A personal initiative to live more appreciatively

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

#7: Fun Mail!

Amidst the typical bills and junk in my mailbox today was the rare but much appreciated real mail! Mrs. Black sent me a card today, and instantly what felt like an ordinary day became unordinary. Today I am grateful for what I call "fun mail". Email is, of course, such a convenient and easy form of communication. That's what makes it wonderful, but what also makes it, at times, rather impersonal. Real mail, though, is anything but. I'm so appreciative today that Mrs. Black took the time to pick out a card, write me a really touching message, and send it my way. It is a simple but sincere reminder of how grateful I am to know the entire Black family, and how sometimes the littlest things can be the big moments of our days.

Fun mail! Fun envelope!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

#6: Enthusiastic Readers

This morning, walking into the building, I bumped into one of my favorite students. He smiled hugely when he saw me and immediately launched into a novel review, insisting that I had to add this particular book to my 'To Read' list. Later in class students literally jumped out of their chairs at the chance to borrow two new books I purchased for our classroom library, and raced each other to put their names on the "waiting list" once the books had been randomly distributed. And then, at the end of the day, another student stayed after school to show me the trailer for The Hunger Games. He knows how much I love the series, and since he's reading it, too, was really excited to talk about how good the movie looks (even though we already know the book, in the end, will be preferred). Today, I'm thankful for enthusiastic readers. Yes, they make my job easier. But more so than that, it's days like today-- sharing such positive moments with so many kids-- that make me thankful to be a teacher.

Monday, November 28, 2011

#5: My Lungs

Taking advantage of this amazing stretch of weather we've been having, I ran outdoors tonight. Motivated by how amazing it felt to be out on a warm evening with December just days away, I pushed myself to run further and harder than I have in over a month. Maybe it was endorphins, or how it's impossible to avoid being contemplative during twilight hours-- whatever the inspiration-- it was on this run tonight that I thought how thankful I am for my lungs.

I thought this when my lungs started to hurt. When I run hard and fast, there's pressure in my chest, compression in my lungs. This probably sounds unpleasant, but I actually like the way it feels (and personally, I think every distance runner has to be a little bit of a masochist). With each inhale I'm rejuvinated by cool, fresh air. With each exhale I let something go (and hear Caren's voice, telling me to do so.) It's therapeutic. The more they hurt, the more I pay attention to how good it feels just to breathe.

[Note: this is much deeper than I intended to be today. The first mile of my run I planned on writing about how thankful I am for '80s power ballads. I'll save that post for another day.]

Sunday, November 27, 2011

#4: Christmas Decorations

I love putting up the decorations themselves, and knowing that for the next few weeks my home is filled with Christmas spirit. It's been important to me to create a home that's warm, and I feel we've done that most during the Christmas season. I'm thankful today for my Christmas tree, stockings by the fireplace (which my cats will hopefully leave alone) and Jingle Ducks! They are a daily reminder that this truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

Jingle Ducks!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

#3: Unseasonably Warm Weather

The holiday season might be in full swing, but today truly felt like a day in early spring. Unfortunately I realized too late that I easily could have gotten away with wearing flip flops! Knowing the winter is bearing down upon us, I made it a point to soak up how good it feels somedays just to be outside, content with sunshine.

Friday, November 25, 2011

#2: Old Friends

Another reason I love Thanksgiving: everyone is home. While there are a few reasons why I have a hard time still living in my hometown, there are many reasons why I am happy that I do. This is one of them: that during the holidays I can guarantee I will see friends from my childhood. Today I met up with a high school friend, Jenn, whom I was close to but lost touch with when she graduated a year ahead of me and went away to college. We spent three hours this afternoon catching up at a coffee house, and it proved an old adage I love: that "the older you get, the more you need people who knew you when you were young." It felt so great to laugh with her about the ridiculousness of our adolescence, and even just to hear her laugh again-- one that is the background noise to my memories of cross county and track. Jenn is such a genuine, kind person, someone I always looked up to during high school, and after today realize I still do. I'm thankful we had time to catch up today and for our years of friendship during high school.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

#1: Thanksgiving

The turkey is in the oven, the table is set, and family and friends are hours away from arriving. Thanksgiving is upon us, and while I've been preparing for today for a few weeks now...as it's my first Thanksgiving hosting...I've also been getting ready to launch this, my Thankfulness Project.

The Thankfulness Project is actually an idea I came up with last year. And as a year has past, I must admit, I don't even remember how I decided to spend a year reflecting on what I am thankful for. But this time last year I started and, for some reason lost on me now, it lost steam. But the concept of it resonated with me all year, and now I think I am truly ready to commit to it. 365 reflections on 365 aspects of my life for which I am most thankful.

Why do I think this year will be more successful than last? Well, a lot has changed about me during this past year. In January I completed my first marathon, an endeavor 2 years in the making, one that took a great deal of commitment and changed me for the better. I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and began to rethink how happiness is cultivated in my life, and I read 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam and realized the importance of wisely spending the fleeting hours of our lives. For these reasons, and many others, I am ready to dedicate myself to this project. When I look back on the past year I am aware of so much personal growth, and I know through doing this, next Thanksgiving I will be a more grateful, happier person.

So what am I thankful for today? Thanksgiving! What was once my least favorite holiday has quickly become one of my favorite. Kegan was appalled to learn this when we first met--- I actually dislike the Thanksgiving meal. The staples are not appealing to me, really, and so a day that is so focused around food that I didn't particularly enjoy could not compete with the serenity of Christmas or my lifelong appreciation for everything Halloween. But as I've matured I've changed my focus about Thanksgiving. It's one of my favorite aspects of American culture-- that we, as a nation, take time to be grateful for the many blessings of our lives. It's the impetus for my project, and a manner in which I think we should all live, always. Too often we let ourselves be bogged down by negativity, and what we don't have or are missing...and I love that for one day we can all look beyond that to appreciate what we actually do have, which is so much to be thankful for, and all we really have, really.

And while Thanksgiving is what this is about, I would be remiss to not reflect on my mom. As joyous as the holiday season is, this time is always marked for me by my mother's absence. It has been nearly seven years since her passing, and while the holidays are always special, they are different now, without her. Today when I express my gratitude for my amazing family and friends, I think of her, too, fondly. I may not have been thrilled with the traditional meal she always served, but I am grateful for all the Thanksgivings we shared together, and how she made me thankful, on Thanksgiving and every day, to be her daughter.