A personal initiative to live more appreciatively

Friday, November 23, 2012

#315: My Project; Your Project

Yesterday I celebrated yet another wonderful Thanksgiving with my family. Last year was special in that it was the first year that Kegan and I hosted; it was also the kickoff to this project. This year's Thanksgiving was equally special: not only did we host again (so thankful I married a man who likes to cook!), we had both members of Kegan's family and mine together...and it also marked the end of my personal initiative to spend a year reflecting on the aspects of my life for which I am most thankful.

When I began the project I hoped to post daily from one Thanksgiving to the next. In a slightly ditzy move I expected this to be a total of 365 reflections...forgetting that Thanksgiving does not fall on the same date each year. And while I did not actually post every single day-- especially lagging a bit during the first trimester of my pregnancy-- I can honestly say that even when I did not write, I thought, every single day, about what a blessed life I lead, in both big and small ways.

This project truly had a profound effect on me. If you've walked this road with me this year and read regularly, I am so grateful for your investment, interest and support...it was always motivating to hear family and friends commenting on specific posts, or asking me when I was going to post again on the occasions when there was a lag. And for the strangers who've read...the ones who know me only through the musings on this blog...it was humbling to know that something on here struck a chord with you and kept you invested. The project as a personal initiative kept me motivated, but so did readership, so thank you for that.

All this project is was the piecing together of thoughts, words, photos, video clips, and music...and yet from it I have gained so much. Here are the profound ways in which I feel this project has affected me:

*Each day was colored positively: My life is by no means perfect. I have frustrations, struggles, limitations, faults, weaknesses & stresses just like everyone else. I can be moody and emotional, feel conflicted and negative just as I am sure you do. But when I took time out of every day-- even the hard ones-- to look for the positivity in either that specific day or my life in general, some of that negativity was deflated. I felt calmer & happier after I took the time to look past whatever was weighing me down and found something to uplift me. Malorie and I once talked about how your world and your life is colored by the lens through which you choose to look at it. This project allowed me every day to see it positively, no matter how clouded my vision may have been by my own pessimism or life circumstances, and that truly made a difference on a daily basis.

*I suffer less anxiety: Anxiety, in general, is one of aforementioned limitations of my life. I've worked for years to manage, negate & limit it, but it's a pretty powerful opponent. This project, however, has proven to be quite the weapon in combatting the influence of anxiety in my life, a benefit of it that I did not expect, but one that makes perfect sense. Anxiety is worry of the future-- of what will come, and the worry that it will be negative. This project forced me to be more consciously alive in the present, to focus on positivity, and to think how years ago I was worried about all of these days. And as they've come, look at the blessings they've begot. It takes a lot of energy to worry, and I've found how much nicer it is to channel that energy differently. Instead of looking forward at what may be-- which we cannot know or control-- I look at what good is or has been, and am bolstered by it.

*I want less: While I would not consider myself a greedy or materialistic person to begin with, it is part of human nature to want. Yet through this project I have found myself wanting less. While it goes without saying that what matters in life is not material, spending a year accumulating the evidence of that has made me realize I do not need to accumulate stuff...because stuff doesn't matter. Beyond wanting less materially, I want less of a different life. It's easy to focus on what we do not have in life-- to focus on shortcomings, to fall victim to envy or jealousy, to compare your life to the life of another. This project has made it so clear to me just how amazing my life is...I realize that I do not want the life of another, not even in the slightest, if it would change anything about the amazing one I get to lead. As I've focused on all that I have, and in doing so realized how unbelievably abundant that is, I've realized just how content I truly am, which is a pretty powerful, profound perspective.

*I'm happier: Obviously. One of the inspirations for this project was Gretchen Rubin's work The Happiness Project. I could fully relate to her confliction that while she knew she led this amazing life,  on a daily basis she often didn't feel as happy as she knew that she should. This plight affected me, as I think it does most of us. Gretchen chose to cultivate happiness in a myriad of initiatives; I had, even before reading her work, wanted to work on being a more grateful person. This project allowed me to be more grateful but I knew would also make me happier. I now live with a better, more full heart than I did a year ago. I think I am calmer, more present, more apt to look for the good in everything more naturally than the bad...all of which has made me a happier person.

*Light begets light: If I were ever to be asked to express my worldview, I think I would have a hard time doing that. If I had to, I think I would try to formulate the simple tenements I believe shape our lives...and through this project I discovered one that I think is ultimate and powerful, capable of actively changing the course of your life. This project proved to me that "light begets light". I aimed to do something simple: to spend each day thankful for something. It became bigger than that, for all of the aforementioned benefits, and I think it became it's own force. As I appreciated daily a specific aspect of my life for which I am thankful I inevitably thought of more. It was not challenging to reflect regularly on an aspect of my life for which I am most thankful (although it was occasionally a challenge to actually write it down)...once you shine light onto your life it spreads, the darkness retreats. Everything is illuminated, and I truly feel that I see my life now through lighter eyes.

....And so you might ask, what's next?

To begin, I invite you to do this for yourself. You've invested time in my project, and I am so thankful for that. I hope that through reading my posts it inspired you to think of your own blessings...what would be more amazing to me is to know that there was a ripple effect....that I started a project, and someone else took it on for themselves. Because when I reflect on what this has done for me, I can only want for it to equally transform the lives of others. If you've ever thought reading this that it's "a nice thing" I've done, if you've looked forward to reading the posts, if you've ever considered trying this yourself...do it! I cannot endorse it enough. Start today. Here are some suggestions for how you can do it-- in the same vein as me or completely differently.

1. Just make a list: I like to write, clearly. But all of the elaboration isn't necessary. Simply list, one thing a day, that you're grateful for (like my post headings). You can probably sit and do a ton right off the bat, but try and limit yourself to one, focus on that for the day, and spread the wealth out over the year. You could write it on paper or type it on a document.

2. Keep a journal: I made my project public for a number of reasons, but the project can be just as transformative if it's private...maybe even more so. Buy yourself a notebook and take the time to write regularly.

3. Create your own Thankfulness Project Blog: Don't be intimidated by the interweb! I am by no means capable when it comes to anything technological...and I can personally avow that it's easy. You can do it, and if you want I can help. If I know you I will personally come and start it for you and show you how to use it. Sorry my Russian reader...you're on your own :)

4. Facebook It: Facebook users are so willing to share the most mundane (pardon my criticism) crap as their Facebook statuses. You had egg salad for lunch? Awesome. I shouldn't judge, but I so often wonder what exactly spurs people to make their statuses...I'll even critique the psychology behind my own! (Yes, my self reflection and constant analysis can be an exhausting way to live). I think it's just the need to connect and share, but also to express. Whenever you go on Facebook, update your status with something you are thankful for. You can change it once you eat that bangin' egg salad sandwich, but for the moment you consciously thought of your gratitude and you shared it with your world...and you'll feel pretty awesome for that.

5. Make it dinner conversation: Last night my family went around the table and shared what we were thankful for, as I think many families do on Thanksgiving. I love it, think it's such a powerful moment of the holiday. One of my motivators for this project was to extend the positivity of Thanksgiving throughout the year...and a simple way to do that would be to just have that conversation at dinner. Simply say what you were thankful for that day, and ask those you are dining with what they are thankful for. I am going to start this with my family, and cannot wait to see how it shapes us to collectively, nightly reflect on our gratitude.

However you do it, I strongly urge two things:

1. Make it a habit. Like any resolution, no matter how good your intentions are life can get in the way. But it is so worth it. So take it one day at a time and keep it simple (a reason my first suggestion might be the best, because it's likely apt to be the most successful) but make the commitment to do it. You'll lose steam at some point, but look at the big picture. Next Thanksgiving will be here before you know it....you probably thought at some point last night 'I can't believe it's already Thanksgiving, it feels like it was just Thanksgiving last year.' As Rubin reflects, "The days are long but the years are short." Keep it going, and you'll see how much you can transform your life with a simple act...but it's best if it's continuous.

2. Tell the people in your life that you're thankful for them: One of the reasons I made this project public is because there are so many people about whom I knew I would write, and I wanted to share it with them. That was one of the most profound aspects of the whole endeavor. It meant a lot to me to be able to tell the people in my life exactly what they mean to me, what effect they've had on me, how blessed I am to know and be known, to love and be loved by them. So you can keep your whole project private, but connect at least with the people you appreciate when you're appreciating them. Call your mom or dad. Send your best friend a card. Write an email to your coworker. I know it's meant a lot to the people who've I've written about to read my words, and that's made it so much more worth it to have ever taken on the project. I feel closer to them, and know that no matter what tomorrow brings in either of our lives, they know how much they mean to me. It's nice to tell people what they mean to you, and I know from the people I've told, it's even nicer to hear it. Light begets light, not just in your life, but in the lives of those you share it with.

...and dare I ask you to share it with me? You don't need to share your actual reflections, but if you take on this project I'd love to hear about it. If you know me personally you know how to reach out to me. If you don't you can email me at this snazzy email address I created simply for this purpose:
projectthankfulness@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you...or regularly cleaning out spam :)

As for my project...I intended to end it with Thanksgiving 2012....

But it will live on. There are so many more people to write about and so much more of my life for which I am grateful, it doesn't feel right to totally end it. The regularity with which I post will likely change, as in a few weeks I will live a much different life...but in a whole new, exciting, unbelievable way that will bring so much more to be thankful for. I'll keep writing; I hope you'll keep reading.

In summary (yes, this post is ending), here is what I have ultimately learned from this project, hope you see that I've learned this, and feel inspired to learn it for yourself:

"It is not happy people who are thankful; it is thankful people who are happy."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

#314: 33 Weeks

It's amazing and surreal on Thanksgiving Eve to write this particular post...to think back on how much my life has changed since this project began, to think how much my life is going to continue to change. I felt when I began this project that it would be a year during which I would become more aware of my blessings, and unbeknownst to me it would also prove to be the year in which I would receive the greatest blessing. Today I am 33 weeks pregnant.

I considered not posting about my pregnancy; as is clearly a common writing condition I suffer from, it's often hard for me to find the words for the aspects of my life which are the most personal. And there's nothing in my life-- has never been anything in my life-- that is more personal than to be pregnant. But there's also never been anything in my life that I've been more grateful for, and so it felt imperative to close the year and the project to try and find the words, no matter how fleeting they are, to express my gratitude for the life I carry.

In the most fitting way, I learned that I was pregnant on Mother's Day. From that moment on my priorities shifted. Never before have I felt or understood in the way I do now how much bigger life is than ourselves. I cannot even comprehend how much more deeply I will feel this in the coming weeks.

There is so much I want to say and so much that is unsayable about how amazing it is to be pregnant with your first child...not just because the words are elusive, but because it feels right to only share them with your child. I can only assume that as this life grows within me it's absorbing the infinite love that courses through me, burrowing this into his or her bones so that it knows, always, that he or she is the totality of my best wishes, my greatest of hopes, and the blessing of all blessings...of course not just of this year, but from this year forward, for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

# 313: Kegan

Nine years ago yesterday Kegan asked me to be his girlfriend; seven years ago yesterday he asked me to marry him. These were the two best questions I have ever been asked, the two easiest yeses I have ever uttered, and the two moments of my life for which I am most grateful.

As I think is true with the best love stories, when I met Kegan, I met my ultimate best friend. He knows me more completely than I know myself. He makes me laugh harder than anyone. He has seen me at my worst and loves me in spite of it; he brings out the best of me and makes it better.

The words to fully express how thankful I am to be his wife, to have him as a husband, do not exist. There is too much to appreciate, too many moments to acknowledge, too much depth to my love for him. It is the reason I have saved this reflection for as long as I have…I have hoped that the words would materialize, but it is becoming more and more evident that there aren’t any, as is true with the best of things, always.

But in this present moment- the first day of the last year of our first decade together- I am feeling particularly thankful for this when it comes to my amazing husband: that he kisses me on the forehead when he leaves so early that I have yet to wake up, as he did this morning; that the cat napping on my legs right now is here because he was willing to suffer through his allergies to give them a home and make my childhood Christmas wish a reality; that his laugh is my favorite sound; that he thinks I am beautiful when I wear sweatpants; that he knows, without me needing to say it or write it, how happy he’s made me each and every day since that blessed day we were in the right place, at the right time, and met each other.

Just this past weekend I asked Kegan to truly appreciate just how minute our chances were of meeting each other, to appreciate the alignment of events that allowed us to cross paths. Without skipping a beat he told me that was unimaginable. When I asked him what he meant by that he replied, “Because I would have found you.”  

And it’s for that—that he did find me, and that I found him—that I am most thankful.

Monday, November 19, 2012

#312: My Mom

From the very beginning of this project, from the very first post, there are traces of my mom—her role in my life and the influence she maintains. Despite the fact that I have written proof that I think of her often, it is nothing compared to the living reality of her omnipresence on my mind and in my heart.

As a young child I was genuinely attached to my mother’s side.  There was such a sense of security being in her presence, such comfort in the sound of her voice or laugh that I was on edge in her absence. While there were a number of reasons I could not make it through an entire school day during first grade, one of it was that I couldn’t bear that stretch of time away from her.  In a show of complete maternal grace, my mother- without complaint or contention- came and picked me up every day so that I could have lunch with her (meaning she made the trip from home to school 8 times in a single day). It didn’t matter that I had amazing siblings…when they were left to babysit me I was often merely counting down the time until my mother came back home. When I look back on my childhood, she was my constant.

As I aged I grew out of the literal attachment I felt towards my mother, but an emotional one naturally took its place. I was able to see her for who she was as my mother but also as an individual, able to appreciate her for her countless graces. She was unbelievably patient, building my confidence as I came into my own. She was motivating in what I think is the best way a parent can be—always encouraging me to simply try my hardest at anything I did, and so long as I did assured me I was going to be successful. She taught me to persevere in the face of hardship, to know that moments in life would be difficult but could be conquered. She was soft spoken and introverted, and I often wonder if, like me, she was always taking life in and appreciating it quietly because it’s more powerful to do so. I like to think so.

She was physically beautiful, and maybe I am biased, but when I see photos of her especially in her youth I think she might have been the most physically beautiful woman I have or will ever know. But as with the best people her physical beauty was transcended by her inner beauty. She had such sensitivity and kindness, a simple and quiet strength. Nothing was more important to her than being a mother, and I am unbelievably blessed to have been born into that unconditional love. I’ve often wondered how my mother felt upon the realization that she’d be having me, her fifth child, years after her fourth. To this day I still remember meeting an acquaintance of hers who recalled the day my mother announced she was pregnant with me. “She was so unbelievably happy…when they say pregnant woman glow, your mother was glowing when she was pregnant with you.” It makes me happy to know she was so happy to have me. When we’d run into people together I was always labeled as “her baby”. There were certainly years of my life, mostly due to adolescent rebellion, when I hated being classified as the baby. But now, at 28, there’s something comforting knowing that part of my identity is as my mother’s baby.

When I think of my mother I have a tendency to see and remember her in vignettes. I can hear her laughing with my dad after dinner, when the two of them would sit back together after all the kids had cleared the kitchen. I see her standing, huddled in her winter coat, at the fence along the track, watching me run, quietly cheering me on. I can smell the sugary air as she baked my favorite Christmas cookies, a recipe to this day no one can reproduce. She lives in these frames in my mind.

My mom knew me wholly. She knew my strengths and weaknesses, my hopes, fears and insecurities. She knew me without need of discourse, because a child can only been known in this way by a parent. My life has been irrevocably marked by her absence when she passed when I was only 20 years old. . Grief is profound, and time doesn’t actually heal all wounds. It makes them more bearable, but they’re never healed.

That being said, I know my mother is not absent from my life. I truly feel connected to her still; my bones are her bones, and in them I feel her strength and support. That is what anchors me; always has, and always will. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

#311: "Pig"

This Dave Matthews (surprised?) song has always struck a chord with me. I made sure it was played near the end of my wedding night-- not because it's a particularly fitting song for a wedding, or even one you can really dance to-- but because its lyrics were words I wanted to make sure I was living in the final hours of one of the most amazing days of my life.

Beyond being appropriate for my wedding day, I think it's also fitting for this project. "Pig" calls on us to see all the light in our life, to embrace the present and "not burn the day away". With only a final few days left until my Thankfulness Project year closes, I know this song will be on my mind often. Whenever I hear it I think of my wedding and marriage, one of the ultimate blessings of my life, but I will also think that this is not just a song for the most special days but for every day.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

#310: The Haunted Mansion

If I were ever asked where my favorite place in the world is, my answer would be The Haunted Mansion in Disney World. I recognize the strangeness of this response, but I also embrace it as part and parcel of who I am. As I've mentioned in posts earlier, I've naturally always gravitated to the macabre; at a very young age my favorite movie was Beetle Juice, and my preferred tv viewing was either The Addams Family or Twilight Zone episodes. My favorite book was In a Dark, Dark Room and I checked out the "Fairy Tale Theatre" video "The Boy Who Left Home To Find Out About The Shivers" (screw that princess crap) so many times my mother eventually bought it for me, seeing as we virtually owned it as it was. Needless to say, when my family took me on my first trip to Disney World and we rode the Haunted Mansion, in some ways, I felt like I had come home.

The ride has always had a pull on me, both when I am there in the park and when I am home. Kegan is wonderful to indulge and support me in my attachment, allowing me to adorn our home with merchandise and recognizing that I tend to be unable to help myself from buying Haunted Mansion related memorabilia.

A few years ago my students were going to write memoirs so I chose to write one along with them to model the process. I intended to write about my first ride on The Haunted Mansion and the story became about so much more than that. It was probably in that moment when I realized the true significance of this house on a hill in my life. I've been unbelievably lucky to go to Disney World many times, but my connection to the Haunted Mansion transcends my literal presence within the walls of the attraction. It's just a ride, I recognize that...but as the magic of Disney is apt to do...it's so much more than a ride to me. It's an escape, it's a microcosm of my childhood, it's a reminder that one can be happily haunted.

Friday, November 16, 2012

#309: Tara

When I look back on my life, I can say resoundingly that Tara was my first best friend. While we grew up in a small town and always knew each other as a result-- my sister was even her babysitter for a while-- we first became friends when we were in the same 4th grade class. One of my earliest memories of Tara, one of the ways that solidified her as that first best friend, is when she stuck up for me, a meek and shy 10 year old, when a classmate was being unkind. As upsetting as that moment probably was as it occurred...as much as I was probably focused on the mean girl at the time...when I look back on that moment as an adult I just see the beautiful beginning of one of my most valued friendships.

Tara and I shared so much during our adolescence. I have boxes full of notes from her, vividly remember our inside jokes, spent hours talking to her about any and everything. We were often kicked out of classes because one or both of us couldn't stop laughing, and I think if my life so far were to be replayed, so many of the moments that I have laughed the hardest have been with Tara. Middle school and high school can be challenging years, but I know that one of the reasons I look back at those years with such happiness and levity is because of Tara. She was always willing to be totally ridiculous and obnoxious without abandon, and we had an unbelievable amount of fun as a result.

Unfortunately college distanced us a bit, but I am so blessed that time and the bond one forges ruining plays together can sustain any distance time and life may create. Tara and I reconnected years ago, and I am so happy to say that I once again call her one of my closest friends. One of the most amazing qualities of Tara as a grown woman is that I still see traces of who she was when we first became best friends. She is unbelievably selfless, strong and kind. Her laugh is just as bountiful and contagious as it ever was; she's gregarious and exudes an infectious happiness and positivity you can't help but internalize in her presence. She's gracious and graceful, someone I know I can go to at any time for advice, for a laugh, for motivation. Anyone who knows Tara knows her to be a force of positivity and energy, and I am blessed to have her in my life. We are the Bunson to one another's Beaker, the Super Rockill to one another's Caped Canova, my fierce, loyal and amazing dear friend.

#308: Bryan

I recently wrote about how thankful I am for each of my four sisters-in-law. I also have an amazing brother-in-law, Bryan, who is married to Kegan's sister, Desiree.

Bryan is a dedicated, hard working, caring father and husband, and with Desiree is raising two wonderful boys. He extends his caring nature to the rest of our family, always willing to help whenever it is needed and opening his home to us for great meals that he cooks. An accountant he also always helps everyone in our family take care of their taxes...sacrificing his personal time to do us this huge favor graciously year after year is paramount of his generous and helpful nature. I love being a part of the Brown family for so many reasons, and Bryan is one of the best of them.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

#307: Heat

Someone recently tweeted that the smell of central heat in the morning is something they find comforting, and I have to agree. Besides it's literal comfort factor, I am so grateful to live in a warm, heated home because I know there are many people who do not. It's one of the basic necessities we likely take for granted, raising the heat at will as the temperatures drop, not taking the time to acknowledge how lucky we are simply to be able to do that.

#306: Trish

For the past seven years I have been on my team at work with Trish, and I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to be mentored by and work with her for the entirety of my teaching career.

During my first year Trish had already been teaching for a number of years but she was new to our building. That, coupled with her unbelievably cheery disposition and willingness to help, caused me to gravitate to her more than any other colleague. Trish entertained my multitude of questions and concerns, always giving me sage advice and reassurance when I was unsure of myself. I spent many afternoons talking to her in her classroom, and she willingly gave of her time to guide me in my years as a novice teacher. Some of my fondest memories of the beginning of my teaching career were these moments with Trish...laughing with her, feeling bolstered by her support, and helping her correctly pronounce the names of our students. If I had to name who has been my mentor as a young educator, Trish is it.

Now that I am in year seven I don't need Trish as much as I used to...but it's because she was so consistently and continuously there for me when I did need her that I am where I am as an educator. And over the years our relationship has evolved from the mentor/mentee dynamic to one of friendship, and Trish is an amazing friend to have. I know few people who can talk as much as Tricia does, but I also know few people who listen as well as she does, either. I always love getting her perspective, be it on current world issues or our personal lives. She's a passionately loyal mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend and coworker, quick to put others in front of herself. I have oft been on the receiving end of her support and love. I may not spend afternoons in her classroom as much as I used to, but I am thankful for all of those days, that I've continued to call her a teammate, and that I have a dear friend in her now, forever.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

#305: Andrew Being Scared

I already wrote about my love for Jeff Lewis, and here's video footage why.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

#304: Dennis

My brother Dennis is the sibling with whom I have the most in common. This was evident from early on in life; in pictures from our childhood Dennis and I often have the same expression…whether I was doing it to mimic him, or there was something intrinsic that brought it out in both of us can’t be known. Regardless, these are moments captured in time of us as one in the same, and they are some of my favorite photos, because being Dennis’ sister is one of my favorite roles in life, and being likened to him is one of the highest compliments I think I can be paid.

I think if there is anyone to whom I feel kindred it is Dennis. My father actually jokingly used to call me Dennis because our similarities are almost uncanny. We share similar interests, have the same likes and dislikes, generally have the same disposition and perspective…commonalities that our respective spouses even to this day continue to be surprised to discover. We joke that our genetic identity must be nearly identical, except for the markers related to gender. When I discovered that I, like he, am a carrier of the cystic fibrosis gene I called him and told him it was the one time in my life I was annoyed to have something in common with him, and that is honestly the truth.

Dennis is an amazing brother. He has been one of my biggest supporters and advocates since I was little…from sneaking carrots off my plate so that I could be excused from dinner to being one of the first people I turn to when I need advice or guidance. Just earlier this year Dennis, after reading my post about losing my wedding ring, called me to encourage me that it would turn up, helped me frame it in perspective and even laugh about it. And that’s exactly what Dennis does, not just for me but for all of his family: he encourages us, balances us, and helps us see the levity in even the most stressful of situations. Dennis’ humor is rivaled only by his heart: he cares so deeply and profoundly for his family, and I am so blessed to be the recipient of that love by being his sister.

There’s no one in this life I’d rather watch a Twilight Zone marathon with, no one who’d truly understand my Haunted Mansion obsession (since it’s his, too),  no one with whom I would more trust what I hold most personal, no one who I’d rather be linked to than Dennis.  My life is filled with so much love and laughter because of him. You can see that in the pictures of us when we’re little, and you can see it in how inexpressively happy I am to be his sister.

A rare departure from our usual shared expression;
Dennis wanted us to look scared to be in the Haunted Mansion secret hallway...
I was too excited to be there, to happy to share that moment with him

Monday, November 12, 2012

#303: Flip Flops in Fall

With unseasonably warm weather, I was able to sneak in a few hours of my afternoon in flip flops. When I kicked them off I recognized that, most likely, it's the last time I'll wear them until the Spring. I love the comfort of my Uggs this time of year, but feel most at home in my Old Navy flip flops. I look forward to breaking them out again and am grateful-- amidst the short few weeks that have included a hurricane and a Nor'easter-- to have been able to don them unexpectedly.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

#302: Veteran's Day

As I posted on Memorial Day I feel unbelievably indebted to the people who serve our country- and in turn serve me. For veterans- past, present, and future- I am grateful.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

#301: Hot Chocolate

At this time of year, there's nothing quite as comforting or simply appreciated as ending the night with a warm mug of hot chocolate, topped with whipped cream.

Friday, November 9, 2012

#300: Kristin

Today on facebook my friend and coworker Kristin posted the following: "Bianca's (her dog) wish came true: my pool is destroyed." As a result of the recent hurricane a tree fell on her pool, and she imagines that her dog, who is deathly afraid of water and hates to swim, is rejoicing.

Of course I am not at all happy to hear the news about the pool, but I did have to chuckle at the status itself, imagining Bianca the only one happy of the pool's demise, and also to marvel at my friend...that amidst something terrible she found a light hearted, potentially positive side. But that is Kristin: light hearted, positive, quick to smile and bring a smile to others.

I've loved getting to know Kristin over the years. She is an absolute ball to hang out with, and a friend I know that I can always count on. I recently needed advice and I knew she was the perfect person to go to...and she was, offering me really great, logical, sound suggestions. Kristin cares deeply for her loved ones, and you can see it as her eyes genuinely light up when she talks about her boyfriend, her parents, her sisters; you can hear it in the levity of her laugh when she's with her friends. To honor her passion and career, I say this resoundingly and with the help of google translator: Estoy agradecido de tener Kristin como amigo!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

#299: Joe

I've found the fall to be the season for old friends to resurface. Be it the impending holiday season, the quiet that ensues after summer chaos has calmed or something in the air, I've heard in the past few weeks from many old friends. And a very popular question...even from people who've never met him...is "How is Joey?"

Joey, or Joe as he now goes by, is my first nephew and my brother Don's oldest son. Joe was born when I was only 10 years old and in 5th grade, and so many of my old friends from high school have distinctive memories of how cool it was that at such a young age, I was an aunt. As it ages us, they are all often taken back to hear that he's nearly 18, driving, a senior in high school, and significantly taller than me. They might remember the pictures of him covering my locker-- this adorable, blue eyed, dimpled little boy. When I think of Joe I can see that little boy, but more often I think of him as the amazing young man he's become.

Maybe it's attributed to the fact that he's the oldest in his immediate and extended families, but Joe has always seemed more mature than his age. He carries himself with confidence and self assurance, is a hard worker and talented athlete. One of my favorite qualities of Joe is his natural grace...you can see that in his interactions with his numerous little cousins, his politeness, his constant willingness to be of use, to offer help. He also has a knack for finding hysterical youtube videos, and it is he first introduced me to this gem.

Joe and I are only 10 years apart. As time goes on I know the age gap will lessen...in many ways, it already has. He is and always will be my nephew, but I truly do see him as a young man, one whom I know I can always depend on, and one who I am so very thankful for.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

#298: "Home"

I know this song has been released for a while, but I heard it for the first time this week. I imagine it hits a chord with a number of people living in the Northeast right now.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

#297: Election Day

Regardless of the results of the election...I am thankful today to be an American. The fact that I live in a country where I can exercise my right to vote for the leaders of my choice is a privilege. I was proud to vote today, and I was thankful.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

#296: Ella

Yesterday I heard my youngest niece, Ella, say my name for the first time. She's likely known how to say it for a while, because she said it multiple times, but it was the first time I had heard it personally. A muffled "Mel", almost sounding like, "Meow", and I was reminded how amazing it is to have a baby say your name.

Ella is definitely transitioning out of her babyhood into toddlerhood, and I love this phase. Her personality is really making itself evident: she's strong willed, confident, very playful and smart. I am so grateful that Dennis and Gina have a healthy, happy daughter; I look forward to watching her continue to grow into the toddler and ultimately girl she's becoming, and for every day I get to hear her say 'Mel'.

Ella Bella

Saturday, November 3, 2012

#295: Fix You

Coldplay’s song was used in last night’s NBC Benefit for Hurricane Sandy, and I was moved by it, as I always am. It’s a song filled with such hope, a reminder that even in our darkest of moments there is light.

"Fix You"

Friday, November 2, 2012

#294: Halloween

The hurricane has thrown us all for a loop...even me, who wasn't nearly as impacted as most. And so Halloween, my favorite holiday next to Christmas, came and went without recognition. Trick-or-treating in my town was canceled. My usual pilgrimage to my brother Dennis' to partake in Halloweek-- a family tradition he established in which we watch a scary movie each night leading up to Halloween- never happened. The 31st passed with my family happily together in a warm, lit house, all agreeing it didn't quite feel like Halloween this year.

That being said, I am still thankful for Halloween. It's one of my favorite American traditions...that as a society we celebrate childhood, encouraging kids to dress up and indulge in candy. I grew up with a bit of a dark, macabre inclination; a holiday that celebrates spookiness, where one delights in a good natured scare, decorates their home with pumpkins and an homage to happy haunts is always one I will thoroughly enjoy.

I may not have been able to so much this year, but tonight Kegan and I watched "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown", and I reveled in my own quiet way for Hallowween...already looking forward to next year's.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

#293: My Home

This week I've thought often how thankful I am for my house-- for the physical structure of it, the fact that it provides me and my family shelter. Today I am thankful for my house as my home.

I love the comfort of my home, that it's a place I feel secure and safe. I love that it's adorned with photos of my family and friends-- the living embodiment of home. I love how laughter bounces off its walls, that it's set the stage for holidays and birthdays. I love the way sun streams through the windows, the way rain runs down the window panes. I love how light filters in throughout the day, how you can see the moon out the skylights. I love finding my cats curled in their secret spots, love the sound of Kegan's keys in the door when he returns from work. I love knowing I've been blessed here, and with continued  grace, will be, even more so, here.

"Home is the nicest word there is." - Laura Ingalls Wilder