florida area for the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Properties Group, who truly was a diamond in a lot of rough for my partner Chris and I during our short five weeks we attempted to make a move for a potential job offer Chris received that ended up in the end being a bust.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks that came at the onset of Chris fielding this potential job offer was the lack of help we were given in the relocation process. The human resources department of the place Chris was to be working for didn’t offer anything in the way of financial assistance, yet promised they’d help at least provide resources when we came to Tampa for a week trip in place of our cancelled vacation to Cozumel. When we arrived in Tampa though, we attempted to reach out to the HR department to ask where we should begin our search, but we received no contact back. Because of that, I decided to ask our hotel manager, Emilee, for help. I figured she at least would guide us to something to start our search for a future place to live. She immediately got in touch with a friend of hers named Melanie who worked for the Berkshire Hathaway Group as well, who quickly put us in touch with one of their agents, Taran.

During the course of our week in Tampa, Taran made time for Chris and I in her busy schedule, even on such short notice. She took us around on two separate afternoons to see various homes for rent and for sale and even drove us through various towns outside the city to show us all the possibilities. We were provided a wealth of information from her, enough to help us limit our focus to the exact type of home we were looking for and a more precise location of where we wanted to live in the Tampa area. Even better, she got us in contact with a friend of hers, Earl, a mortgage loan broker, who got us pre-approved for a nice amount.

I was amazed at how friendly Taran was throughout it all, even in the level of stress I most certainly carried outwardly, and how she went over and above for two individuals she had never met who had no idea of where to even begin a search that felt mammoth to us. Even when we told her we probably wouldn’t be buying anything in the first three of Chris’s employment and that I’d be remaining back in Toledo during that period of time, she continued to go to bat for us, looking for rental options for Chris, sending us one lead after another.

Chris and I consistently felt welcomed in her presence and enjoyed all the time we had with her in person and over the phone during out week trip to Tampa. Taran was a true joy to be around and provided us everything that Chris’s potential new HR department didn’t. And while the whole prospect of a new life and new job in Tampa eventually fell through for us, Taran remained optimistic and said she looked forward to seeing us again, even letting us know she’d be opened to passing Chris’s resume off to her husband’s company for any potential leads.

In the end, while the move to Tampa and potential new position for Chris was one that didn’t happen, Taran was the bright spot through it all and someone we both promised we’d work with again if God were to guide us back there with another opportunity. So, Taran, thank you so much for shining through all the darkness Chris and I experienced during the five stressful weeks we had in this relocation process. You truly were a beautiful diamond in a lot of rough and while our move didn’t happen, you were the best part about it all and precisely why I’m dedicating today’s Grateful Heart Monday entry to you.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday entry, where gratitude remains the sole focus on my writing, which for today is for going through all the pains, trials, and tribulations of my life the past ten years medication free.

For those who may not know this, I’m not against medication, I just choose not to use it anymore to cope with the general pains, trials, and tribulations of my life, as in the past, I used medications to cope with life and keep my numb. The result was the shutting down of my heart and generally not caring much about anything.

The last round of medications I was prescribed back in 2011 included Effexor, Ativan, Seroquel, and Gabapentin. All of it eventually led me to attempt suicide because I had become so numb inside to life itself. I vowed to myself in the spring of 2012 to start going through my life medication free unless an emergency occurred. I wanted to experience more of life on life’s terms. It’s been a hard path to undertake, especially on the many extremely pain-riddled days I’ve had and the countless days I’ve felt quite down.

Believe me there are plenty of moments where I think like many probably do, that I just want to take some type of medication to make my pain go away. Given I have an addict personality that doesn’t want to feel pain, it’s even more of a reason why I have chosen for years now not to medicate.

Last year when I had COVID for 24 straight days, I endured the worst of headaches I’ve ever felt in my entire life for about seven straight days, but I didn’t attempt to even take a Tylenol, Aleve, Advil, or anything of the sort. I just sat through it and that wasn’t because I was choosing to be a martyr. I chose that route because I didn’t want to allow my ego to convince me all over again that the only solution in life to cope with pain is through some type of pill.

There once was a time one would find me in one doctor’s office after another, day after day, week after week, month after month, seeking out medications to fix what I felt to be broken within me. My ego had convinced me that the only answer to solve all my suffering was to medicate. Sometimes I even think much of the hypochondria I’ve dealt with is simply my ego just trying to get me to go back to medicating all over again.

Regardless, it’s no small feat that I’ve gone through an incredible amount of stuff over the past decade and haven’t popped a single pill in my mouth, not once. How many days I’ve wanted to do so for quick relief is probably countless. But I know myself better than anyone else does, and the addict in me always wants to go back down that path all over again. The addict in me wants the only solution in life to be a pill to make all my pain go away. Why? Because the addict likes remaining numb to life itself.

I’m continuing to choose day after day to not follow the medication path because I want to remain living in reality, feeling what I need to feel, dealing with what I need to deal with, and healing in God’s time. I’m not saying I’ll never be on medication again and I’m also not saying medication is bad either. What I am saying is that I’m grateful to have gone this long without it when I couldn’t go a day without it just over a decade ago and I give all that credit to to remaining on this path thus far to my faith that God is the one who is guiding me through it all…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday entry, where gratitude remains the sole focus in my writing for the day, which for today is for my 10-year anniversary I just celebrated with my partner, Chris.

Honestly, it’s somewhat mind-blowing to me that 10 years have gone by since I first met Chris. Just over a decade ago now, we had our first meet and greet on a cruise to the Caribbean, which by the end of, we chose to become a couple. For two years after, we stayed in a long-distance dating pattern with me in Boston and Chris in Toledo, mostly because of me wanting to be sure I wasn’t following in any of my old toxic patterns in the sex and love realm of addiction. Eventually, God led me to move to Toledo to live with Chris and I’ve been there ever since.

For someone like me who played the field far too much throughout my 20’s and 30’s, and constantly struggled to ever settle down with any one person for a while, reaching this decade milestone is a rather amazing feat to me. What’s even more amazing is how my relationship with Chris has grown deeper and deeper the more we’ve remained together. I give that credit to God, my 12 Step recovery in SLAA, and remaining 100% monogamous through it all.

I can’t imagine my life in a relationship with anyone else right now except Chris. Chris has been my rock through many anxiety-riddled times, through plenty of health issues, and through countless moments where my mind got the best of me. I truly am grateful that I have a decade now with Chris and pray we have another decade and more ahead.

So, I dedicate today’s Grateful Heart Monday to a person who is such a beautiful soul and someone who has chosen to walk by my side through thick and thin, for 10 years now, even when I’ve often thought I’ve had nothing to offer. Chris, I am grateful you have stuck by my side for the past 10 years…I love you…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another entry of Grateful Heart Monday, which for today is for a new show I’m watching, Bel-Air, on Peacock, a reboot of the original Fresh Prince of Bel-Air series, but a far more gritty and edgy version of it.

These days, reboots of old tv shows seem to be becoming more and more common. Shows like Dynasty, MacGyver, Magnum PI, Law & Order, and so many others have returned to varying degrees, some I’d consider decent reboots, while others I quickly lost interest in, remembering the older version as far more superior. Most recently, Peacock has brought back The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air thanks to a YouTube video of one person’s view of what the original show should have been more like. Rather than the show being a comedy like its predecessor, Bel-Air is more of an urban drama and one that really feels more real than the original ever did.

While my partner was a big fan of the original Fresh Prince series, I wasn’t. It was just too goofy and irritated me more than not, especially every time Carlton did that silly dance that became so popular back then. I generally quickly turned the channel every time the original show was on, and continue to do so even in its reruns, because it never felt accurate or real on any level to me.

There was a very brief period of my life where I did live on the inner-city streets of Poughkeepsie, learning much about a culture I didn’t grow up with. The premise of the original Fresh Prince show was about taking Will Smith out of the inner-city streets of Philadelphia when things got out of hand and sending him off to Bel-Air in California to his rich aunt and uncle’s place for safety. For many, that original series was one of the highlights of their upbringing, bringing them some much-needed laughter when it was on. But for me, it brought annoyance each time it was, because it didn’t portray any of what I saw in the friends or life I had during my brief inner-city days.  Honestly, it felt like it did a strong disservice to a culture I came to know.

In the new version of Fresh Prince though, more aptly titled Bel-Air to depict its originality, while the premise retains that initial theme of bringing Will Smith to a place of safety from inner-city trouble, there are subjects that are shown with much greater accuracy that the original never ever showed. Gang warfare, gun violence, drugs in high school, severe bullying, great family strife, and much more, Bel-Air is not a show for the light-hearted and looks nothing like the original, thankfully.

I’ve now watched almost half of the new season of Bel-Air and I find myself being drawn back into the life I once lived for that brief period each time the show is on. The main lead, Jabari Banks, as the young Will Smith is electrifying and very believable, as is Carlton (Olly Sholotan), who thankfully hasn’t done any silly dance in it as of yet.

Why I’m grateful for this show is simply because I feel that Hollywood often misrepresents cultures for the sake of gaining viewership. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air back in the 90’s had lots of viewers because it was goofy fun, but one I never felt connected to. The same can be said of a show like Modern Family that consistently type casted a gay couple as being overly flamboyant, something that annoys me incredibly because not all gay people are flamboyant.

I have grown weary of TV shows and movies that don’t represent what a culture is truly like, which is why I’m thankful on today’s Grateful Heart Monday for Bel-Air emerging this year with a fresh look and premise, one that feels far more real than its predecessor ever did…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson