A personal initiative to live more appreciatively

Saturday, December 31, 2011

#38: New Year's Eve Tradition

There are only a few hours left of 2011, and Kegan and I are settling in to ride out the year in the same fashion of last year. Cornish hens are roasting away in the oven, we'll break out our wedding china and wine glasses, then watch "It's a Wonderful Life" in our pajamas. Most likely we'll be asleep before the clock strikes midnight. I'll wake up tomorrow able to get in an early New Years Day run, energized to start 2012.

There's certainly something to be said for doing up New Year's big. I get why people want to be out and about, at parties, drinking, dancing, watching fireworks, staying up late and ushering in 2012 with a bang.  I had my years of crazy New Year's Eve celebrations, and at that time of my life that was exactly where I wanted to be. But I'm truly a homebody at heart. My New Years' Eves of late have harkened to a simpler time of my life, when I was younger and my brother Dennis and I would spend New Years Eve watching the Twilight Zone marathon. Looking back on all of my New Years Eves, those were amongst my favorites. That's what I'm looking to recapture, and this is more my speed now. I'm thankful to be building this tradition with Kegan. We might not have any confetti falling around us, but tonight I'm celebrating the end of 2011 and a quiet evening in with my husband.

Friday, December 30, 2011

#37: Good Beer

Tonight I am thankful for good beer, good friends to drink it with, and whomever first thought to deep fry a pickle. Delicious!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

#36: Jillian Michaels

One of the gifts I asked and received for Christmas was Jillian Michael's workout DVD, "30 Day Shred". While I am not actually looking to lose any weight, exercising regularly is really important to me, for stress management, mental and physical health. Running is my primary, preferred way to workout, but lately I've been wimping out with the cold temperatures and unmotivated to get on my treadmill. In the coming weeks I want to get back in a running routine (which likely means registering for a spring half-marathon), but until I am back in a groove, I am thankful I have Jillian's routine to do. As I've written about before, "The Biggest Loser" is one of my favorite tv shows, and one of the reasons is because I really admire the trainers, Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper. They are inspiring and effective, and I'm thankful for their mass-market success, which allows them to train me, too!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

#35: A Good Night's Sleep

Sometimes nothing feels better than getting a good night's sleep...especially one that lasts 11 hours! I can't remember the last time that I slept that long and wasn't ill. With the luxury of winter break this was possible, and I am so appreciative of it. I felt rejuvenated all day, and used that energy to tackle some home reorganization. Win win!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

#34: Sean Thomas

Sean is my brother Dennis' oldest child and only son. Santa brought Sean a Nintendo Wii for Christmas, and I gave him "Epic Mickey", a Disney game, for it. It's a game I actually have myself (because I am still a child) so we planned that I would go to his house to show him how it works and to play it a bit together.

Today I went down to do this, and upon leaving knew that Sean was who I would be thankful for today.

Sean is an amazing young boy. He is, at his core, a genuinely caring person. At just five years old he evidences more empathy and generosity than some adults I know. He is sincere and sweet. I watched him defer the game he was playing to his younger sister, Riley, and at one point go over to his baby sister Ella and just kiss her out of the blue. He is intelligent, clever and creative, coming up with his own stories and games. Sean is so fun to be around, and one of the aspects of him that I love most is that he wholeheartedly appreciates time you spend with him. He is present in his play and talks with you, seemingly wise beyond his years.

Sean was the first baby born after my mom passed away. He was one of the first real reasons for my family to be happy after such loss and sadness, and I will always be thankful for him for bringing so much light into our lives. My father absolutely adores him, as do we all. While my mother did not know him in this life, I know she is so proud of my brother and sister-in-law for how well they are raising him. He has a lot of my brother in him, but is still his own person. She would love him madly, and so do I.

When I said goodbye to him this afternoon he gave me a "squeeze", putting his two hands on the sides of my cheeks after a hug. He used to do that when he was much younger. It was such an unexpected, sweet gesture and I honestly had to catch my breath. I thought about how big he's getting, how that might have been the last or one of the last "squeezes" I ever get from him. Sean, of course, was back to his video game and unaware of the sentimental moment his aunt was having. Today I am thankful for that squeeze, for all the squeezes, and for everything that makes Sean the amazing nephew that he is.

Sean and I caught in a candid moment on Christmas

Monday, December 26, 2011

#33: Chocolate Covered Pretzels

Sometimes I am craving chocolate. Sometimes I am craving something sweet. Sometimes I am craving something salty.

On nights like tonight, when I can't decide, I am thankful for chocolate covered pretzels!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

#32: Christmas

Another Christmas has come and gone, but what a wonderful one it was.  Last night I went to sleep with the sense of complete peace that only Christmas can bring. The rest of the world, its business and noise, fades into the background. This Christmas, as the best Christmases always are, was a day of what really matters in life: love and laughter.

I'm thankful for every moment of this Christmas, but especially to have been able to spend it with family, both mine and Kegan's. Each member of our families is amazing , and I am often overwhelmed that I am blessed to be related to them all.

A few weeks ago I made a resolution that I would be present in the build up to Christmas to ensure that, come Christmas night, I would feel like the season had been totally fulfilling. I was hoping to avoid the seemingly inevitable, pressing sadness of its end. This resolution was half-successful. I relished in the shopping trips, movie viewings, gift-wrapping sessions, decorations, carols, and parties. These were moments I enjoyed to their fullest. And yet, the sadness of Christmas' end is still a feeling I cannot escape.  Simply put, I think it's natural. How can such a magical time of the year end, and one not feel sad to see it go? But as I write this I remind myself that it only ends if you mark the season by the calendar. What really makes Christmas special-- the selflessness, merriment, joy, generosity, and warmth-- can be carried throughout the year if you live a life that exudes those attitudes. Through my Thankfulness Project, and everyday living, I hope to do so.

Merry Christmas, to you and yours, from me. And Charlie.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

#31: Christmas Eve

From the standpoint of my faith, I am thankful for Christmas Eve, the day that marks the hope of all hope. I reflect today on this, knowing that I, even in my brokenness, am given the gift of redemption.

"Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the new born king. Peace on Earth and mercy mild, God and sinner reconciled. Joyful all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies. With the angelic host proclaim: Christ is born in Bethlehem. Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the new born king."

Friday, December 23, 2011

#30: Unit Days

For special occasions and team building, my colleagues and I plan a day for our students during which we break out of academic classes and do a variety of activities in their place. It's one of the corner stones of middle school philosophy, that adolescents at this age need time to socialize and play for their intellectual and emotional well-being. As exhausting as those days can be, they are often some of the most rewarding of the year. It's always awesome to interact with students outside of the confines and conditions of the classroom; you see such a different side of them. Today we had our holiday unit day, and it really was a great day. My students this year are wonderful. They are sweet, well-behaved, funny and willing to play along, all qualities that contribute to a positive unit day. We celebrated our model students with awards, raffled off some prizes they were enthusiastic about winning and played games. It was also great to spend the day with my colleagues, who never fail to amaze me. They are outstanding educators, supportive teammates and true friends. It's often difficult to be a teacher, but days like today balance out the hardships.

Today was also a perfect day for me to take part in a unit-day on a personal level. All week I was slightly dreading today. I couldn't believe that on the 23rd I would be in school for a full day. I expected to feel like I was robbed of the build-up to Christmas by being at work. And since Kegan and I spend the holiday with two families it feels more like I have two Christmases than a Christmas Eve and a Christmas. Christmas Eve, growing up, was always the day I enjoyed more. The palpable excitement, the hours that drag by, filled with fun activities to pass the time, everyone around you abuzz and cheerful. I realized that, today-- the 23rd-- could be my Christmas Eve. With the wonderful students I have this year, I was excited to spend it with them. I fed off of their excitement and energy, our day was planned much as I would plan out a Christmas Eve of my childhood, and I relished in the hugs and good cheer of my 7th and 8th graders. This all makes me so thankful to have had a unit day today.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

#29: "Wintersong"

Christmas music, as a whole, is something I am thankful for. But one Christmas song is particularly meaningful to me. Sarah McLachlan's Wintersong album is made up of melancholic Christmas covers, but her original and title track "Wintersong" is particularly moving. Whenever I hear it I think of my mom, and I often listen to it throughout the year. I actually used lyrics from this song as part of a memorial I had for her at my wedding reception. It's sad, yet hopeful. It reminds me of my mom during my childhood Christmases, the nights I would crawl into my parents' bed to sleep next to her, the comforting belief that she is still a part of my life, and that she's happy.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

#28: Laughing So Hard It Hurts

My sister-in-law recently found a website where you can submit information for a video from Santa for your children. She shared the videos made for my nieces and nephew. They were sweet, heartfelt and charming.

Naturally I had to make one for my father.

I cannot even begin to describe how funny it is (at least to us). Kegan and I have watched it multiple times, and we crack up every time. I love to laugh hysterically. In the "seriousness" of adulthood I enjoy it even more. Oddly enough, sometimes nothing feels as good as laughing so hard it hurts.

(Note: I'd love to share the video here, but the sharing of it with my immediate family is not going to take place until Christmas. Since I know they are reading the blog, it will just have to wait.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

#27: Crock Pot Dinners

Kegan and I have had our crock pot for years, but we just recently started using it. We're both paranoid, so it took a little while until we felt like we could have it on and not burn down the house while we're out. But I am so glad we overcame that irrational fear, because it's amazing technology. I absolutely love the convenience of cooking a meal without actually having to cook. Added bonus? I'm so motivated by the countdown clock! Tonight's meal I put on as soon as I came home from work...and the three hours it was cooking were my three hours to accomplish my errands, and the countdown clock kept me moving. A weird side effect of crock pot cooking, but I'll take it!

Monday, December 19, 2011

#26: Christmas Cards

I'm always thankful to come home to a mailbox full of Christmas cards. It's been a bright spot in my day since the first card arrived and something I know I can look forward to for the rest of this week. I love the cheerful pictures of families, babies and pets, the happy messages and warm greetings from relatives and friends. I appreciate each one I receive, knowing that, through our exchange of cards, we share a bit of this holiday with one another, even if we can't be together.

Today's batch of merry mail

Sunday, December 18, 2011

#25: Lazy Sunday Afternoons

With the chores out of the way and the weekend nearing its end, it's time to enjoy a lazy Sunday afternoon. I often find that my work weeks are go-go-go, dictated by a to-do list, bouncing from one task to another. As much as I love the sense of fulfillment from productivity, I equally appreciate time to unwind. I'm parked on my couch, a sleeping cat is nearby, football is on. The afternoon hours stretch ahead. I can surf the internet, play a little "words with friends", read for hours, take a nap. That's the best quality of a lazy Sunday afternoon: I can do whatever I want. There are no expectations, no responsibilities, nowhere to be, no guilt in taking time for myself...and for that, I am thankful. Lazy Sundays are rejuvenating, giving me the boost I need for another hectic work week.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

#24: Pajamas

I take comfort in comfort. When your plans are Saturday-Night-In, pajamas feel absolutely amazing to be in nice and early in the evening.

Friday, December 16, 2011

#23: Landon Cole

Today is a wonderful day: my sister-in-law gave birth to her 2nd son and my 11th nephew! I am thankful for so much today: that he was born healthy, that my sister-in-law had an easy pregnancy, that my family continues to grow. Being an aunt is one of the most important facets of my life. I have special relationships with each of my nieces and nephews, and can't wait to meet my littlest one this weekend!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

#22: Princeton University Campus

On yet another wonderful evening (in December! loving these warm temperatures!) I spent some time in Princeton, and took a walk around campus. I am not one to be necessarily impressed by architecture, but it is impossible to not appreciate the buildings of Princeton University. I think it's one of the most beautiful areas of New Jersey, and I'm thankful that it's a place I can visit whenever I want to. After a somewhat hectic day, a walk in cool, fresh air, admiring the serene, Gothic halls and dormitories was calming, and exactly what I needed.

The company was lovely, too. My dear friend Tara, who has been a confidante and ally since the 4th grade, met me there. While she herself will be subject of a post one day (I've written that a lot this week, haven't I?) today I am thankful we had time to catch up in such a beautiful setting.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

#21: Sisterly Hangouts

Yesterday my sister, Liz, and I went Christmas shopping and then watched the finale of one of our favorite tv shows, The Biggest Loser, together.  It was a really nice day, and we've already agreed we want to do it again next year. We helped each other pick out gifts, kept each other sane amongst the crowds and less-than-merry retail employees, and had a few laughs along the way. It was almost a reflection of our relationship: we're always there to help each other, we keep each other sane, we laugh a lot (and in a way that only sisters can, usually at each other).

My sister and I have a very special relationship, one that will someday be the sole focus of a post. But today I am specifically thankful that we had yesterday together. This can be a very busy time of year. It's the time you most want to spend with family and friends, but I've had Christmas seasons in the past when I felt like I didn't really get a chance to be with them until Christmas Eve. I'm glad my sister and I had the forethought to set yesterday aside for each other; it's what the holidays are about, after all.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

#20: 12.13.09

Two years ago today Kegan and I adopted our cats, Kennedy and Noel. They are our first pets as a couple, and my first pets ever. I'm thankful that two years ago they came into our lives; I never truly understood before then how animals can change ones life.

In a sense, we adopted them on a whim. In the build-up to the Christmas of 2009 we watched a Hallmark movie, A Dog Named Christmas, about a young man with developmental disabilities who fosters a dog over the holidays, and ultimately convinces his father they should adopt him. When it ended the family whom the movie was based on spoke about the benefits and need to adopt or at least foster animals from local shelters. Kegan and I locked eyes, and it was one of those powerful moments a couple shares, when you can tell you are both thinking the same thing. At that moment we both wanted to adopt a dog, and we both knew it was not feasible. Neither of us work the kind of hours that would be fair to a new dog. "Maybe in the summer," we posited, but we both knew that this was not the stage of life in which a dog would fit.

Then the next day, fate intervened. Shopping at the mall for Christmas we came across a local shelter in the center court, raising awareness and collecting donations, with a number of their cats on show. Families hemmed and hawed over them-- especially the two rare fall kittens that were still unclaimed. Kegan and I locked eyes, and it was one of those powerful moments a couple shares, when you can tell you are both thinking the opposite thing. "Yes! Let's get a cat!" was my immediate instinct. "No! Let's not get a cat!" was Kegan's. He was a "dog person". He had legitimate allergic reactions to cats. It was just a movie.

But all it took was getting Kegan into the shelter. We went a few days later "just to look", and in doing so, Kegan relented. Despite the fact that it was a no-kill shelter, and the cats can live there, healthy and well-cared for, for their entire lives-- Kegan hated the idea that animals were just spending their days in crates. He's also my best friend and amazingly selfless. Over the course of those days between the mall and going to the shelter, Kegan learned of my childhood obsession with cats. I adorned the walls of my bedroom with cat posters, had many cat stuffed animals, and asked for a kitten every Christmas. Sometimes I wonder if Kegan just wanted to make that childhood Christmas wish come true, because after that shelter visit, we adopted the two kittens. And so, two years ago today, Kennedy and Noel came into our lives.

After being a cat owner for two years I think I understand where the stereotype of cats come from. They do not have the outgoing nature of dogs and are so unknown to most beyond their owners. In fact, Kennedy hides when most people come over, so most of my family and friends rarely see her, just getting a glimpse of her as she scampers off to my bedroom to get under the bed. But after two years I can say that I know them. They both are my shadow; when I am home, they want to be in whatever room I am in. Kennedy even knows what it means when I say that it's time for bed. Wherever she is, whatever she is doing, she stops in the midst of it to go lay at the foot of the bed. She's my baby cat. I often have to call to her when she can't find me, as she sits and cries when she doesn't know where I am in the house. She's timid, shy and sweet. Noel, on the other hand, is anything but shy. She's full of energy, loves to play, and likes to wake us up in the middle of the night wanting to do so. The definition of a lap cat, Kegan and I can't sit down on the couch without her on top of us (she's actually right next to me as I type this). I can't wait to have kids and watch them play with her, because she's going to totally be the cat that gets dressed up and chased around the house, and I think she's going to love every minute of having all that attention.

Before having these cats, I had no idea what a difference a pet could make in your life. When I have a bad day it feels good to come home to them, flopping over on their backs to be pet, rubbing my leg to say hello. It feels good to know that we were able to provide them with a home when they were in need, and in doing so freed up space for additional animals to be cared for in the shelter. It's nice to share a bond with them, to know that they trust and love us right back.

Two years ago today was a good day, one I'm consistently thankful for.

And if you're wondering, reader, Kegan loves them just as much as I do. Allergic fits and all.



Monday, December 12, 2011

#19: Dessert

This post comes late, as Kegan and I were at his office's holiday dinner. And at that dinner we were served an amazing dessert. The most delicious devils food cake I've ever had, chocolate malt gelato and "cocoa nibs", which were basically the chocolate crunchies of an ice cream cake. So. Good.

I always appreciate unwrapping a Dove chocolate that has the message on the underside of the wrapper, specifically the ones that read "indulge yourself". As someone who is hyper focused on self-improvement and Catholic, I can't often do that guilt-free.  But there's something to be said for small indulgences,  for reveling in simple but satisfying pleasures.

For that, tonight I'm thankful for dessert. And ice cream cake crunchies.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

#18: Annual V5 Christmas Dinner

Tonight was the fourth annual V5 Christmas dinner. Rather than give each other gifts my best friends from college and I decided we just wanted to set aside time around Christmas to all be together. It's quickly become one of my favorite days of the Christmas season.

Brianna, Beckie, Katelynn, Malorie and I have all been friends since freshman year of college, and not a day goes by that I fail to give thanks that they are in my life. The four of them are each absolutely amazing women, and will certainly be written about individually over the course of this project. But tonight I am thankful for our collective friendship.

We've been together through it all. We maintained a close friendship and lived together through all four years of college. We've seen each other at our worst and our best. When I look back at those days, those four girls are a part of every single memory...many of which we reminisced about tonight. I do not laugh harder with anyone than I do with them. When my mother was ill and then passed away while I was in college, they cried with me and often were the strength I pulled from to get through some very dark days. When I was married they were four of my bridesmaids, witnesses to my marriage, a relationship they had supported since it began. When I ran my first marathon they flew to Disney World to cheer me on, making an amazing experience even more special by their presence.

When we started this annual Christmas dinner tradition, we acknowledged that it would be a nice way to mark time. We foresaw the future: all of us together over the years, in our homes, with our growing families. And today it felt a bit like that. I took a moment to recognize where all of my best friends are in their lives right now, and how their lives have grown from just last year. I'm thankful for their individual happiness, and look forward to all the future Christmases we will celebrate together.

It's fitting that we celebrate Christmas together every year; they are, without doubt, one of the greatest gifts of my life.

V5 :)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

#17: Christmas Shopping

This morning Kegan and I headed to the mall to pick up a few Christmas gifts. Shopping is not one of my favorite things to do, but I always look forward to Christmas shopping. It makes me happy to buy a few items off someone's Christmas list, or to get them something unexpected and special; gift giving has become more exciting to me than gift receiving. The next two weeks will actually be challenging for me, as I will have to forcefully refrain from spilling to my family what I have for them! It also reminds me to be thankful that I am in a financial position where I can Christmas shop. As we get closer to the 25th, I will be reminded of the multitude of reasons why Christmas is such a wonderful holiday-- none of which will have to do with materialism-- but today, I am thankful for Christmas gift giving.

Friday, December 9, 2011

#16: Fun Classes

Teaching is a difficult profession, and I often leave my classroom bone tired. Today, though, I left really happy. Still bone tired, but really happy. All five of my classes were fun today, and they had a commonality-- we laughed really hard, all of us, in each of them. When you teach middle school that is apt to happen; it's such a fun age to be around. One of my favorite adages is "a day without laughter is a day wasted." Today was well spent, and I have my students to thank for that.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

#15: My Grandfather

My grandfather passed away when I was only 10 years old. I did not know him well, but I have vivid memories of him from my childhood. We talked often on the phone, and I will always recall him as a gentle, kind and caring man. His passing was the first major loss of my life, and the first time I think I truly felt regret. I was a timid child, and my grandfather was blind. Something about his blindness made me shy away from him when I was little, but around the age of 8 or so I outgrew that uneasiness. But then he passed just a few years later, and I remember feeling such regret that I had wasted so much time I could have spent with him. Maybe that seems farfetched-- that at such a young age I could have such an understanding-- but I distinctly remember profound grief, for the loss of my grandfather, and the loss of what might have been.

The reason I am grateful for him today, actually, is admittedly strange. My sister and I decided to go to a tarot card reader for fun. I went to one once a few years ago, and I find it fascinating, although I take it all with a grain of salt. When I sat down with the reader tonight she told me that the person who came through to her strongest for me was my grandfather. She told me the first concept that came to her mind when she met me was "scissors" and asked what the reference was. The only connection I could make was that I had just thought of a story from my childhood related to scissors earlier today, and she said she thinks that was my grandfather's way of validating that he's in my life.

Ok. Maybe. Who knows.

Regardless of any speculation or belief I may have in this supposed clairvoyant's reading of me, it did make me think of my grandfather. It's been a long time since he passed , and I do not think of him often. But tonight I was reminded of him, what a wonderful grandfather he was, and the lesson he taught me of how important it is to value the people in your life while they are in your life.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

#14: Grilled Cheese

On a gray, rainy day like today, I am thankful for grilled cheese sandwiches.

I'm slightly shocked that I posted 13 times before expressing my thankfulness for grilled cheese. I would've bet money on it being post #2.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

#13: Caren

Caren, or Bubs, as I like to call her, has been my co-teacher for the past four years. Today I am thankful, both for our working relationship and for our friendship. To steal words I formally wrote about her, Caren brings me back to the core of what really matters, and not just in regards to school. We teach together during the very first block of the day-- and anyone who has ever lived with me knows I am not a morning person. But my mornings are much easier this year knowing that I am going to spend them with Caren. Everyday she makes me smile and laugh, and she is very good at helping me de-stress. When she's in a classroom you see students pulled to her like a magnet, and I can't help but feel the same way around her. She's funny, thoughtful, passionate and makes an amazing chicken salad sandwich, which I learned today when she made me lunch! As the youngest of my family I've always been drawn to caregivers, and Caren is one of the best I know.

Monday, December 5, 2011

#12: My Morning Commute

Ever since I became a teacher I've learned to cherish moments of solitude. My morning commute is sometimes the longest stretch of that which I get in a day. I used to live within 10 minutes of my school, and while that had its own perks, I've come to really appreciate my 30 minute drive (at least in the morning).  I listen to the chatter of morning radio shows, reflect on what the day holds for me, and enjoy the bliss of being alone with my thoughts.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

#11: Jingle Bell 5k

Today many friends and family members joined me to run the Jingle Bell 5k, and then we hosted a post-run brunch. I love any running event...it's always so great to see so many people active...and the Christmas theme was added fun! My friend Tara and her boyfriend Nate both placed in their age groups, and my sister and friend Erinn both set personal records, so I am thankful they all had running achievements today. The brunch afterwards was attended by the runners and some additional family and friends. I love the feeling of having so many people you care about, from different walks of life, under one roof. Sometimes I am afflicted with "Sunday Blues", where I mourn the end of the weekend and feel overwhelmed with the thought of the work week that lies ahead, but today's 5k and brunch made for a wonderful day.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

#10: This Photo

So. Funny. I'm thankful this photo was ever taken. I'm thankful I have it. I'm thankful it made me laugh all day. I'm thankful Kegan ever looked liked this. It gives me hope, if we ever have a son, that he will too.

Little Kegan

Friday, December 2, 2011

#9: "Stay or Leave"

I listened to this Dave Matthews song on repeat during my late night drive home. I've been lucky enough to see him play acoustically with Tim Reynolds twice, most recently just a few weeks ago. They performed "Stay or Leave", and it's easily my favorite song they play. It moves me every time I hear it. The honesty of the lyrics and the melancholy of the guitar make it so beautifully sad. Today I'm thankful for this song. Many people find it odd that I tend to like sad, mellow  music...especially as I consider myself to be a happy, positive person. But I think sad music reaches me. It reminds me of how frail life can be, which only makes me appreciate it that much more.

"Stay or Leave"

Thursday, December 1, 2011

#8: The Countdown to Christmas

December 1st begins the official countdown to Christmas, and today I am thankful that for the next few weeks I will be anticipating the 24th and the 25th. There are so many fun Christmas plans in the coming weeks, and I look forward to these as much as to the holiday itself. Actually, one of the main concepts of Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project (whose title I did not copy-- I thought of this before I learned of that book, I swear!) is that we often get as much (if not more) happiness from the anticipation of an event than the event itself. This is often true for me when, come Christmas night, I feel a little sad that "it's all over." And so, to make the most of the holidays, I am going to invest myself fully in every Christmas plan-- the parties, the movies, the cookie baking-- and be thankful for all of those moments. That way, on this year's Christmas evening, it won't feel "over", but extremely well-spent.

Speaking of counting down to Christmas...this year I get to do that literally with this fun chocolate countdown calendar my sister gave me! She so often gives me thoughtful, fun gifts like this, and so today I am also thankful for my generous sister, Liz, who's helping me countdown to Christmas.

Countdown Candy Calendar, featuring a snowman who is apparently a terrible skier.