A personal initiative to live more appreciatively

Saturday, June 30, 2012

#194: Chipolte

Steve Ells is a personal hero of mine. Since reading Fast Food Nation a few years ago I've nearly quit fast food, except for in a few rare moments of weakness when McDonalds fries are irresistible. And then I found Chipolte.

Chipolte operates under the slogan "Food With Integrity". They primarily use locally and organically grown produce as well as meat from naturally fed-livestock. This allows for the convenience of fast food without the guilt and concern that what you're eating might not actually be food. Plus you can get guacamole and a fountain coke with every meal. Sold!

Ironically, Chipolte is owned now, in part, by the McDonalds corporation. While I struggle sometimes that a chain that is somehow "anti-fast food" in nature is merely a cog in the industry kingpin, I have hopes that Chipolte is the new generation of fast food, and that other chains will follow in foot.

With that optimism in mind, I am thankful for Chipolte, the countless barbacoa tacos I have consumed, and days like today, when I can get lunch there without waiting in a 20 minute long line to do so. It's the little wins, sometimes...

#193: Grace

Yesterday my niece, Grace, turned 11. Grace is my brother Don's youngest child and my first goddaughter. We celebrated her birthday at my brother's house last night, and I spent a lot of my time there thinking how fast she's grown up and how thankful I am to have her in my life.

Since she was a baby Grace and I have had a special bond. For some reason, I was one of the few people she would let hold her without fussing. She had this funny habit, when you would hold her, of holding your ear. I'm sure it was some comforting gesture on her part, but I came to associate that with comfort for me, as well. When she was a baby, I loved little more than to curl into my brother's recliner with her, her tiny fingers clutching my ear, us looking silently but knowingly at one another.

Years later, Grace laughs when I reminisce about these moments between us. She's so on her way to being a young teenager, that it's just humorous for her to think of herself at all as a baby...and I'm finding it's hard for me to think of her that way, too. She's grown up a lot, and really has her own, defined personality, even at 11. There are so many factors of that personality that I admire: she has unbridled enthusiasm, and finds joy in even the simplest of moments. She's a wisecracker, and can be silly by being goofy or through making astute comments. She has a heart of gold, and loves to love. No one gives better hellos or hugs than Grace.

When I asked my sister-in-law for gift suggestions for Grace this year, amongst her ideas Kate suggested that I take Grace out to lunch, because she really does just love time with family. Selfishly, I knew right away that this would be my gift to Grace, because it would in turn be a gift for me. Even if she doesn't hold onto my ear anymore, I am so thankful for all the time that I get to spend with and in the presence of my wonderful niece.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

#192: Lunch Dates

Maybe more than going out to dinner, I really enjoy going out to lunch. Today I had the pleasure of meeting up with Brianna and her boyfriend Tony at Panera for lunch. I'm grateful to have had that time to catch up with them (and eat a kick ass Fuji Apple Chicken Salad! at the same time). While I'd never truly want to be a "lady who lunches" as an identity marker, I can't lie...it's nice to lunch.

#191: Post-Clean Up

The downside to the wonderfulness that is the promise of summer? Feeling like you have so much time that you do nothing with it. The craziness of the end of a school year, coupled with the invincibility of the start of summer, led me to let my house go. That's not to say I've been living in squalor, but I haven't been picking up after myself so much...or doing laundry...or dealing with the mail...you get the picture. I made a promise with myself that today would be the day that I would clean up, because it was just time to do so...a messy house creates "mental clutter" for me, and I hate that stress. Now MTV reairing old Laguna Beach episodes did not help my productivity, but eventually I motivated myself to excavate my beautiful house under my piles of stuff.

One way that I motivate myself to get started-- and maintain-- a clean up project is that I set a time limit. I started a load of laundry, and told myself I would clean up for an hour and a half. I tackled everything in sight...and once an hour had passed, I had most of it finished. But I maintained my commitment to the full hour and a half, and just kept plugging along.

I'm often energized once I am in the throws of a clean up; there's something that just feels so good about throwing stuff out, putting stuff away, organizing the chaos. But beyond that, I am thankful for the post-clean up state. It's nice to know my house is in good order, and I will wake up refreshed, able to enjoy Laguna Beach in a clutter free house.

Now if I could just keep it like this, for always, then that would be something to be thankful for...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

#190: "Save Your Scissors"

When Shanna made me my Dave & Tim bag she also gave me a mixed CD she made me. I love the whole compilation; we have very similar tastes in music, so that came as no surprise. The song that I have been replaying most from it is "Save Your Scissors" by City & Colour.

"Save Your Scissors"

#189: The Promise of Summer

I am officially on day two of summer vacation: one of the major perks of being a teacher. Now, if you asked me from an educators' perspective, I would tell you that I do not think summer vacation is the best for kids. The calendar is an antiquated one, and what would likely increase student performance would be "year round" schooling-- students in school for 2-3 month stretches with 1-2 week breaks in between (granted that means I also believe educators would need to be paid as 12 month employees, as well). Many of my fellow educators reading this are nodding their heads, while many are likely shaking their heads at disgust at this viewpoint. It's definitely a controversial topic in my field.

That being said, if you asked me from a personal perspective, I would tell you that I LOVE summer vacation. Who wouldn't?! I get 10 interrupted weeks off from my job, time that I get to do whatever I want with. Thatis one of the aspects I appreciate most about summer: the promise of the time this season blesses me with. Their are so many projects I want to complete, books I want to read, naps I want to take, people I want to see, things I want to do...unfettered by my job, it is all within reach. Will it all come to be? One can hope. Regardless, I have the promise of achieving it all, because I have the promise of summer.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

#188: Crafty Friends

I love Shanna for so many reasons, and she will inevitably have a post dedicated entirely to her. But today I am particularly loving her for her craftiness! She repurposed a teeshirt I bought at the Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds concert that I went to in November into a totebag for me, since the shirt ended up being too small. This is something I never would have been able to do myself, so I am so blessed to have amazingly talented, generous friends who will do it for me. Not only is it a great bag. but the added plus? Every time I use it, I get to think how lucky I am to have such a good friend.

Thanks Shanna!

#187: Ladderball Tournament!

I am so lucky to have a family who likes both reasons to get together and competitions. Today my brother and sister-in-law hosted what I hope becomes an annual tradition: a ladderball tournament. My immediate family and my sister-in-laws' immediate family all gathered at their home; we barbecued and then launched into the games. Even though I was part of the first team out (womp womp) it was a blast.  It's always fun to be with family, but having the added pleasure of friendly competition makes for an even better day.

Next year (next month?), I dominate...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

#186: Air Conditioning

If you live on the East Coast, it doesn't even need to be explained. I am so thankful to have air conditioning and relief from extreme heat. A modern convenience I don't know how people live or lived without.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

#185: Graduation Ceremonies

This afternoon my 8th grade students graduated from middle school. I love the way my school conducts a recognition ceremony. The choir sings, our teacher of the year, student council president and principal speak, and then each team gets to take to the stage, where we, the teachers, get to acknowledge and hug each 8th grader as they walk across to accept their certificate. And then, in what is always an emotional moment, the ceremony is closed with a video montage of photos of the the entire class, taken over the course of the year. It doesn't matter how many of these ceremonies I have attended, but I always choke up on the closing image: footage of the entire class sitting in the bleachers of our gym, waving goodbye.

I am so thankful for all of the graduation ceremonies I've attended as an educator, as well as the ones that I have attended as a family member or friend of the graduate, not to mention my own three graduations. It's such a wonderful tradition, a formal acknowledgement one's accomplishments. And yet it's also a way to mark time, to take a moment to register the passing of our lives. In that sense graduations are bittersweet: it's exciting to be moving forward, sad to feel like you're leaving something behind. But it's because of that bittersweet nature that graduations are so special: they are a reminder that, while we get lost in the hecticness of each day, they are, in fact, building on one another, ultimately leading to an end, a transition to the next chapter of our lives.

Monday, June 18, 2012

#184: Successful Surprise!

This weekend I successfully pulled off a surprise birthday for Kegan. Honestly, the process was super stressful-- I am not good at making decisions, nor am I good at keeping secrets from my husband. But it went off without a hitch! He seemed to have a great time, as did all of the guests, which was all that I wanted. While I can't say I will take on throwing another surprise party any time soon, it still is so amazing to have the opportunity to throw a party for someone.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

#183: Game Nights

I love legitimate game nights: whole evenings spent with a group of friends, playing game after game. They are easily one of my favorite reasons to organize a get together, one of my favorite ways to spend a night. But I even love simple game nights that Kegan and I have on our own. He's had to work late a lot this week, and tonight was really the first night we had to spend time together. Rather than veg the hours away watching tv, we played cards. It's much nicer to interact with one another rather than just lie on two different couches, and it brings the joy of game nights to me on a quiet level.

Monday, June 11, 2012

#182: Friends' Engagements II

Saturday was an amazing day, because not one but TWO of the most amazing couples I know became engaged!

Sunday morning I woke up to a text message from one of my best friends, Beckie, spreading the wonderful news that Jeff, her now fiance, proposed to her Saturday night.

Then Sunday afternoon Erinn stopped by with an awesome Disney villains frame she bought for me, and naturally oblivious, it took me a few minutes to realize she was pointing at the frame with her ring finger. Erinn will be marrying Kegan's cousin Brian, officially becoming my cousin when she does so.

I am thrilled for both of these couples. Erinn and Brian are a perfect match-- chaos and order muppets, if you will. As I do with the whole Salge crew, I love Brian and really value having gained him as a cousin through my marriage. Erinn and I-- despite growing up in the same town and having connections through family and friends-- became friends ourselves once she started dating Brian. I consider her one of my closest friends, and honestly have felt like she's been family for a while now...it just gets made official, which is great! They are two of the most wonderful people I know, and I am so excited for their happiness.

I couldn't have chosen a better match for Beckie than Jeff; they are compatible in every way, and are equally great people. I love having gained Jeff as a friend through his relationship with Beckie; he's hysterical, kind, and most importantly treats and values Beckie for the amazing woman that she is. Beckie has been one of my best friends for nearly a decade now, and I've never known her to be happier than since she's been with Jeff. I didn't need to know them as a couple long to know that this moment would someday come, and now that it's arrive, I'm thrilled!

Plus, they're both bound to have kickass weddings, so there's always that to look forward to...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Project Note

My apologies to anyone who is a faithful reader for my lack of posting as of late. This is a very hectic time of year, and I have struggled to find the time/energy to post. But, of course, there is so much to be thankful for, both mundane and profound, as I've thought often over the past few weeks; I'm ready to recommit to writing my reflections, rather than just thinking of them, and continue to share with you my Thankfulness Project.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

#181: Sleeping With The Window Open

I believe that everyone is either a "pillow" person or a "blanket" person; one of those two you'd prefer to not do without. I am a person of the blanket variety, and so as the summer months begin and the humidity engulfs, I find myself wrestling with my sheets. It's just sometimes so hot, but I can't sleep without at least a light blanket (I know, I know...first world problem).

 And so it's nights like the past few-- when it's cooler than normal-- that sleeping with the window open brings me the great joy of getting to pull on my comforter again. Throw in the purification of cool, fresh night air and the comforting rumble of a train passing and you have the makings of a perfect night's sleep.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

#180: Pete's Homecoming

My coworker Donna jetted off to California today, to be able to greet her son, Pete, an active marine corp officer who returns stateside tomorrow. This was a trip she wasn't sure would happen, so I am thrilled and thankful that it's become a reality. Donna is an all around amazing woman, one who deserves and will inevitably get her own post in this project. One of the qualities I most admire about her is her dedication as a mother. She has two children, a daughter in addition to her son, Pete, and although I do not know them well, I know them through the undying love and admiration she has for them as their mother. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be a military mother-- I cannot imagine the stress, anxiety and worry that must bring. Rarely does Donna show this (although I am sure it's ever present), because through Donna, I've witnessed the other side of being a military mother-- the pride, honor, enduring love and strength. I am grateful for Pete and his sacrifice to our country, to Donna, for hers as well, and that they both get the opportunity to be together on this joyous occasion.

#179: Cards

I was lucky enough to meet up with my good friend, Allison, once more last week before she leaves for the summer to intern in Seattle. As I exited her car after saying goodbye she handed me a card, and I teared up when I read it once I was back in my house. Her message was a note of appreciation for our friendship, and while I am so thankful for this card, itself, it made me think of all the cards I've ever gotten from Allison, Kegan, my family, other friends...in this age of immediate communication, the spirit of letter writing seems to be lost. And so when I receive a hand written card-- knowing someone took the time to pick out one with a significant message, took the time to add their own personal thoughts-- I am thankful.