A personal initiative to live more appreciatively

Sunday, September 30, 2012

#268: Erinn

Erinn has played a major role in my life during its most recent years, but she's actually been a part of it for far longer than that. We grew up in the same small town, went to high school together, and her older sister (who was the same year as me in high school) was someone I knew well and hung out with on occasion. Erinn and I then ended up at the same college, and while we were years apart and had never talked much, I always made it a point to wave to her when I saw her on campus.

It was at our college that Erinn met Brian, Kegan's cousin, and her now fiance. It was because of their relationship that Erinn and I came to really know each other. While I am unbelievably thankful for Brian and Erinn as a couple, selfishly I must admit I am also thankful for their relationship because it resulted in me gaining a best friend in Erinn, as well.

One of the reasons we became so close is because we discovered we have so many similarities. We both love to read and share a very similar taste in books, we're aspiring writers, run and have run together often, appreciate the same dark humor and in general think alike. She is so easy to talk to, and we can talk seemingly for hours with one another...and in doing so we've forged a bond that made her feel like family way before she officially became part of it.

Beyond our likeness, Erinn was so easy to become close to just because of who she is. She is wickedly intelligent and funny, cares unbelievably deeply for those close to her, gives great advice and always is willing to lend an empathetic and understanding ear to my various qualms, neurosis and concerns. She's supportive and thoughtful, often dropping by with little gifts she's picked up that remind her of me or is something she thinks I'd like (and she's always spot on with that). I love hanging out with her; we spend a lot of time together going running, out to eat, to happy hours, or just bumming around my house together.  I've always loved Kegan's family and spending time with them, but now I love it even more because Erinn's a part of all of those gatherings, too.

Erinn and I recently talked about how we can be very social people, but also very guarded. She actually sent me a quote by Sylvia Plath that summed up this juxtaposition: "I like people too much or not at all." Erinn would be one of those people, then, that I guess I like too much...and I've learned from her that I need to be more open to the possible friendships that are around me. Who would've known at the time that the girl I would pass in my high school hallways would become one of my nearest and dearest friends? What I do know, now, is that I am unbelievably blessed that she did.

Erinn and me
(love this picture of us, although I desperately wish I could fix my hair in it)
(I add that caveat because I know that's something Erinn will understand)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

#267: Uggs

It's Ugg season! Great over a pair of jeans or leggings, super comfortable, warm...love love love.

#266: My New Lululemon Bag

While I am not one who gets much enjoyment out of shopping, there are occasional times when I come across something I am unbelievably excited to buy. Last week I found a Lululemon bag online that I immediately wanted, and when it arrived in the mail today, I literally fell in love with it. It's practical and durable while simultaneously nice looking...the perfect bag for multiple purposes. I cannot wait to use it.

Lululemon is a company I am happy to support; I appreciate the high quality products they make and their advocation of healthy living. I'm thankful to be able to patron Lululemon, and am super excited for my new bag.

#265: Sleeping In

While I am apt to sleep in as often and whenever possible, Kegan is not. His alarm regularly goes off before 6 am...even on weekends. But today he decided to sleep in, too, and it was wonderful. There's something so great about naturally waking up when your body is ready...and then let yourself doze back off for a while. Knowing my mornings of sleeping in are numbered, I appreciate each and every morning I spend some extra time under the covers....especially when Kegan's sleeping in with me.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

#264: Flexibility

With a day off from work today, I had the intention of getting a lot of chores completed: grocery shopping, a stop at the DMV, get an oil change, and have my car inspected. In addition my brother and sister-in-law would be in town visiting my father, and my friend Jamie reached out to me to get coffee; I wanted to meet up with all of them, and was slightly stressing out about how I would get it all in. This stress, coupled with the fact that I simply woke up feeling run down, started me off on the wrong foot this morning.

Kegan worked from home today, so I was venting to him about how I didn't know how I would get it all done. He let me rant, and then simply said, "You know this is a day off. You should enjoy it. Don't stress about the chores--- none of that has to happen today. We can tackle that stuff over the weekend...be reasonable, and spend the day doing what you want."

My husband's usual approach to chores and his job would put the Energizer Bunny to shame, while I am certainly the more laid back one. This role reversal highlighted to me how unnecessarily stressed I was about the fullness of my day. Kegan was saying to me what I always say to him, that there are very few things we ever have to do, always other times that might be better-- or when we might feel better-- doing them. It was refreshing to hear my own advice echoed to me, to recognize the importance and value of flexibility. I wasn't feeling great, and I had nicer ways to spend my time then sitting at the DMV. So instead of chores I took a nap to refresh my energy, went to my dad's to see my family, and met Jamie for coffee. A much nicer, calmer day off then the one that I woke up intending to have. I'm grateful that I was reminded to be flexible today...it's something we should all remember to be, always.

#263: Bunco

My friends and I get together every so often to spend a night playing bunco-- a dice game-- with one another. We aim for once a month, but it at least happens a few times throughout the year. Inevitably we spend most of the time just chatting with each other, enjoying each other's company and a glass of wine or a cold beer. Even when the game gets going, rounds are delayed because we end up sitting and talking between them.

Although in my younger years I always found it "easier" to be friends with guys, as I've aged I've come to really cherish and value my friendships with women, which now outnumber my male friendships. Bunco is always a fun excuse to get together--- it's always nice to have a weeknight outing to look forward to, and the potential to win some cash!-- but more importantly I see it as time spent with my girls, time that I truly value.

Monday, September 24, 2012

#262: "I am Thankful"

I stumbled across this simple article, which was published in 1999 in Family Circle magazine. It aligns quite closely with my project, and many of these sentiments are ones I have thought of myself. It's easy to be thankful for the positive blessings in our lives, but it can be more profound to think of the aspects we would normally describe as nuisances and see the blessings within them.

I am thankful for
...the mess to clean up after a party
because it means I have been surrounded by friends.
...the taxes I pay
because it means that I'm employed.
...the clothes that fit a little too snug
because it means I have enough to eat.
...my shadow who watches me work
because it means I am out in the sunshine.
...the spot I find at the far end of the parking lot
because it means I am capable of walking.
...all the complaining I hear about our government
because it means we have freedom of speech.
...that lady behind me in church who sings off key
because it means that I can hear.
...lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing
because it means I have a home.
...my huge heating bill
because it means that I am warm.
...weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day
because it means that I have been productive.
...the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours
because it means that I am alive.

-Nancy J. Carmody

Sunday, September 23, 2012

#261: A Well Fragranced Home

Yesterday when I was at my sister-in-law Desiree's house I recognized one of the qualities I most love about being at her home: it always smells good. She makes an effort to burn candles, and I find her house to be so homey and comfortable, in part because of that. I myself have a shelf in my buffet full of candles that I rarely light, so after being inspired by Desiree I spent the afternoon burning a Pumpkin Spice candle in honor of the beginning of fall, and my house was quickly filled with the lovely fragrance. I truly love my home for a million reasons, but since I spend so much time here I often take it for granted. Doing something as simple as burning a candle, being able to take in how good my house smells as a result, reminds me how grateful I am to live in such a beautiful, comfortable home.

#260: Fall

It's officially my favorite time of year, the season that brings cooler temperatures, Uggs, sweaters, pumpkin spiced drinks, Halloween, changing leaves, the scent of bonfires in the wind, melancholy afternoon sun, the best running weather, fresh air, comforters back on the bed...I could go on and on, and through future posts, I'm fairly certain I will.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

#259: Matthew

Today we celebrated the 5th birthday of my nephew, Matthew. At one point during his party his younger cousin, Tyler, tripped, and in doing so punctured a hole in one of Matthew's gifts. Tyler welled up with tears, the shock of his fall and the realization of what he did overwhelming him. Matthew immediately took his hand, crouched down by his side, and said, "It's okay Tyler." While a typical five year old might have been upset by the slight damage to one of his gifts, Matthew could care less. In that moment all that mattered was making sure his cousin was calmed. All of us in the room gushed, his selflessness testament to what a fundamentally good natured, sweet kid Matthew is.

Matthew has grown up so quickly; he's definitely a little boy now, and I was a little saddened to be buying him little boy gifts, as opposed to toddler boy ones. He carries himself with such self-control and patience, speaks with character and enhanced vocabulary that I even aged him a year and mistakenly thought he was turning 6! I was happy, actually, to realize he's only 5...it felt in a way that I bought a year of his childhood back, and he's such a fun kid to watch grow up at that. I love watching his care of his baby brother Landon, his affection for his parents, his spirited personality, and his very Italian way of talking with his hands. Matthew is my first nephew not to be blood related, and I think in being that I will always hold a special place in my heart for him-- he's one of many people who've proven to me that family is defined not by our genetic ties but by ones bound by love.

Matthew and me. We clean up well. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

#258: Phone Call Check-Ins

For someone who doesn't really like to chat on the phone, I of course really think it's important to connect with your loved ones every so often and really talk . In the age of instant communication it's so convenient to send an email, text or facebook message for quick check ins, and I love that those technologies allow for the ease of staying in contact with one another. But every so often I believe it's important to have more than that, and phone calls fill that void. Tonight I called my brother to check in, and it was so great to talk to him and catch up...it was one of the times that I hung up the phone and was so grateful that I took the time to call. It's also always nice to be the recipient of check-in calls from people, nice to know that loved ones are thinking of you, and in that vein, I love chatting on the phone.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

#257: Shanna

It's likely become repetitive of me to say how grateful I am for working where I do because of, amongst other reasons, the amazing friends I've met as a result of my job. But it's an amazing perk of my job, one that I will be forever appreciative for long after I no longer work there. Shanna is one of those friends, and an amazing one at that.

Shanna is someone about whom, once you become friends with her you think to yourself, "How was there ever a time when I didn't have her in my life?" She's an unbelievably easy person to befriend: gregarious, open, unbelievably friendly and warm, Shanna truly attracts people to her. I love watching Shanna bounce around a room; people around her literally light up in her presence, her laugh is contagious and genuine, she lives with such vivaciousness it inevitably rubs off on her surroundings. Shanna has a "social butterfly" necklace she wears that is so quintessentially her-- she's happy to be happy around everyone, and everyone is inevitably happy to be around her.

Shanna's ability to make friends quickly is only matched by the closeness of her relationships. When you're friends with Shanna you know you're valued: she is generous, giving, quick to offer help, advice, an empathetic ear. She simply loves-- fiercely, and with all of her heart-- the people in her life, and that love is clearly reflected back to her from her husband, family and friends. I love the friendship that I have with her now, knowing we're only going to get closer over the years; I love knowing that when I see Shanna again (whether she's read this or not) I'm going to get a big hug from her because she's "a hugger"; simply, I love Shanna.

Shanna and me, likely up to "Shannanigans"

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

#256: "Laid" by James

I have a tendency to like music that is moving, or more on the sad side...but I'm also partial to a lot of music that is more upbeat and happy. "Laid" by James is a song that never fails to put me in a good mood...and even when I hear it yesterday, and am in a good mood, it puts me in an even better mood. Those opening riffs get me every time...


Sunday, September 16, 2012

#255: Photographs

One of my summer projects was to "deal with my photographs". I had a lot of prints that hadn't been put into albums or properly organized, as well as every digital photo I've taken since graduating college just sitting in iPhoto. I resolved to tackle these loose ends, and during my actual summer vacation I did deal with all of the loose prints.

This morning I sat down at my computer to begin sorting through my digital photos, organizing them into albums that I could ultimately order and have printed. It was so wonderful to go through the photos, seeing my nieces and nephews in their younger years, recalling great trips and times with Kegan, my family and friends.

Despite feeling initially like I had so many photos, I inevitably wished I had more. It's encouraged me to make more of an effort to take more photos and not just let them sit on a computer. I'm grateful for all  of the photos that I have, and the time that I spent going through them. It's another way to live out my Thankfulness Project: I can't help but see the smiling faces of my loved ones or recollect amazing experiences I've had without feeling grateful for them.

#254: A Giants' Win

A newly self proclaimed Giants fan, I have to be thankful today for their comeback win against the Buccaneers. More so than the win itself, I am just glad to have spent the afternoon watching the Giants victory with Kegan and my dad. There are so many aspects of being a football fan I've long desired...I was just missing the "being a football fan" part of it, which was kind of a necessity for the other benefits. Now that I am throwing myself into that identify, I'm getting to enjoy the perk I most wanted: being able to spend time with friends and family, rallied around a similar cause, and of course indulging in some awesome game time snacks.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

#253: Kegan's Work Ethic

I am married to the most hardworking person I have ever known. While I know he is motivated by his personally drive and love of his career, I also know he works as hard as he does for me and the family we will have someday. This conscientiousness is "big picture", but it's also evident on a day-to-day basis. Kegan's committed to coming home for dinner, even if it means he has to pull late hours afterwards. When he has to work on the weekend, as he unexpectedly had to today, he will get up insanely early (which he also does during the week) so that he can get as many hours in as he can before I wake up, so that we can still have time together. He sacrifices sleep and personal time for work, but also so that he can have as much possible time with me...and it's hard not to feel deeply loved and appreciative when your husband does that for you.

#252: Julianne

I'm thankful for, and feel blessed to have, regular readers of this blog. My niece, Julianne, is one of the regular readers I am most grateful for.

When I began the blog and sent the link to Julianne, she told me early on it in its inception that she was reading it and liked it. My sister-in-law Kate, her mother, mentioned to me that Julianne was reading it often, and occasionally I get text messages from her commenting on my posts. I am humbled to have someone I love so dearly so invested in a personal project-- but Julianne showing how supportive she is, and how much she cares for a family member, is simply at the core of the wonderful young woman she is.

It's a little surreal to refer to Julianne as a young woman; so often when I think of her I envision the curly haired, energetic toddler who was my first born niece. But now she's 15, this stunningly tall blonde whose beauty sometimes takes my breath away, who carries herself with such quiet grace it's hard to remember she's the same girl who once literally almost bounced my grandmother out of bed she was jumping on it so vigorously. A part of my "first generation" of nieces and nephews, when it overwhelms me how quickly Julianne has grown it makes me realize how much I need to cherish the babyhood and childhoods of my "second generation" of nieces and nephews. I wish that I had been more acutely aware of how fleeting those days would be when Julianne was still into playing dress up and with stuffed animals.

That being said, I love my relationship with Julianne now, too. We've gone running together, she's slept over, and we've had real, serious conversations...we're only 12 years apart, and so I know the older she gets the narrower our age gap will become. While she'll always be my niece, she's also become a good friend, and a wonderful one at that. Julianne is good natured and kind, quick to offer help to anyone in need. She's an awesome sister and "big cousin", and the playfulness and energy of her childhood resurfaces regularly-- this sprite-like look coming across her eyes, one that I think I share with her, as well. Julianne is intelligent, hard working, athletic, and has a laugh that fills a room. It's been amazing to watch her grow up, watching her grow into this beautiful woman, one I am so grateful to have in my life.

Often when I write something about a family member or friend, something has sparked an impetus to reflect on who they are and the role they play in my life. Since I've realized Julianne's readership of this blog I've decided to just have hers come out of the blue, because with Julianne (and honestly all of my family and friends) there's no need for a reason to be thankful...because I am, always.

My stunning niece

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

#251: Everything

My Thankfulness Project has me focusing intently on the individual aspects of my life for which I am grateful. On a day like today- a day of national remembrance- I cannot help but be thankful for absolutely every aspect of my life. It is a blessed one, one that I try to never take for granted, especially on a day the reminds you how precious life truly is.

Monday, September 10, 2012

#250: Jan

For six years now I have been blessed to work under the tutelage of a great supervisor, Jan. While she helps in countless ways throughout the entirety of the year, I find myself especially grateful for her now, at the beginning. As we all face the stresses and abundant expectations of the new school year, Jan always makes it clear to us as a department that she's here for us, that she trusts us, and that she understands what we're going through and facing. She also has high expectations for us, motivating us that we can be the best teachers we can be, encouraging us to evolve within our individual classrooms and as a department as a whole.

Jan has always been a major source of support for me, mentoring me throughout my career, encouraging and fostering my growth as an educator. Just this weekend she helped me work through a conflict, tempering my stress with humor and grace. She's someone I know that I can turn to with any need I face, and while those are primarily professional needs, I would also feel completely comfortable going to her with personal issues, as well. Jan is, in this sense, the ideal supervisor: I wholeheartedly respect and admire her and her leadership, which motivates me to be be a better teacher not just for my students but to make her proud.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

#249: Of Monsters & Men

Since discovering this band late this summer, I've been listening to their album My Head Is An Animal, and my favorite of their songs "Little Talks", on near repeat. I love falling in love with new music!

"Little Talks"

#248: Wonderful Weather Forecasted

After a stormy Saturday, it was so lovely to wake up to a beautiful Sunday morning, and even lovelier to follow that ambiance with a 7 day forecast that looks like a dream. Clear skies, sunshine, cooler temperatures than we've seen in months. Sure, it could rain any (or every!) day this week, but there's something so wonderful about seeing that long block of wonderful weather forecasted, you can't help but start your week feeling good about the days to come.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

#247: Football Season

Games. Snacks. Pools. Sunday afternoons on the couch. Snacks. The Superbowl. Hoodies. Snacks. Brings the Fall. Reason to see family and friends. Something to look forward to every week. As Kegan adds, "Hope."

What's not to love?

(Did I mention snacks?)

#246: Going To Bed, Bone Tired

For all the joys of summer, one aspect of it that I always struggle with is that my days are often so restful, it's often hard to get to bed. On summer nights I will often lay awake for quite a while, just waiting to fall asleep, which is often frustrating and makes my summer nights' rests not as satisfying.

Then the school year begins, and my days become anything but restful. While it's easy, often, to look at the challenges of that, this week one benefit of the hustle and bustle has become apparent: I'm back to going to bed, bone tired.  It's hard to be grateful for feelings of exhaustion, but then your bed never feels better than when you finally fall into it after a long day...and that's definitely something to be thankful for.

Monday, September 3, 2012

#245: My Cubs Teeshirt

During my Chicago trip in May Katelynn and I each bought Cubs shirts to wear to the game at Wrigley Field that we went to. Since that trip, this teeshirt has quickly become one of my favorite things to wear. It's unbelievably comfortable, and has more or less been part of my "summer uniform". With a new school year set to start comes the return of "work clothes", and it's made me all the more grateful for the comfort of my well-worn, softened Cubs shirt.

#244: Once

As an anniversary present, Kegan took me to see the Broadway musical Once this past weekend. I've wanted to see it for quite sometime (since even before it won the Tony for Best Musical) so I was thrilled to go. Once was first a movie, and many people who've seen it have suggested it to me, but I never got around to watching the film. I love a night out to the theater, and this was no exception. It's an unconditional love story with a subtle message about those that come and go in our lives, and the music is moving. The most popular song from the score, "Falling Slowly", is one that I had heard and have liked prior to seeing the play, but it was so much more powerful in person. I'm thankful to have seen this show, and more so grateful to have experienced it with Kegan in honor of our anniversary.

"Falling Slowly"

Saturday, September 1, 2012

#243: Riley

Yesterday I went to my brother Dennis'  house and had the lovely fortune of spending some quality one-on-one time with my niece, Riley. When you have 11 niece and nephews it's hard to have that individualized time, and I so grateful when those moments occur. Riley and I spent a lot of time coloring and chatting while we did so, played dress up and with her toys. I had such a nice, quiet evening with her, and even in our simple play, I was aware of how grateful I was to be with her, and for her.

Riley is Dennis' second child and first daughter; I've always felt a special connection to Riley because she is the first and only of my nieces and nephews to really look like me, physically. I imagine this is how cool it feels to have a child, to look at your daughter or son and see yourself reflected in them.
Riley is a doll-- she's a total girls' girl, and has the sweetest voice to coincide with her very feminine personality. If you're looking for some girl time, look no further than hanging out with her. She has a sweet disposition, as well, evidenced best by how much she loves and cares for her baby sister. Riley loves to give Ella hugs and kisses, loves to be kissed and hugged by Ella in return. Yesterday Ella woke up cranky from her nap, and Riley immediately invited her to go play-- it was clear she wanted to do that both to cheer her up, and because she genuinely wanted to play with her. As someone who values the relationship sisters have with one another, this was a really touching moment to witness.

For all of her sweetness, Riley also has a playful deviousness about her, which I love and totally connect with her over. We laughed as she encouraged my brother to drink her brother's milkshake while he was out of the room "just because", and we've recently bonded over her newfound love of the Haunted Mansion in Disney. My heart literally melted when I received a phonecall from her when she vacationed in Disney this summer, wanting to ask me questions about the mansion and gush in how much she loved it. It was while I was on that call with her that I realized Riley and I don't just look alike but we are alike...and I am so thankful to have her as my niece.fami