A personal initiative to live more appreciatively

Friday, March 30, 2012

#125: An Uncharged ipod

When I was about to leave for my run today I realized my ipod was dead. At first this annoyed me- but then I looked out the window at the serene blue sky, the sun already lightening with the onset of late afternoon, and I headed out happy to leave the ipod at home.

There are so many reasons why I run loving with music (which I'll save for a future post), but there's also something to be said for running without it. When I ran my marathon I ran the whole time without listening to my ipod. I wanted to soak in the experience entirely, to be fully present for each step of the 26.2 miles. When you run without music you are keenly aware of each footfall. I am totally in tune with how my body feels-- noticing the exact moment when my body settles into the rhythm, more aware of soreness that I should attend to, even more able to appreciate the bliss of the runner's high (which is a real thing). I observe my surroundings more closely, allow myself to get lost in my own thoughts, and even had a quick conversation with a fellow runner (also sans ipod) with whom my path crossed today 5 miles deep.

More of my running happens with an ipod than without, and that will likely remain true. But for today, at least, I am happy that I found my ipod uncharged, and wouldn't mind making an effort to head out without it more often.

#124: 7 Miles

There are certain distances that I revere-- and for some inexplicable reason, 7 miles is one of them. Today I ran my standard 7 mile loop for the first time since the early fall, and I was reminded of how much I appreciate this distance. It always feels like the first substantial distance amount- but also a manageable one. For as much as I love and am acclimated to distance running, I am always slightly amazed when I run any distance over 10. But 7 always feels doable, and whenever I cross the threshold of 7 miles in a training program, I am energized. It always feels like the real work has officially begun.

#123: Micah True

My colleague, Adam, popped in my classroom today to inform me of some troubling news. Micah True, an ultrarunner made famous in Born to Run, is missing. He went out for a 12 mile run Tuesday morning in New Mexico, and hasn't been seen since.

I felt immediate shock and concern, and have spent a lot of my prep period at work reading articles regarding the situation. One was from a website in the New Mexico area, and it listed 'Things You Can Do To Help.' A number of those were targeted at people looking to join the search and rescue operations, but the last tip resonated with me: "If you can spare a minute of your time for a prayer, a positive thought or for visualizing his safe return, please do it. Our friend needs all the support he can get right now."

I am thankful for Micah True. He is an inspiring man, one whose story I was captivated by when I read Born to Run. I am praying for him and his safe return, and hope that I can soon update this post with my thankfulness for that.

UPDATE: I am saddened to write that the body of Micah True was located on Saturday. Christopher McDougall, the author of Born to Run, posted on twitter that "Caballo had the only funeral he would have wanted: his friends spent days running in the wilderness in his honor." I, too, will run this week in his honor, and will aim to run and live as light as the white horse.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

#122: Running Reminders

My training for my upcoming half has been inconsistent. Once my first two weeks were interrupted by bronchitis, I never gained traction. I've more or less let go of my goal to break two hours...I'm slightly disappointed, but I also know that I want to be a runner for the rest of my life. There will be plenty of possibilities to PR. Sometimes you have to just accept it's not your day, and for a runner, it's important to reconcile yourself with that reality.

Despite my newly adopted easy-going mentality for this half, I have struggled occasionally with just getting out the door. My energy is often low, I struggle with finding the time to get a run in amidst my social life, work and home responsibilities, and some days I just can't find the motivation to get out the door.

Yesterday was one of those days. Relying on a standard quick-fix, I decided to run somewhere out of the ordinary for novelty's sake. I hopped in my car and headed to a local lake, where I could run laps, zone out,  and simply get the miles logged.

Often when I run I think about running. It can be a very meta-experience in that sense. This run-- which I had to battle myself simply to start-- made me think very much about why it is that I run.

On the same property as the lake I was looping sits a school for children and young adults with disabilities. Every time I passed it I drew strength from my proximity to what I imagine is a wonderful place. Knowing an unmotivated three mile run pales in comparison to the challenges the students attending that school face everyday put the whole run in perspective. And then, to add to this recognition, I noticed my company at the lake included a number of people who can't run. A woman pushed her adult son in a wheelchair. A man with a prosthetic leg was walking around the lake for as long as I was running-- and he continued even after I had stopped.

While I sat lakeside and stretched afterwards, I thought of a running quote that has always motivated me: "I run because I can. When I get tired, I remember those who can't run, what they would give to have this simple gift I take for granted, and I run harder for them. I know they would do the same for me."

I'm thankful that I can run, and for the reminders that I shouldn't ever take that for granted.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

#121: Mad Men

It's backkkkk! After a long hiatus, one of my favorite tv shows had its season premiere on Sunday. Mad Men is easily one of the best shows on tv right now. It's smart, funny, and so well written. Watching tv is not one of my preferred pastimes; sometimes I really need to just veg and watch tv in order to unwind, but if I get caught up in something meaningless, I often regret wasting my time. But then there are tv shows like Mad Men which feel like such a great way to spend your time. I feel like the characters are real people, I am invested in their story lines, and I love the historical and cultural reflection of the 1960s. It is so wonderful to have Mad Men back, and now I have something to look forward to every Sunday night!

While on the topic, I am also thankful I ate dinner at a table next to Jon Hamm before I was a fan of Mad Men. Because then I would have made an unbelievable embarrassment of myself, rather than just my standard level of foolishness I showcased that fine evening. All you need to know is that my opening line to him was, "Would you be Jon Hamm?" and I praised him for his guest staring role on 30 Rock. Good God Woman! THATWASDONDRAPER!

#120: Netflix

Netflix is a wonderful modern convenience. Just the other day I had a dream about Blockbuster, and that whole experience now feels so antiquated! I appreciate the ease and convenience of a movie renting system like Netflix. It's great how much time and money I save using it, and it allows Kegan and I to have weekly movie nights at home and easily watch tv series. Win-win-win.

Monday, March 26, 2012

#119: Kathleen

Throughout my life my father regularly remarked on how much I reminded him of my cousin, Kathleen. He would freeze in the midst of dinner to chuckle and say, "That's just what Kathleen would say." He'd catch me midconversation, point out a gesture and note, "You have the same mannerisms as your cousin." Reflecting on the personality traits of me and my siblings he'd describe me to a tee and then smile, "...you know, like Kathleen."

Growing up I adored this connection. In my eyes Kathleen was a spit-fire, the youngest child of her family of four, intelligent, well spoken, absolutely hysterical, able to equal the big personalities of the men in our family. On my wedding day there's a photo of me in which I look just like her. One of the coolest aspects of family, I think, is how you can see yourself reflected in your relatives. To share commonalities with Kathleen, to be in some ways her 'mirror image', is awesome.

Over the years Kathleen and I have become closer. She's a total role model for me, especially for her running accomplishments, her identity as a running mom, which I aspire to be someday, and that I consider her to be one of the strongest women I know. She provided me with invaluable advice as I trained for my marathon, and is someone I know I can always count on for encouragement and positivity-- be that in running or in any aspect of my life. The card she sent me after I ran my marathon is pinned to my cork board in my kitchen to this day, a constant reminder that Kathleen is a champion of me and my life, and anyone who knows Kathleen knows there's no one better you'd want rooting for you than her.

Just this week, and the impedance of this reflection, Kathleen mailed me a bracelet. A friend of hers has started her own blog- similar to mine in that it's about positive living and affirmation. In support of her friend, and to draw the connection to my thankfulness blog, Kathleen sent me one of the bracelets. I was so touched by the gesture and the accompanying note. It's quintessential Kathleen: supportive, loving, genuine and generous. I am so thankful to have her in my life, and can only hope to grow more and more like her.

Kathleen and I- sharing in our Boston love

P.S. Check out her friend's project/blog at www.icanbracelets.org. Very cool!

#118: Godmothering

I am the godmother to two of my nieces, Grace and Megan, and, as of yesterday, my nephew Landon. My role as their godmother is one that I truly value. I am so thankful that my brothers, sisters-in-law and brother-in-law all asked me to have this distinction in their children's lives, and one of the charges of my life is to fulfill this responsibility.

Regardless of the religious lives they develop as they age, I want, as their godmother, to instill and encourage in them what I believe it means to live a life of faith: that hope is resonant; to believe in the power of prayer, and the purpose of prayers that go unanswered;  to ask for forgiveness, and forgive easily-- even when it's just of yourself; to treat each day of your life as a blessing; to be honest and loyal in all relationships; to believe in times of darkness in the imminence of light.

As I reflect on the gratefulness I feel to be a godmother to my three godchildren, I can't help but also be thankful for my own godparents. My mother and father wisely and lovingly chose my cousin Patricia and brother Don to be my godparents. They've been awesome ones to have throughout my life. They both live quietly and gracefully, and have always made it known that I can rely on them for any need. I aspire to be as good a godmother to Grace, Megan and Landon as they've been to me.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

#117: Wedding Invitations

I am always grateful to be invited to my friends' weddings. It is always an honor to be asked to be a part of one of the most important days of someone's life, and I never take for granted each and every wedding invitation I receive. In fact, I'm often humbled by them.

Being a guest at a wedding is an honor, but it's also just fun! It's nice to have special days that are a break from the normal routine, to have a reason to get dressed up and spend a night dining and dancing with your friends. And of course there's the joy of the wedding itself; having a day to celebrate love and marriage is uplifting. Since I've been married, I attend weddings with a new perspective. Witnessing new couples make their vows always reminds me of my own, and the commitment I've made to build my own family with Kegan.

My reflection of my thankfulness for being invited to weddings comes on the heels of having just attended the wedding of my good friend, Kyle. Since I work with Kyle I witnessed his anticipation and excitement as yesterday approached, and I even was able to "toast" him at work with our students a few days before his wedding. I said how all you want for your friends is for them to find complete happiness in their lives, and I knew that nothing would make Kyle happier than marrying his now wife, Stephanie. Yesterday was, clearly, the happiest day of his life. I am so glad I was witness to that, and am always glad to be a part of the wedding days of my friends.

#116: The Amazing Race!

If asked to name the aspects of my job I love the most, at the top of that list would be that I work with some of the best people I have ever known. The event that solidifies that belief every year is our staff's Amazing Race.

For the past few years some of my colleagues have orchestrated this event in the same fashion as the reality show. We make teams of four, and begin the race somewhere within the school building. It ultimately leads us around surrounding towns, and we end up at a local restaurant/bar, where the first team to arrive, having successfully completed all of the challenges, is declared the champion. There is also always a charity tie-in, which elevates the event from frivolous fun to philanthropic, frivolous fun. It is by far a highlight of my working life, and is so much fun it's also a highlight of my personal life.

Every race and each challenge is unique, but all of them make for an incredible time. This year's race was especially fun for me. Initially I wasn't planning on racing. After a week of parent-teacher conferences and an impending weekend of a wedding and baptism I felt like I would need Friday afternoon to myself. Knowing how easily stressed and overwhelmed I can be by a packed schedule (even with as joyous events as the ones I had planned for this weekend), I felt like I needed some time to just breathe. And the Amazing Race--- when you're sprinting through the hallways of your school, the passenger in a car that is speeding down highways, and  eating a box of Rice Krispies (without anything to drink) as quickly as you can-- is by no means an event that is relaxing. But as soon as I arrived at school Friday morning, the building abuzz with anticipation, I regretted my overly cautious decision, and bemoaned my self-preservative nature. Then, as luck would have it, a colleague was unable to participate, and a spot on a team opened up.

I love my traditional team. Vicki, Shanna and Jackie are all good friends and we have so much fun together. Plus we've won the race twice (the first repeat winners, I might add!) so as competitors it's the ideal team. That being said, it was so much fun to race with new teammates. Ana and Katie are colleagues who I really admire, so it felt great to spend an afternoon with them, and Brian is a new teacher to our building, and it gave me an opportunity to get to know him. This, to me, is the magic of the race. My coworkers are incredible people. I've always held a belief that anyone who teaches middle school has to have a strong connection to their inner-adolescent. The Amazing Race exemplifies the best of that: we are all shameless, working together to achieve a common, ridiculous goal, united for an afternoon that is about competition and camaraderie, good humor and adventure. It gives you the opportunity to be 13 again, and to feel what it would've been like to grow up with your coworkers. Any workplace suggests and promotes team building; with the Amazing Race we bond and connect in such a genuine manner, I leave every Amazing Race feeling so blessed to work where I work, with whom I work.

I am thankful for each and every Amazing Race and for the tireless organizers who selflessly put this together for us. John, the current spearhead of the race, said it best. We were sitting at the bar, and I was gushing how grateful I was to be able to get in the race after all, thanking him for his organization. John looked around the hall, soaking in the sight of his coworkers laughing and recapping the events of the day, and turned back to me. "This for me-- watching everyone together and positive, having a good time-- makes it all worth it."

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

#115: "Suffocation Keep"

The magic of Pandora always introduces me to great new music, such as The Slip. I've been listening to this song on repeat this week and am officially in love.

"Suffocation Keep"

#114: Visits From Former Students

Today two of my former students, currently a senior & junior in high school, stopped by to see me. It is always so uplifting to see kids you used to teach; I value my relationships with my students and it's hard when they graduate and move on. But seeing them again, even years later, is always a reminder of those bonds.

One of my former students had the most complimentary remarks to make about my teaching and his two-year experience in my class. I literally had to hold back tears; teaching is an unbelievably challenging profession, and it's easy to question your impact on a day-to-day basis. And then there's this young adult in front of you-- an 18 year old who's clearly matured and grown up-- and he can reflect in a way he never could have when you knew him at 13 about what he learned from you. It's such a powerful reminder of how influential an educator is in the lives of their students, and totally reaffirmed to me that what I do everyday does make a difference.

I remember so many of my students, even though I know I have likely disappeared into the recesses of their memories-- just another teacher, another name in the list of the many they've had over the course of their lives. I am always so grateful for the ones who come back, who reinvigorate me and my work with my current students, and for letting me, even just momentarily, be a part of their lives again.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

#113: The Book Thief

Marcus Zusak's The Book Thief is one of my all-time favorite books.

When The New York Times reviewed The Book Thief it was described as "life changing." One of the reasons this is one of my favorite books of all time is because I think it is just that. I vividly remember finishing it for the first time, staying awake until nearly 2 in the morning, sobbing...feeling simultaneously filled by the experience of reading such a novel, and emptied that it was over. Regardless of how many times I read it, my breath is constantly taken away-- overcome by how fictional characters can matter, how someone can craft language in such a beautiful way. Zusak's work is masterful and universal, a modern classic. I am so thankful that such a book exists.

I have the added privilege of being able to teach this novel. My Enrichment Literature classes just finished reading it, and it's always amazing to read it besides them. They approach the novel and the subject matter-- Nazi Germany-- with innocence and delicate hearts, and the enlightenment they experience is profound. I witness my students mature with this book in their hands, and it is one of the aspects of my job that I love-- that I get to put The Book Thief in the hands of so many adolescents every year, and know that some of them will finish the novel changed people.

"I have hated the words, and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right." -Zusak

Monday, March 19, 2012

#112: A Good Day

Last Thursday I began the day overwhelmed. I had a doctor's appointment, a long list of chores to do around the house and errands to run. Once I got a run in and my stress dissipated, the day seemed to take a complete 180. The events of my day did not change, but my attitude about them did.

At the doctor's I was given a clean bill of health-- always a blessing. I focused on feeling productive as each of my chores were completed. My errands were easy and quickly executed, including a really pleasant shopping experience and getting 3 of 4 books I've been wanting to read from the library. Amidst my euphoria of this mundane but good day, I couldn't help but be humored by the juxtaposition of my attitudes, which had rapidly evolved over the course of just a few hours. The cause, I believe, is this very project.

Every day that I post is colored positively by the moments I spend reflecting on what I am specifically thankful for on that day. When I have time to reread previous posts or just look at the left side of the screen with all of my 'categories' of thankfulness I am overwhelmed by the evidence of just how wonderful my life truly is. Thursday, though, I could feel the cultivation of this project in my mood and mindset. I'm recognizing how my perspective is changing as a result-- and I can't help but wonder if it's that age old belief that how you feel within is reflected in your life externally. It's possible that, once I took a moment to breathe, relax, and recognize that I shouldn't see the day as one burden after another but one blessing after another, the day itself became a good one. My former self would have just gotten through the day overwhelmed. But now, 100+ days into a Thankfulness Project, I realize that  Thursday was a good day. Sure it was busy, but it was still good...as most days are. The Thankfulness Project is helping me see and live that understanding, more resolutely with each passing day.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

#111: St. Patrick's Day

My father's parents immigrated from Ireland when they were both young to start their lives in America. I did not know my paternal grandmother, but my grandfather had a slight Irish accent that I loved hearing. My Irish heritage is an underlying but influential and appreciated aspect of my identity. In fact, one of the reasons I have yet to take my husband's last name is because I would lose my Irish surname, and that is really important to me. I attribute my fierce loyalty, proud stubbornness and irrational superstitions to my heritage. St. Patrick's Day has always been a day that I recognize, even if it's just momentarily, how proud I am to be Irish. 

"May the rose rise up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand."

Thursday, March 15, 2012

#110: Readology

Today was an exciting day... Readology.org has launched! A website for book reviews, recommendations and discussion, Readology has been in the makings for a few months. Erinn and I, after realizing how often she and I discussed books with one another, came up with the idea of making this website together. The initial concept was to offer it to our respective students to review and recommend young adult novels. While that is still part of the plan, it has evolved into a bigger and more exciting undertaking. Through Readology we will be working in conjunction with a local, independent bookstore as their "in house" reviewers, and are looking to grow the site from there.

I am thankful for this project. It's always so fulfilling when an idea becomes a reality. I am also grateful to have Erinn as a partner. We collaborate really well together, and it truly is a joint effort. She's the ideal teammate: thorough, committed and patient with my neurosis. It also helps that I tend to laugh out loud from reading her emails. I've always believed that the best coworkers are the ones who make you laugh, so Erinn makes this collaboration all the better because she's so funny. It'll be an absolute pleasure to build Readology with her, and I look forward to all the joy this work will bring us.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

#109: Flip-Flops

There is little in life that gives me more pleasure than the first day of the year when I wear flip-flops. If it were up to me I would wear flip-flops year round. There is clearly something evolutionary in my genetics for the proclivity of being nearly barefoot...as a toddler I made my mother cut off the feet of footed pajamas. Then, once I hit high school, I decided flip-flops were the preferred footwear, even in winter. This bohemian tendency continued through college, but the onset of adulthood and a bout of minor frostbite derailed it-- at least for the winter months. Still, there's always that first glorious day when my $2 Old Navy flip flops are absolute luxury, and I relish that day every year.

Happy Feet

Monday, March 12, 2012

#108: Daylight Savings Time

Despite the Northeast's record breaking mild winter, I found myself affected by the cool temperatures and lack of sunlight...the January Blues, if you will. I am relatively in tune with my emotional and physical well-being and could literally feel myself deprived of Vitamin D. In fact when Kegan and I went away for President's Day weekend my two destination requirements were sunshine and warmth. Spending time sitting in Orlando sun a few weeks ago was exactly what I needed, and upon my return home I started a countdown to Daylight Savings Time.

My internal clock will need some time to adjust to the time change, but for all intents and purposes, I couldn't be happier that we are officially in Daylight Savings Time. It's such an optimistic time period, the daylight hours lengthening with each passing day. I love knowing I can get home from work, even relatively late, and still get a run in outdoors, or that we can grill for dinner. With near 70 degree temperatures forecasted for the week, it's as if Daylight Savings Time is ushering in a blissful, early Spring, one I eagerly welcome.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

#107: Laura Vanderkam: 168 Hours and All The Money In The World

The first time I ever heard of Laura Vanderkam was when she was being interviewed on Today for what was then her new book on time, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. After watching her interview I thought to myself, "I need to read this book." Within days I bought a copy, and read it a second time last summer. I plan on making it a tradition-- to read it once a year-- because it has truly had a huge impact on my life, how I think about and spend my time. Just last week her current new book, All The Money In The World, was released. I purchased it, read it within a few days, and can say that again, Laura Vanderkam has had an impact on me, specifically in how I view my finances.

In both 168 Hours and All The Money Vanderkam avails the power of choice. Time and money are likely two of the biggest stressors in one's life, largely because we feel these are areas of our life over which we have little control. Vanderkam refutes this, and points out the large degree to which we can, in fact, control not only our time and money, but how we spend and feel about both.

Her book on time is entitled 168 Hours as that is the amount of time in a single week. With just this simple acknowledgement, Vanderkam begins to strip away commonly held misconceptions of time. She advocates not thinking of time in the standard, daily 24 hours, but rather a 168 hour weekly allotment. By reflecting on your time in a larger schedule construct, it's easier to find the time to do all that you want to do in a given week. It also begins to release you from the nagging thought that I used to always have, that "there's never enough time in the day." It's easy to argue "it's hard to find time" to exercise daily. It's harder to claim you can't find 4 hours out of your 168 to do so.

168 Hours espouses the importance of setting one's priorities, because through that one will know how to spend those hours. She's demystified the exaggerations of time-- such as how much we overestimate how long things take us (like chores) and underestimate how much time we have for what we want to do in life (like sleep). One of my greatest takeaways is Vanderkam's encouragement to let things go. If it's not a priority, and you don't have time for it, don't do it. Your time is too valuable and is likely better spent doing something else.  Realizing not only that I had time, but that I was in control of how I spent that time, was empowering.

I've taken many things away from 168 Hours. Some are very simple changes. For one, it doesn't bother me as much as it used to that I don't straighten or even blow dry my hair most days. Sure it's wet for the morning, but I prefer the natural curl I get once it does dry, and I save tons of time every day eliminating those hours of "hair maintenence". Since "hair maintenence" couldn't be less of a priority in my life I don't want to spend much of my 168 hours on that. On a broader scale I am a happier, less stressed and ironically more efficient person, now that I no longer stress about time as much. Every day used to feel like it was flitting away...that my life was passing by faster than I could keep up...and at the end of the day, there was still stuff left on my to-do list! Now time feels more manageable, and I feel like I live in it presently. I am much calmer, and am enjoying the 168 hours of my life much more.

All The Money In The World is predicated on the idea that, if you had all the money in the world, how would your life change, and how would that money buy you happiness? Vanderkam wants you to consider both the dream purchases and the practical, everyday impacts that money would create...and then find the ways to start building that life here and now, with the money you currently have. In a similar vein to 168 Hours Vanderkam illustrates the control we have on our finances-- that how we spend our money is choice, that one dollar spent on something is one dollar not spent on something else. This mindset enables one to think more carefully about where their money is going, and if it is being used to build a happy life. Vanderkam starts almost immediately with reframing the idea that money can buy happiness....if you make smart, personal choices with it.

While Vanderkam avows that she is not a financial guru, her book still gives practical, sensible and usable advice on how we get, spend, share and feel about money. She encourages people to  play "offense and not defense" with their money-- thinking how you can make more, rather than how you can scrimp to cut spending. "The Joneses" become a target-- as Vanderkam forces us to question whether the stereotypical major purchases of modern life really bring us happiness, or are we just buying what we think we should be buying, because society encourages us to have big houses, shiny new cars and overflowing closets. I am someone who has always focused on the allocation of money-- from as young as I can remember, when I used to sort my babysitting money in envelopes for spending and saving. I've always also attached a lot of guilt to money, being hypersensitive on every dime I spent, always worried if it was a necessary purchase, or if I could have gotten it for less. This work has reframed my thinking of my finances, and given me the freedom to believe that, if this money is buying me happiness and helping to build the life and world I want to live in, then it is money well spent.

I argue that both of these books are companion works. Both are built on the same foundation: we don't think we have enough time, we don't think we have enough money, but if we analyze and rethink some aspects of our lives, we will find that we do. I also found that they echoed each other in many places. You can buy time with money, and time well spent can earn you more money. I am so thankful that I've read both of these works. I feel like I am smarter and more sensible as a result, but more importantly, happier.

If you're interested in learning more about Laura Vanderkam or getting a glimpse into her advice and perspective, check out her website. She has a great blog I enjoy reading regularly: www.lauravanderkam.com

Saturday, March 10, 2012

#106: Amicable In-Laws

My mother and father-in-law came over today to help Kegan with the mounting of a tv (help which, in itself, we are very grateful to have had). To thank them we took them out to lunch, so we called and had my father come along, as well.

I feel very grateful that my in-laws and my dad get along so well. They spent the whole lunch talking to each other, telling stories, and laughing a lot. Often in-law relationships are non-existent or complicated, but not so for Kegan and I. His parents and my father are genuinely friends, and their friendship is a blessing.

#105: Sit Down Breakfast

Normally Kegan and I do not eat breakfast together, but today I made us a simple meal-- just scrambled eggs and toast-- and we ate it together at our dining room table. I honestly didn't think anything of it until my sister came over. We were going out together, and she made the comment how nice our breakfast was. "You've got the door and sunlight pouring in...nice breakfast together...it all looks so cozy." That's when I looked around and realized that yes, it really was cozy. On one level I took a moment to appreciate our time together; Kegan works very long hours, especially this past week, so having a meal with him was really nice. On another level, I appreciated the mere simplicity of it all. A nice, quiet, sit down breakfast on a sunny Saturday morning is a very nice way to start a day.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

#104: "World on Fire"

Lately I've been very moved by activism, coincidentally in different ways. I'll expand on that at a later date, but last night I was reminded of my favorite music video. Music videos are by no means a main form of entertainment for me, but the Sarah McLachlan song "World on Fire" is one of my favorites, so a few years ago I youtubed the video. True to the message of the song, the video is unbelievably powerful. Its simplicity is striking, and I am thankful for the motivation and reminder that we can all do our part, no matter how small, in making the world a better place.

"World on Fire"

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

#103: Birthday Cake Oreos

In honor of Oreo's 100th Birthday (which is today, fun fact) they released a limited edition Birthday Cake Oreo. Heaven. Do yourself a favor and go get some. You can thank me for this suggestion later :)

A Gift For Us All

Monday, March 5, 2012

#102: Music Trading

Back when I was in high school I discovered music trading. At the time I didn't have the ability to burn CDs...or a computer newer than 1987. So I couldn't participate in trading, and instead relied on the kindness of strangers and the option of "B & Ps", which was when I would send blank cds and return postage for someone to burn me a copy of whatever show they had. I loved participating in B & Ps in high school, usually spending my study hall in the library arranging them, and was always grateful to get a package in the mail. As a result I've amassed a small collection of Dave Matthews and Counting Crows live shows which I still listen to years later.

I recently revisited some old music websites I frequented, and realized I could actually trade with someone now, nearly a decade later. I arranged a trade and even offered my own B & P. It feels really great to give back to the music trading community. Today I spent some of my evening copying a show for someone in Virginia, and look forward to putting it in the mail tomorrow, knowing it'll make someone's day later in the week.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

#101: Impromptu Family Dinners

I love living close to my Dad and sister. One of the perks of that is we are able to get together for dinner, even if it's on short notice and quick. We called them both this morning after deciding to make a pot of chili, and they both came over to share it with us. It's nice to have that time with them, especially in light of casual conversation Kegan and I've had about moving out of state. We both agree it's not a good time to do that, nor is it something we want to do right now in our lives. It's moments like tonight that remind me why I'm happy to stay grounded: I can call my dad and sister last minute and see them. Many families do not live near one another and are not afforded that luxury; in that vein, even something as simple as a chili dinner with your family is something I don't take for granted.

#100: Sunday Mornings

On Saturday mornings I am usually motivated to get up. There's either a run I'm going on, plans to prepare for, or errands to complete. But Sunday mornings are a different story. It's the less-busy of the two weekend days, and therefore I am often allotted time to just lay awake in bed. I'll watch nonsense TV and enjoy the fact that I don't have to jump out from under the covers as quickly as the rest of the week. And maybe the best aspect of Sunday mornings? No alarm.

In a moment of irony, I've noticed I've reflected more on my thankfulness for Sundays than any other day of the week, despite the fact that I tend to have "Sunday Blues". The Sunday Blues, I realize, is displaced disappointment of the end of the weekend and the return of the work week. Rather than succumb to those feelings and allow my Sunday to be tarnished, I should embrace everything that makes my Sundays so wonderful.

Friday, March 2, 2012

#99: Libraries

Most young adults my age, on a Friday after work, head to a bar. There are many Fridays that I do this as well, but today I headed to a place where I get a different but equally satisfying happy hour. I went to my town library.

Libraries are my favorite American Institution. For one, where else can you publicly "borrow" stuff? It's this trust in people that is so affirming to me. I always want to believe in the inherent goodness of people, and libraries are founded on belief in that. Furthermore, I endorse any endorsement of reading and its benefits. Naturally libraries, and our continued collective support of them, do this best.

My town library is a place of solace. I love it for its nostalgic qualities; few places remind me more of my childhood than the children's section on the upper floor. I venture up there as an adult, simply to be taken back. On the main floor I can get lost in the stacks; it's a quaint library, but a peaceful one nonetheless. Today I am thankful for my library; it's one of the reasons I am grateful to live in my hometown, because it's another place where I always feel at home.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

#98: My Brother, Don

Yesterday my phone rang during my students' lunch period. I rarely get calls during the day, and I normally wouldn't be available to answer, but I did. When I heard my oldest brother's voice on the line my stomach initially dropped. When someone unexpectedly calls you at an abnormal time, I think it's natural to assume something is wrong.

Luckily my brother wasn't calling with any bad news. Instead he was calling to see if I needed help. He had just heard of recent power outages in my town, and was calling to see if I needed a generator, which he was willing to bring up right away if we did. We hadn't had any power issues so it wasn't necessary, but that gesture epitomizes my older brother, and exemplifies why I am so thankful to have him in my life.

Don is my oldest of three older brothers. He was 15 years old when I was born, so he's always played the role of protector in my life. There was once a time when I yelled in frustration to my mother that "Don's watching me!" while I rode my Big Wheels around the culdesac our childhood house is on. While my former self was upset by this, as an adult I can't help but look back with gratitude and a full heart, knowing that my big brother was always there, keeping a watchful eye on me. Because he always was, and still does to this day, no matter how old I get.

Don's unbelievably hard working, dedicated, disciplined, and caring. He and my sister-in-law Kate are raising four amazing kids, and he's been very successful in his law enforcement career. It's cliche to say, but my brother would give you the shirt off his back, a "salt of the earth" kind of man.

My relationship with each of my siblings is special and unique. In some ways Don and I are very different, but in many ways we're very much alike. I love hearing the stories he tells of us from my childhood. On one level I just like hearing the stories; my family has never owned a video camera so there is no physical footage of my childhood...but hearing Don's recollections allows me to have those memories. On another level I love hearing those stories because I feel so unbelievably loved by him when he tells them. It must have been strange to be in your late teens and have a baby sister, but Don embraced that relationship, and in doing so we've always been very close despite our age gap.

When I decided to run my first half marathon I asked Don to run it with me. He's the person in my life whom I feel most inspires me to believe in myself. Don is the type of person who can make anyone feel like they can do anything...and I knew there was no one I wanted to be with me on that starting line besides him. As I said earlier, he's my protector. It was his arms into which I jumped when I was scared trick-or-treating one Halloween; it was his house I stayed at in the days leading up to my mother's passing; it's his hand I held on our walks to see the trains or out to see the moon when I was a toddler.

I've always gone through life feeling very secure, and that is in large part because I have Don in my life. It doesn't matter how old I get; I will always need my biggest brother, and I am so thankful that he's always there.