My mom adventures in Fort Collins

Another Gratitude Post: 19 Things I’m Thankful For

Once I set out to accomplish something, it’s hard to get me to set down the baton and admit the race is over. Furthermore, I’ve publicly announced my goal, so there is no stopping me now–the fact that Thanksgiving has been over for 3 months means NOTHING to me. Two more posts about gratitude… after this one.

Since it is the nineteenth of the posts on gratitude, why not go for “Nineteen things that I am thankful for RIGHT NOW”?

1. Ruby is a bit sick, but she’s holding it together rather well. She keeps calling her cough a “Naughty Cough” which is mostly inexplicable but quite hilarious. I can only hope that we don’t all get Ruby’s Naughty Cough. But if we do, we will shame it into submission.

2. Cory did the dishes for me tonight. I have been trying to convince him for several years that he should get around to doing this a bit more, and lo and behold it is WORKING. Turns out nagging DOES work.

3. I am thankful for my friend Polly who took a very long walk with me in the sunshine today. Today was a glorious day, and it was made all the more lovely by the river, the sound of a meadowlark, and connecting with a good friend.

4. I am grateful to both Ruby & Scout for a good–I’d even say GREAT–morning around here that didn’t involve any yelling. Woohoo!

5. I am grateful for The Cellar, and I’m especially grateful to their employee Becca who directed me to a delicious red wine that I am sipping presently.

6. I am grateful for my health, and that of my family. My dad is healthy, my mom is healthy, and though they both have their issues, we are NOT where we were last year at this time.

7. I am grateful to people who have a sense of humor, like whoever took the time to make this:

8. I am grateful for a warm, safe house. After a gorgeous day with temperatures in the 50s, I find myself suddenly feeling chilled to the bone after the weather turned cold.

9. I am grateful to Mary Pope Osborn, and the great work that she does that has entertained my children so much in recent months. Jack & Annie are almost real people around here, I think Scout even asked if we could look for Frog Creek, Pennsylvania on a map.

10. I’m grateful for my Secret Sister. Secret Sister is this thing we do at my daughter’s preschool, sort of like Secret Santa but all year round. My SS gifted me Enstrom’s toffees. If you’ve never had such a delicious treat, check them out here.

11. I am grateful to my sweet hubby, who is currently gearing my kiddos up in the living room something like this:IMG_4718

12. I am grateful for good books. I read a lovely one recently called The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. It’s a story about a young woman who aged out of the foster care system. Also important to the story: this woman communicates in the Victorian-era “Language of Flowers,” where a red rose means romantic love and a thistle means misanthropy. If you’re at all curious, there is a great interview with the author here:

13. I am grateful for coffee. EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE.

14. I am grateful for my sweet niece who turns 8 today. Years ago, on the day she was born, Cory and I drove up to Cheyenne, Wyoming so that we could catch a glimpse of her. Seems hard to believe that she’s now so mature, when it doesn’t seem that long ago I held her in my arms.

15. I am grateful for small favors, like when someone holds the door for you while you’re carrying something or when you find exactly what you’re looking for at the grocery store without having to wind your way back to an aisle that you inadvertently forgot.

16. I am grateful for The Mindy Project, which is not coming back until April 1st, but I can be patient a bit longer. PLEASE, please, please, Danny, DO NOT SCREW IT UP. You either, Mindy!

17. I am so incredibly grateful for the teachers at my daughter’s elementary school. Her kindergarten teacher returned today from a 3-month maternity leave, and the long-term-sub was such a gem in her absence. The other kindergarten teachers and the paras pitched in so incredibly well. I feel so fortunate that there are so many kind people who are out in the world working with these littles and teaching them about life and literacy and how to hang your snowpants up.

18. I am grateful for my church, a place of community and love. The pastor recently gave a sermon on “Faithfully Side Stepping Tradition”–about welcoming EVERYONE.

19. I am grateful for it all, this messy, imperfect, bittersweet life. I am not a person that exudes joy in every step, or pretends that all is well when indeed it is falling apart (as it often does in parenthoodland), but I think I can honestly say that there is nowhere I’d rather be than right here in this place.

Do you have something that you are grateful for RIGHT NOW? 


21-Day Gratitude Challenge: Day 17
December 23, 2013, 10:24 am
Filed under: Writing | Tags: , , , , , ,

So, I fell off the Gratitude train. It happens. I figured that some day I’d actually get around to finishing this Gratitude Challenge… no one said that the 21 days had to be consecutive, right?

A month goes by and there is more to be thankful for. Two days away from Christmas, and we’re just hunkering down for a while. The unstructured days will lend themselves to sleeping in, crafting, travelling, reading, laughing, game playing, time together and days without any agenda whatsoever.

Recent thoughts of gratitude:

  • Fires in the fireplace
  • Watching Christmas movies while snuggling with loved ones
  • Enjoying the treats that come with the season
  • Listening to Christmas tunes and singing Christmas songs
  • Discovering Abuelita-the Mexican Hot Chocolate kit they sell in grocery stores for about $3 (What a deal!)
  • Taking in the Christmas lights that are on display

There is a bit of “Christmas-fever” at our home. Symptoms include organizing the wrapped presents under the tree, and comparing the size of the stacks. It also looks like this: hoarding several flyers from the Sunday papers, complete with lovely hand-pasted letters to send to Santa Claus.

Everyone always says Christmas is too commercial. Even St. Francis of Assisi said way back before he was a saint that Christmas had it’s problems, and he wanted people to experience Christmas differently. (Read more about that here and here.) I think about that, too. I set out the Fischer Price Nativity scene ALL YEAR LONG, because I figure you can never have enough baby Jesus in your life. If Christmas is the celebration of Joy and Saving Grace coming into the world in a whole new way, why does the time leading up to this celebration feel wrought with running around, checking-off “To Do” lists, and stress.

The play set--we're missing a Joseph and a few shepards, one wise man... the price you pay for having the set out all year round

The play set–we’re missing a Joseph and a few shepherds, one wise man… the price you pay for having the set out all year round

For me, Christmas is completely dependent upon the “afterglow.” You know how you prepare for Christmas: buy food, bake, send cards, buy presents (after you hem and haw over the “perfect gift”), decorate and clean the whole house, travel, and go to great lengths to assure your family has a great experience. Is all of that fun? Not necessarily. You can make things as fun as possible, sure. But most of this becomes fun AFTER the fact. You are glad you did all the preparing, all the running around, and you are thrilled because despite the crazy-making, you helped make a memory for yourself and others. Therefore, if Christmas does not have an afterglow, it can feel like all your energy was wasted. It can feel exhausting and stressful.

It’s one of my very human qualities: I like to feel appreciated. I like to feel like someone was paying attention. So, if you have someone like this in your life, please notice them and say ‘thank you.’ There isn’t a lot of glory in cleaning toilets & laundering all the sheets, but it’s all part of the process in preparing for visitors. Maybe the gift-giving starts to feel a bit silly–a woman I know described her daughters’ teenage gift exchanges as “swapping gift cards.” Planning a dinner menu when everyone has different dietary concerns or allergies? Yet, all of this hard work means so much for the overall celebration. Let us all honor those who “prepare him room” in so many different ways. I believe this is my way of saying that I’m grateful for a sense of gratitude and appreciation in the people who love me. My prayer for anyone reading this is that you find a joyful, peaceful, nourishing and grateful Christmas.

Luke 2: 9-12  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

21-Day Gratitude Challenge: Day 9

In all of this gratitude stuff, there is still life. There is still living life, and there is still the mundane. When I look at this gratitude challenge, I don’t know that I wanted or expected a transformational experience–and perhaps it’s too soon to tell–but I did want to be intentional about cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude.

In my limited time here on Earth, I have found that challenging my hypercritical nature is worth a shot. I don’t want this to sound like I’m beating up on myself, but my tendency to find fault when there is so much to affirm and recognize as good in this life is upsetting to me. Venting or ranting doesn’t always help me. Some people feel better when they get something off their chests, or have their heartache out there and verbalized. I sincerely enjoy reading or hearing rants at times, because these rants are oh-so-human and something I can relate to, but ranting and venting doesn’t look good on me.

For me, venting makes me feel like I’m a petty, shallow, ungrateful jerk. I’ve done some ranting this week, and since this is how purging my feelings feels sometimes, I spent some time feeling crummy and low. I don’t really like to feel this way, and I’d like to feel empowered to change this. I have no dreams of becoming Pollyanna, and I don’t want to ignore reality, but I would like to have more love, forgiveness and acceptance in my heart.  At least for me, I’ve learned  that this doesn’t begin with an outpouring of how I’ve been wronged, unappreciated or disrespected.

I’ve spent a lot of time this week feeling discombobulated. In order to feel more “in control” of my life, I have done what the women in my family do when they want control: I cleaned my house. Unfortunately, while I cleaned and organized my house, my baby was getting sick. At the end of the day yesterday, I had a clean house and the beginnings of a sick kid.

This morning, I felt completely confused. Ruby complained that she couldn’t walk. Not that she didn’t want to walk, but that she couldn’t walk. My husband and I pondered the possibilities. Body aches? Growing pains? I made a doctor’s appointment for the afternoon (after turning down two slots that conflicted with my schedule–now I feel like a weirdo for keeping a hair cut appointment given how sick she really was, but I didn’t know then what I know now). By noon, she had tried and failed to make it to the bathroom on her own accord. At that point, any shifting or movement of her body was enough to cause tears.

To recap:  Yesterday, I’m cleaning my house like a fool trying to gain control over some sillyness, and today there was a period of time when I thought, “What the H-E-double L is wrong with my baby???”

Fortunately, I have much to be grateful today. Instead of feeling powerless and further confounded by life, I feel at peace. We were able to bring Ruby into the doctor, and the doctor gave me information that has helped our girl. As far as we know (and time will tell in this regard), she has a rather manageable diagnosis of toxic synovitis. This sounds like a scary disease contracted by using poisonous synonyms, but it’s actually an inflammation of the hip joint.

What do you do for this condition–a condition in which Ruby had body aches so severe that she couldn’t walk or even reposition her body without pain? You take ibuprofen. Honestly, it’s been like a miracle drug. Cory had given her a dose of acetaminophen at 8 am and 12:30 pm, and it never occurred to me to administer ibuprofen instead of acetaminophen or in addition to the acetaminophen. After a dose of ibuprofen and a two-hour nap, she was noticeably better this evening. I gave her another dose this evening and I am feeling so hopeful that she’ll feel better tomorrow.

Looking pretty sick on the couch

Looking pretty sick on the couch

Looking slightly less sickly

Looking slightly less sickly

Her birthday is coming up, and Lord knows a little girl doesn’t want to feel down and out for her birthday. I am so grateful for her health, my health, the health of my family, the fact that we can receive healthcare when we need it and have access to over-the-counter drugs without thought of how much they cost or what we’ll have to sacrifice in order to buy them. I can’t imagine how folks with chronically ill kiddos do it, but this experience makes me so empathetic for those families. How’s that for cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude? Nothing like life to put things in perspective.

21-Day Gratitude Challenge: Day 8

Today’s prompt says, “Today, take a moment to surface something you’ve learned about life that you wish to always be conscious of.”

I feel like this is the kindspring dot org way of saying what Oprah says when she asks her “What I know for sure”question.

So, in my head, Oprah is asking me to ponder this. I’m sitting across from her in a cozy chair and my hair and make-up are perfection. I would cast off the host of immediate responses that make light of this question, sassy one-liners like, “I know that saving the apple pie for later means that the ants might get it first.”

And here’s what I would say:

I don’t know much with certainty, but it’s been my experience that when you’re given the choice between something that is easy and comfortable and something that is scary and difficult, you grow more when you take the more challenging path.

A long time ago, I thought this meant that you were always supposed to choose “adventure,” or what looked more exotic and original. Not so. What is more challenging is not necessarily what appears most challenging. Sometimes, it will be more challenging to leave your family and take the job several hundred miles away. However, other times, it will be more challenging to stay in your hometown and continue with the commitments you already have. Either way, the path that challenges you will ultimately force you to grow more, learn more and be more than if you had rested on the knowledge you’d already possessed.

I think this has been my experience with parenthood.

Parenthood has given me more challenges than any other experience in my life.  I have never felt more responsibility than I do as a parent. Parenthood pushes me, squeezes me, and stretches me. Alternatively, parenthood restricts me, limits me and forces me to cast aside my own selfish needs.

I believe in formative experiences–any experience that helps form a person and broaden his or her worldview. There are quite a few experiences in my life that I can pinpoint as eye-opening: Girl Scout sleep-away camp, my first job, studying abroad, etc. I didn’t grow up on a compound isolated from society, but I did live in a naive bubble where I simply didn’t realize the diversity of the larger world. The formative experiences in my life were instrumental in preparing me for differences of opinions, religion, politics, and values. I just didn’t know that these differences would come from the three other members of my family–one that I married, and two that I gave birth to. Having a family of my own is very challenging and it has been the ultimate formative experience.

But so it goes. This family stuff is scary and difficult. On days that I can see past the challenges, I feel blessed beyond measure. I am so grateful for the various opportunities I have had to expand my mind. And also, this is not to say that you should always choose the more challenging path, because there is definitely a time and place for the easy path, too. Like children’s birthday parties, for example.

21-Day Gratitude Challenge: Day 4

When I first typed the title of this post, it came out like this:

The 21-Day Gratitude Clannenge

I’m not really sure what “Clannenge” means, or if it’s even a word, but it’s very fitting that the word “clan” fits in to my post on gratitude. ‘Cause I sure am thankful for that big group of turkeys.

It’s honest and real to acknowledge your blessings, and it’s fair to say that making your blessings known gives them power over your struggles and hardships. This is not to fly in the face of the Kelly Clarkson et al adage, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, ” but it is to say that I’d rather spend my energy exploring that which brings me a sense of gratitude and peace than that which brings me a sense of loneliness, pain or sorrow.

The prompt for yesterday also talked about the things we take for granted. I am grateful for a million things that I take for granted, like clean water, free public education, the sunshine, David Sedaris and down throws. Most of all, of any of these things, I give thanks for the time I have and the acceptance I have. My time is not spent juggling work and parenting, and even though this work of being a stay-at-home-mom is hard, I am so grateful that my family and I can use my time this way. I am grateful for the acceptance that I feel in my life. Mainly, this takes the form of my husband nodding his head and listening to me when something random stirs up some unresolved issue for me. I realize that so many people do not have one person in their life who loves them exactly and completely as they are, and I’m very grateful there are people who love me in spite of, maybe because of, my blunt truth-telling and sassy mouth.

When you have acceptance and time in your life, it’s easy to feel great about things. I want others to feel that way, too. Accept people more is a bit easier than give others more time. I think I’m going to mull that one over for a while, and maybe come up with a few strategies that will give other people more time. In the meantime, I’ll work more on the accepting others piece.

21-Day Gratitude Challenge: Day 3

Today’s prompt for the gratitude challenge included this link to a story that is equal parts amazing and inspiring. It is the story of Shelagh, but it’s also the story of a journalist who pieced together Shelagh’s life after her sudden death.

Shelagh, as far as I can tell, is an angel that walked amongst us.

Do you know those people?

I must be lucky, because I feel like I know many of these folks. They appear to be just regular old human beings, but they’re really angels. If you passed them on the street, they wouldn’t warrant a second glance. They look like normal folks, but on the inside they are carrying hearts full of love and minds full of wisdom.

Everyone has a story, so it’s said. It’s shocking how once you hear a person’s story, it often connects you to them in a new and formidable way. See a person at church every week, then hear that they lost their two-year-old to a freak accident. Wow. Pass a neighbor’s house daily, then learn that she patiently cares for her elderly mother and a disabled child. Unreal.

I sometimes think about my mom this way. My mom has no letters behind her name, and she has never traveled outside of the U.S. She never wrote a novel or hiked the Appalachian trail. The American rubrics of “Success” are all absent from her life: small house, simple car, no significant bank account. As far as I can tell, though, she is one of the kindest people on the planet. She sends me newspaper clippings of articles she thinks I’ll find interesting. While I studied abroad as a college student, she saved each of my emails (sent to a colleague, because she didn’t even have an account at the time) and compiled them in a binder. Her telephone voice is so pleasant that while growing up friends calling my house would ask if she worked for the phone company. Before her granddaughters come to visit, she asks me for a detailed shopping list that should include cereal boxes and snack food. She alerts me to family-member’s birthdays and anniversaries so that I might have a jump start on gathering a greeting card. Just today, she consulted me with worry in her voice–thinking she may have just purchased a present for Scout that would be a duplicate of something she already has, all ready to return it for a more perfect gift. She is exceptionally good at holding babies, and she would rather clean my kitchen than sit and relax during her time away from her own home. She taught me how to pray, but never claimed to have all the answers. She is humble and generous, and she makes time for herself by enjoying a glass of wine every so often. My mom is thoughtful and kind and she loves to make other people happy. Additionally, she’s been a caretaker to my dad this past year while he went through an intense medical procedure and long-term rehabilitation, and she did this while still maintaining a full-time job.

Oh, and she’s also a cryer, so I should warn her about this post before she sees it.

I am grateful for all of the people that cross my path and share their stories. I am humbled and bettered by their tales of struggle and growth. Most people are just simply amazing, and we don’t always know it. Today I’m especially grateful for my mom.

21-Day Gratitude Challenge: Day 2
November 8, 2013, 4:28 pm
Filed under: Writing | Tags: , , , , , ,

Today I decided to actually read the prompt for the Gratitude Challenge! Woo-hoo, I’m growing up!

The prompt asks you to think about a situation where you can never repay the individual that helped you–You can only “pay it forward.”

I am a very lucky girl, and I can think of many of these types of situations. I can recall two of my favorite teachers: Mrs. Kathleen Fischer and Mr. Robert Gorges. These two gems taught at Sheboygan North High School, and, for reasons no one knows, they were very kind to me and extended themselves for me.

I can also recall Dr. Crumrine, a college professor, who sat me down and told me he saw me falling asleep (often) in the Organic Chemistry class he taught. That day, we fleshed out some ideas on professional direction and life. I still don’t know what I wanna be when I grow up, but that conversation sticks in my head.

But when I think of all the many faces and people who have bestowed kindness on me, kindness that I can never repay, my mind drifts back to situations in which I was vulnerable. I cannot even remember the anesthesiologist’s name, but I can hear her whispering in my ear as I was in the OR after Ruby’s birth. Each word was a confirmation that I would be okay, and that she would be right there by my side while the doctors and nurses worked to stop the bleeding. I can also picture the faces of the critical care nurses Betsy and Penny, two of the amazing women who took such good care of my father following his open-heart surgery last April.

I think of the people that I can never repay, and it makes me want to be a person who never cares about being “repaid.” I hope I’m not carrying some enormous score card, where I keep track of the debts and credits of my life. Banish quid pro quo, unless, of course it’s my husband’s night to do the dishes, in which case it’s: “I cooked. I did ’em at lunch. Your turn.”

What I put out into this world in terms of kindness, thoughtfulness and general courtesy is an ends in and of itself.

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