Friday, January 31, 2014

Day 31: Thirty-four

Today is my birthday.  The big 3-4.  In honor of that, I'm going to post 34 little things I'm thankful for today.

  1. The days getting longer.
  2. Red wine of the dry variety.
  3. My husband.
  4. My childhood.
  5. My down comforter that I never really thought I needed until I had it.
  6. My cozy slippers from Dustin.
  7. My working hands.
  8. PandoraOne
  9. Leftover Korean food
  10. Friday
  11. Days of Our Lives
  12. Coffee
  13. This blog
  14. Chapstick
  15. Sleeping in.
  16. Surprise birthday packages from far away.
  17. Take out.
  18. Everything bagels.
  19. Waking up to birthday messages.
  20. Cute artsy shops in the middle of small towns.
  21. Cards and packages that arrive perfectly timed on one's birthday.
  22. Stretchy pants.
  23. Hulu.
  24. Red velvet cake.
  25. Anticipation.
  26. Good news from teachers.
  27. Forgiveness.
  28. The people that step up.
  29. Salad.
  30. Cinnamon rolls.
  31. Free babysitting.
  32. A car that runs.
  33. Ellen.
  34. Good hair days.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Day 30: 설날

Tonight my little house was filled to the brim with people I love.  The noise was atrocious and I could barely round up enough chairs for everyone to fall into.

But it was the best.

Today I am thankful for celebrations.

Our friends joined us to celebrate Seollal (설날), the first day of the Korean New Year.

There was food, laughter, streamers, and lots and lots of kids.

It was crazy-town up in here.

But it was the best.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Day 29: Inherited Friends

I never meant to move to Central Illinois.  Seriously.  When my parents told my aunt and uncle that this was my destiny during the great engagement of 2002 they laughed out loud.  It wasn't because my hometown was that different - I grew up on a farm in Northwest Ohio for goodness sake.  It was simply because I had spent the latter part of my formative years making it very clear that I was moving to a city.....somewhere exciting.

So when we got in the car after our honeymoon and drove 80 to 55 I cried the whole way.  As I watched Chicago get smaller and smaller in my rearview window I thought my life was taking a drastically wrong turn.  And then when I spent the first two months trying to find a job, I knew that something was wrong.

Then someone told me something that I still remember to this day, I can be happy anywhere.

I had never considered that before.  Up until then happiness seemed completely situational to me. I based it on how I was performing and where I was living. Making my own happiness seemed like crazy.

Fast forward 2 years.

I got lucky when I married my husband.  I actually married someone who still liked his high school friends.  Most of his high school friends lived in Central Illinois.  I actually like his high school friends as well.  They are the type of people I want to be around. 

And here's the very best part in the whole wide world.

I love their wives. 

I even feel silly writing that, because I don't think of them as my husband's friends' wives. 

They are my friends.

They are great friends that I want to make time for - that want to make time for me.  Friends I can cry with, and laugh with.  Friends that I can tell embarrassing things to and they will just step up and relate.  Friends that I can call to watch my kids when I'm in a bind. 

So last night as I sat in a restaurant, drinking wine with these dear friends I was thinking about how lucky I was to love them. 

Today I am thankful for this group of friends that I was so lucky to inherit.

They fell into my lap by default, but I would have walked through a polar vortex barefoot just to find them if they hadn't.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Day 28: Routine

I like to mix things up a bit when the time seems appropriate.  I like surprises and the occasional change of plans.  I even appreciate a snow day now and then.

But I also like routine.

This polar vortex of 2014 is really starting to cramp my style.  It was exciting at first, and I have to admit that I still get a tiny bit excited when my phone rings with cancellations - I guess it's just engrained in me. 

But I'm ready to go back.

I'm ready to get into my car tomorrow to take my boys to their Nana and Kindergarten.  I'm ready to drive off to work and clock in.  I'm ready to sit down in my closet of an office and get some stuff done.

Today I am thankful for the gift of a routine.

It isn't for everyone, but it suits me just fine.  

Monday, January 27, 2014

Day 27: Shelter

I can hear the wind banging into our little wooden house.  The windows have been shaking and the electricity has been flickering. 

Today I am thankful for shelter.

I'm turning into a total homebody, which my eighteen-year-old self would have never believed. 

Being a homebody as a parent is of course different.  I read status updates of people with plans of curling up on the couch and reading a good book.  Could someone with three kids under six please tell me how they make this happen?
Do they listen to you when you tell them to go play by themselves?
Do they stop asking you questions every 10 minutes?
Do you hide?
Is there duct tape involved?

Just curious.

Day 26: Modern Medicine

Today we were sitting and talking to Dustin's Dad who just recently had surgery on his spine.


In his neck.

There were screws and drills involved.

Isn't that amazing?
I'm amazed.

He seems to be doing well.  He was walking around and is already regaining strength.

Somewhere, somehow, someone figured out how to surgically fix things in our body that otherwise could lead to a lower quality of life.  For Gail, it was a surgery that still completely blows my mind.

Today I am thankful that we have modern medicine.

There are things that are not perfect about the way it works, but if we're honest, our quality of life has greatly improved because there are people who are constantly researching ways to fix things that we don't even know could go wrong.

And there are the resources here to educate them.  And they must have had adults in their lives that fostered that at some point.

For all of it that led to this - I am thankful. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Day 25: Enough

In our life right now we have to live on a pretty strict budget.  This requires me walking through the grocery store with a pen, writing down exactly how much everything costs before I get to the cash register in order to make sure I have enough money to pay for it all.

It's kind of a pain.

But I can tell you what would be a bigger pain...not being able to pay for it.

Today I am thankful that I have enough money to feed my family.

Sure we can only eat meat a limited number of times a week, and I won't be coming home with steak anytime soon, but I am not worried about how I'm going to feed us.  I'm not worried about where our next meal will come from, or how I'll be able to pay for it.

I think sometimes as humans we have to be put in less-than-ideal situations so that we can understand what we actual have.

On the outside it would be obvious that we have a lot less than we did three years ago. 

But for some reason I feel very rich.

The Year of Gratitude 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Day 24: Funny Guy

Us circa a long long time ago.

My kids love the music from Frozen.

Like, love it so much that they (Miles) will sit in a chair for HOURS and listen to the music coming out of a set of speakers with no pictures.

This is new territory for us.  Sitting still that is.

So it was natural that our breakfast conversation this morning evolved into a discussion comparing the way Spiderman shoots webs and Elsa (from Frozen) shoots ice.  We determined it's all about the hand gestures.  

Which led to my husband standing up and showing us all how Elsa changes things into ice.

Which led to some twirling, a few plies, and what I can only suspect was a hint of jazz hands.

Which led to serious laughter.

Which led to more laughter.

Which eventually led to some others trying to imitate above-mentioned dancing, I mean ice shooting.

Today I am thankful for a partner that can make me laugh.

There were a lot of reasons I married Dustin - his motorcycle, his sweet long hair, his incredible height....but his sense of humor was, and is, at the top of my list.

But don't tell him I think he's funny - that would ruin everything.

The Year of Gratitude 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Day 23: My Bed

I was lying in bed just now when I realized I had forgotten to post what I was thankful for today.  I frantically jumped out of bed and ripped the laptop out of my husbands hands with promises of keeping it short (not a lie).

Today was cold.  And I'm spent just from getting through the day and keeping everyone alive.

Today I am thankful for my warm glorious bed.

The first month we moved into our apartment I spent every night before bed stretching across the mattress diagonally and moaning loudly about how much I missed my amazing, wonderful, nothing-can-compete bed.  I feel that same way months later.

The Year of Gratitude 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Day 22: The non-event

I was driving home from work tonight.  It was late and there was snow on the ground.  It was blowing.  There were blind-spots and I had to slow down more than once.
There were moments of panic and moments of relief when I'd get past one blind-spot and hoping it was the last.

Today I am thankful for safe travels.

An uneventful trip home seems just that - uneventful.  But when I get home in time to kiss my boys goodnight, I can see beauty in the non-event.

The Year of Gratitude 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Day 21: Bonus Day

Yesterday we all had work off because of Martin Luther King Day.  As an educator, I always thought of it as a "bonus day" off of work, and didn't give it the reverence it deserved. It wasn't until I left the country and lived among people from many nations, that I realized how beautifully powerful, humble, and loving this man was.  It wasn't until I was gone that I realized the course of our country had been plowed by many people at that time, but because Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was there shouting his messages of love and peace it all went a very important direction. It all could have gone very differently.

But this post is mostly about the bonus day, because even though we aren't both educators anymore, we were both fortunate to get yesterday off as a family.  I love not being busy and just relaxing with my children.  I know what over-stimulation looks like and what expectations that are set too high feel like.  Because having children is expensive and hard work, it has been a long time since we had done any sort of fun outing as a family.  We do fun things, but close to home and free things.  I think the last time we went out in public as a family was in Northern Ireland.  Eek.

So yesterday when Dustin suggested we get out of the house and take our pajamas off before 10 am, I was all like what could possibly possess me to do that?  But I listened to him, and I'm glad I did. 

We decided to go to the Children's Discovery Museum because we had gift certificates from family.  The boys had a lot of fun while we were there, and it was fun to watch them play.  They all did an amazing job sharing with other children which, in my opinion, made the outing worth it for me. (Small victories.)  We then walked over to the nearby train station for lunch, which was also possible because of a gift certificate from a friend.  The boys loved eating in a train station.  Miles watched vehicles and scarfed down so much food you would think we forgot to feed him that morning.  Liam talked too loud.  Oliver refused to sit.  It was magical.

After a few more hours at the museum we decided it was time for some ice cream and coffee - our two favorite things.  Then finally we headed home with a car full of tired bodies. 

Once we got home quiet time was replaced by quiet play time, which really just turned into play time.  And since an early bedtime was in order we decided to end our bonus day with a dinner of popcorn cuddled in sleeping bags and watching a movie. 

My heart overflows.

Today I am thankful for bonus days with my family.

Update: Just as I was getting ready to hit publish my husband walks in with a message on my phone that Miles' school is cancelled.  Let this be a warning: be careful what you're thankful for. 

The Year of Gratitude 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Day 20: Peacemakers

“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” 
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

These words hung on the wall of Corrymeela - the place we lived and worked for two years.  

Today I am thankful for the peacemakers.

The advocates of human rights.
Those that went against authority.
Those that are for humankind. 

The Year of Gratitude 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Day 19: Church

When we left over two years ago, we weren't sure we'd be back.  There were a whole slew of reasons, all of which seem a little irrelevant and crazy now.

One of the unfortunate reasons was that we felt like outsiders in our church.

It was of our own doing of course.  I realize that now.  I realized it about the time I realized I couldn't remember a lot of the names of people in our church and that the things I wanted out of church equaled the things I had the potential to put into it.

I loved the people in our church, and I felt loved by them, but we had so much trouble finding our place in the congregation.  Part of us felt as though we were being used in the wrong ways - and weren't giving anything of value back.

I'll be honest, when we came back in July we thought we'd go back a few times - mostly just to thank the people who supported us through letters, and prayer, and giving while we were gone.  We weren't sure if we could find our way back into the places we never really felt like we occupied.

We decided to try it out for six months, and then decide. 

That trial period turned into a commitment of six months of being all in.

No more sneaking out of the sanctuary as fast as possible after the service.
No more shirking our duties because we lived outside of town.
No more not volunteering for things.
No more blaming the church for what we weren't offering.
No more using the excuse that I didn't know who anyone was.
No more staying home because it seemed like too much work to drive there.
No more being anonymous.
No more excuses.

I will tell you that it took a lot less than six months to find our footing in our old church.

It took less than three months.

Probably less than one month to realize that what we thought the church was unable to give us was the same sum as what we were unable to give.  All past tense.

Today I sat as a Congolese choir sang out and moved our church family to their feet. I've been pushed to read my Bible more than ever before.  I'm no longer afraid to tell a room of people that I need their prayers.

And now I am so grateful that we decided to go all in.

Today I am thankful for our church and second chances.  

Originally we thought we were giving our church a second chance, but the truth is that it was giving us one. 

The Year of Gratitude 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Day 18: Phases

Many years ago when we were first married I got my first real job out of college as a classroom teacher at a daycare.  I saw it as something I would just do until I got my dream job as an art teacher, but the truth is that I learned much more at that job than I've ever learned anywhere.  

When I applied for the job I wanted the one-year-olds because they were so adorable toddling around the room with their drool and babbling.  Instead I was assigned to the two-year-old room where babbling was replaced with screaming, drooling was replaced with biting, and toddling was replaced with running, climbing, and jumping off of things.

Have you ever seen Toy Story 3?  All true.

But I loved it.  I spent a lot of time despising it, but now when I look back at it, I only think about loving it.  Those kids were amazing.  That age group is amazing.
From 1.5 years up to 3 years old is still my favorite baby stage. 

They're learning so much, and charming you with their fierce personalities.

Oliver is almost 18 months as of today.

Things he does that amaze me...
  • makes the sound of a horse.
  • does a little dance with his pointer fingers while swinging his hips.
  • laughs so hard whenever he thinks he's shutting me in the pantry.
  • gives big smacking kisses.
  • Yells "Papa!" whenever we turn into Dustin's parents driveway.
  • Climbs EVERYTHING.
  • wells "Mama" from his crib when he's ready to get up.  
  • does funny stuff. Everyday. Every hour.  All day long.
This guys cracks me up.

Today I am thankful for this personality-filled stage, and that I get to witness it.

The Year of Gratitude 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Day 17: Talented Friends

I just got done hanging this sweet picture in my sons' room....

I posted about Miles' illustrated picture back when we got it - shortly after he turned two. (If I was a more talented blogger, I would totally link to it, but i just spent 10 minutes looking for the post and feel like it is 10 minutes I'll never get back.)

So anyways, my dear friend Heidi is an artist/illustrator who has done a few books and has an awesome Etsy shop.  Check it out here. I asked her to do an illustration of Miles when he turned 2, with all of his favorite things and an outfit I always want to remember him.  I wanted to capture him at two  - quirks and all.  I simply sent her a picture of him that I liked, with pictures of some of his favorite toys, and the outfit I wanted him to be wearing.  She did an amazing job. 

Fast forward to two years later, when I had her do the same thing for Liam.  Everything about it is so specific to him - including his blankie and cape.  I especially love it because some of those toys we had to leave in Northern Ireland and I am reminded of how much he loved playing with them at that time in his life.

Today I am thankful for talented friends.

What an amazing gift to have and share with others.  Love these.

Check out her work.  How cool is it to have an illustration of your kids?

The Year of Gratitude 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Day 16: Patience

Today I walked all of the way to the pharmacy for a couple of different prescriptions...nothing major, but all things that would make a person feel better. When I got there I realized I had forgotten my license, which I needed to make the purchase.  So I walked home, and then back again, only to find out that there was a mix-up with insurance, and since it was 4:56pm, it was unlikely to be fixed and I would return home (a second time) empty handed. 

My tolerance level for such things would have been non-existant three years ago.  Three years ago I would have huffed and puffed all of the way home and Dustin for sure would have heard an earful about how inconvenienced I was.

One thing having kids, and living abroad, and working for a non-profit in another country with a different mentality has taught me is patience.

Patience for the unexpected.
Patience for mistakes.
Patience for minor inconveniences.
Patience for the things I have no control over.

Today I am thankful for the patience that has matured inside my heart.

Without it my life would be lived the way it was before....with furrowed brough and clenched teeth.

And I'd probably look quite a bit older.

The Year of Gratitude 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Day 15: Exhaustion

Friends, I am exhausted.  I just got home about twenty minutes ago and want nothing more than to sit on my couch with my husband, but I made this commitment...and only 15 days in I'm rethinking it.  Sheesh.

It's not that I don't have anything to be grateful for, its more that I just don't really think any of it would be interesting to anyone but me.

Plus I'm tired tonight.  That doesn't help.

My shins hurt. (I think I'm getting late-onset basketball player shin splints - I'm sure that's a thing.)  My fingers hurt from pretend note-taking (aka "doodling"). And my brain hurts from all of the thinking and pretend-listening it had to do today.

So I guess I'm sort of thankful for exhaustion.

Not the sleep-deprived exhaustion, or the new-baby exhaustion, or the not-getting-enough-B12 exhaustion, but the I WORKED REALLY DAMN HARD TODAY exhaustion.

There's something satisfying and beautiful in that.

For that I am lucky.

The Year of Gratitude 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Day 14: Planning

Tonight I sat huddled around my computer for a few hours with just one mission - to plan the class I'll be teaching this spring.  It's an entry-level art appreciation course for non-art majors.  This is the type of class I LOVE teaching. 

I've had some reservations about teaching since we've been back.  I've been so far removed from it that I was starting to think maybe I don't want to teach anymore. I was totally okay with not going back anytime in the near future.  In fact, when they approached me about teaching this class I accepted, not because I wanted to, but because I felt like it was the responsible thing to do. (responsibility - ugh.)  I even had a brief moment of relief when I was told there was a chance the class was going to get dropped from the schedule. 

Well, it's on the schedule.  And tonight I wrote, and rewrote, and edited, and fine-tuned a syllabus that even my old coworkers at WCHS would be proud of. 

And the crazy thing about it, the really amazing thing about it, is that in the midst of this planning I suddenly got excited about teaching again.  I love lesson planning and project-planning.  That stuff is fun to me.

Today I am thankful for the opportunity to teach again.

It's a small gig, but I think that's all I'm up for at this moment.  It's the perfect taste of what I need before I potentially jump right in.

The Year of Gratitude

Monday, January 13, 2014

Day 13: Witnessing

At the end of December, on the 28th (on our 11 year anniversary!) I had the opportunity to watch one of my best friends get married. It was this beautiful teeny tiny wedding ceremony in her living room with only her family and me.  Of course, there were other friends that deserved/wanted to be there as much as I did, but I got snuck in on a technicality - I was their photographer.
 It was one of those amazing days that was much less about the hoopla of the ceremony and much more about how happy they were to have found one another.  One of those days that you can tell is marking a beginning of forever.

Today I am thankful for having the opportunity to watch them get married.

To witness the beginning of a beautiful union.  To be a part of it.  To feel the happiness and relief in the room at finding and keeping the one you love.  To having a beautiful couple as my friends.

The Year of Gratitude

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Day 12: Skype

Yesterday the FaceTime on my phone lit up with a call from Northern Ireland.  I was thrilled to finally talk "face to face" with a friend I hadn't seen in nearly 6 months.  To see her face and to hear her voice filled my soul with only good things.

I should really do that more often - talk to the people far away that I think of so often.

Today I am thankful for Skype.

The Year of Gratitude

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Day 11: Answering "No"

I am in the process of changing my life insurance policy, which is just a real joy.  Which is also just a real lie.  So far I've sat through two different people asking me a 476 questions about my health.  "Have you ever had....." and "Have you ever been diagnosed with..."

At just about the time I was thinking about what an incredible waste of time this was on my Friday afternoon, it occurred to me that this isn't a waste of time for some people.  Being able to continuously say "no" to practically every answer is not something I should take lightly.

Today I am thankful for the good health I have today - at this moment.

I know it is fleeting - this thing called "health".  I guess that's all the more reason to celebrate it today.  I am thankful for test results that don't warrant a contact, and doctor's check-ups that are just merely a thorn in my schedule rather than a entire change to the way I live and my outlook on life. 

The Year of Gratitude 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Day 10: Break time.

I am sitting here in a quiet room with borrowed time.  The only thing that sheds any light is the screen from my laptop that is sitting on my lap which is draped in a heavy blanket. Yesterday was busy - my first day back at work, Liam's first day at his new preschool, Parent/Teacher conferences, etc.

Today is blank....except for an oil change I scheduled for 3:50 this afternoon.  My husband and I fight over who gets to take the car in to get the oil changed.  Actually, I imagine that we might have to fight over it, but then he just lets me go because he knows how much I like it.  Seriously, its 30 minutes of amazingness.  It has fluffy couches, cable tv, free coffee and smoothie bar, snacks, and People magazine.  The first time I went I took my two younger kids, not know what to expect and spent the whole time cursing myself for wasting a perfectly good smoothie bar and magazine selection.  So now it is my own personal get-away.  It costs less than a massage, includes snacks, and I leave feeling like I've accomplished something for the day.  And bonus - I don't have to take any clothes off.

Today I am thankful for having a break.

I'll get to leave my kids at home and hightail it off to the dealership, and right at about the perfect time of the day. Heck! I might even stop at TJ Maxx!

Welcome to my life of glamor.

The Year of Gratitude 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Day 9: Work

Today I went back to work in what feels like a combination of too soon and not soon enough.  And since I only worked one day this week, it was the perfect way to dip my toes into the water - tucked away in my closet of an office finishing the things I've had in the back of my mind since I locked my office door a few weeks ago in a glorious rush to Christmas.

This semester will be different.  I'll be working only two days a week, but for LONG 13 hour days.  I'll be teaching a class in there as well, which I'm excited and terrified of.  I feel sort of distant from the classroom these days and am hoping it will just come naturally that first day when I stand in front of 15 college students and try to convince them that art is essential to their lives.

I am trying to figure out what I am right now.  For the first time since I've been married, I don't have a full time job.  I keep catching myself saying "I was an art teacher for years..." rather than "I'm a photographer." or "I'm a gallery specialist." or "I'm a homebuilder." or my favorite, "I'm an artist."  What about those things makes me resist the just slapping a title on myself?

I'm still trying to figure it out, because to be honest, they are all my favorite things to be.

How lucky is it that for the first time I get to try a little bit of everything I love?

Today I am thankful for my job. 

When we decided to move back here, neither of us had any inklings of a job.

That's crazy, right?

Here's to crazy.

The Year of Gratitude

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Day 8: Remodelling

I don't remember which Christmas it was.  I remember sitting in my grandparents' house, on the floor.  Or maybe I was nestled into a beanbag chair - yes, that seems right.  The year was likely 1985, or somewhere around there.  I'm sure my blond hair was in a ponytail or braids and I was wearing something yellow or pink, because that's just what I did.

Someone told me I had to cover my eyes , so I buried my head down deep into the beanbag chair, giggling at my luck that my Christmas present must be so large it would take an army of people to carry it into the room.  (It was really just two.)  When everyone shouted for me to open my eyes, my heart jumped two beats in pure elation.  Never had I pined for something so much in my entire life.  I had spent many days before imagining something like this making my world complete.  I knew that once our worlds collided my life would never be the same.

Meet, my Barbie doll house...

My grandparents gave this to me for Christmas many years decades ago.  I believe one of my uncles actually built it, but I remember helping my grandma put the windows in, and my Aunt Julia adding the stenciling in various places.  It had real wallpaper and real carpet.  Eventually my parents bought me an actual kitchen set and bathroom set to add, rather than the beauty parlor and McDonalds pieces you see here.  It didn't matter to me - I loved it from the beginning.

There may have been moments when I had reservations about it not being The Barbie Dream House from the JcPenney catalog I inspected carefully every Christmas, but if so, those were short-lived.  It was my prized possession.

I don't actually remember the moment when we decided to move it out of my room because I didn't play with it anymore.  I don't remember losing interest in Barbies, but I must have.  I do remember carefully packing everything away in organized boxes, and putting great thought into what outfits I was going to have my Barbies wear for eternity while packed away.  And then when I got married I remember my mom telling me I had to take it with me - even when children seemed so far off into the distance. 

There were moments over the years when they were pulled out by my nieces and young girls I babysat for.  I loved watching them get excited about it - in awe of this handmade treasure.  For the most part it's been in storage my entire adulthood.  I've moved it to three different houses, and into storage while we were in Northern Ireland.  All the while knowing that I was going to save it for my little girl to play with someday.

It turns out I don't have any little girls.  I am a mother of boys with this giant Barbie doll house I loved too much to get rid of.

Which takes me to Christmas of this year.  I'm not sure if you remember many posts ago I wrote about a present I was excited to give my boys this year?  It was this.  I decided to turn my beloved Barbie Doll house into a fire station in hopes that it would elicit the love I felt.
I knew I would enjoy doing it because I love that kind of stuff - figuring out how to make items work, designing rooms, miniature things, (playing with Barbie doll houses).

What I didn't expect was how therapeutic it would be.  It felt cathartic - rebuilding something I spent so much time playing with in my bedroom as a child.

 By the time I was finished I didn't really care anymore whether they loved it as much as I did or not, I knew that the entire experience was so good for me - somehow tying my past to my future.

Yes, that shower is made out of a toilet brush holder.

I loved doing this for my boys.  I loved doing it for me.

Today I am thankful for the opportunity to share a part of my past with my children.

They were excited to open it.  They play with it every once in awhile.  Mostly it sits alone in the corner of our dining room right now.  But it's there, an open invitation to play.

The Year of Gratitude 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Day 7: Reminders

Tonight I decided to brave the elements and walk to a meeting I had at the school.  I started out driving, and when I almost got stuck in the driveway, I decided that the temperature was such that my fingertips wouldn't turn black on contact.  So I swung my car in park, ran in the house for a stocking cap, and then trudged the snow in the dark.  Actually, by some grace of God, nearly every sidewalk was shoveled and my "trudging" consisted more of normal walking on cement and jumping over two snowdrifts.  Hardly the brutal hike I had imagined when I first hopped into my car.

In was beautiful. I know I throw that word around like it's free candy, but I really mean it.

With an audible gasp I realized I miss nighttime.  (Then I realized I made an "audible gasp" and had to look around to make sure I was alone.) I miss being outside at night, which I so often was in Northern Ireland.  I miss the brisk sea air hitting my face, and a sky full of bright shining stars surrounding my family as we would walk back from dinner in the Main House.  I miss a brilliant glowing moon lighting my path, and the inevitable line coming from Dustin's lips, "We are going to steal...." followed by Miles shouting "...THE MOON!" as he points up at the sky.  (Despicable Me reference for those who haven't seen it 273 times.) I miss the twinkling lights of a town in the distance as seen from the edge of a cliff.  I miss the methodical spinning of lighthouses over the sea.

There is no need to go for a walk outside at night here.  Especially in the winter.  It never even occurred to me that I was missing any of this until tonight. I knew my heart ached for other things...but this was completely off my radar.

Today I am thankful for God's simple reminders.

Whether it is a smell, or a song, or the moon....the reminder of what was/is sacred to our souls. I miss all of those things, which makes me sad.  But I miss them because I loved them.  And to love something is to invite a taste of euphoria into your heart.

To be simply reminded of that...

Thank you.

The Year of Gratitude 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Day 6: Warmth

Today is the coldest day I ever remember recorded.  I'm no meterologist, but it's the coldest temperature I've ever taken notice of.  It's so cold that everyone has been told to stay inside and to not leave their homes unless it's an emergency.

Of course I wouldn't know since all I've done all day is open the door for three seconds to throw some snow out the door.

Today I am thankful for a warm house.

I'm tired of being indoors and sequestered to my house, but I'm in my house. My heat works.  My windows are drafty and old, but they're there.  Every once in awhile I have to stick my hands under the blanket to warm them as I sit on the couch, but I'm sitting on a couch.

The Year of Gratitude 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Day 5: Pause Button

I'm feeling much better today, thanks to all of you that wished me worked.

And just in time to be snowed in by some huge snowstorm that shows no signs of quitting.  I'm starting to think that I should have taken the idea of stocking up my refrigerator and pantry more seriously yesterday.

I really love snow right now, but I think it is because I am becoming more of a home-body.  I find myself relieved to have an excuse to burrow into my house all day with nowhere to go, although I do at some point reach a dangerous place of restlessness and loneliness that could be considered borderline pathetic.

Dustin is the opposite.  He made everyone get dressed this morning at 9:30, which I thought was crazy-town.  I just pretended like I didn't hear him while I hid out in our study with my pajamas, slippers, and coffee.  He gets restless about one hour in and feels like he NEEDS to leave the house.  I would be perfectly happy sitting around in my pajamas all day.

The things is that it isn't just snowing nonstop - it's also windy and super duper cold.  Everyone is telling us to stay inside and never leave.  I'm just going to go ahead and listen, because sometimes it's just nice to have someone tell you exactly what to do.  Even when you have a million errands to run, and things to do, it is nice to just say, "My hands are tied!  I mustn't go anywhere!  The weatherman is threatening me with frostbit!"  Plus I drive the tiniest, most snow-hating car ever.  I really am forced to stay here and wait it out.

Today I am thankful for days when we are forced to hit the "pause" button.

I like to be productive to a fault.  It's nice when productivity is not only not expected, but forbidden.  And I think every once in awhile God sees that we're too busy, too stretched, trying too hard to avoid real feelings, so God gives us a Pause day so that we can take some deep breaths before facing it all tomorrow.

The Year of Gratitude 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Day 4: Backup

I have been sick today, so I almost forgot to post. I was fine this morning, but have been gradually getting worse all day.  Nothing specific, just tired and achy mixed with nausea - I hope that's the extent of it.

When I get sick I slightly panic that everything I had planned for the day isn't going to get done.  That my kids will starve and run circles around my sickbed while I groan and moan like I may die.

Luckily that isn't usually how it play out, because I have backup.

Today I am thankful that I don't have to parent alone.

I know plenty of people that do it, and do it well.  Some of my best friends have been/are single parents and they are amazing.  But on days like this - days when I don't want to get out of bed even to get a glass of water, and it's too cold for my kids to go outside, and the thought of fixing food makes me want to die - I understand and acknowledge that I am so lucky that I don't have to do any of this by myself.

I could elaborate, but I think you get the point.

Now back to bed.

p.s. And for those of you with your wild minds areelin' in the direction of babies and morning sickness - you need to shut that off.

Right now.


The Year of Gratitude 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Day 3: Strong Women

A few years ago my niece was Spider Man for Halloween.  She also loves everything that would typically be labelled as a "boy" toy - including, but not limited to dinosaurs, superheroes, and dirtbikes.  I've always thought it was so cool.  In fact, I think it is cool everytime I see a little girl dressed as a Superhero that isn't wearing a miniskirt - like superpowers expand beyond sexism.

But I only have little boys.  How do I teach them that superpowers shouldn't just belong to socially awkward men or sexy women?

Then Disney did it for me.

Disclaimer: I haven't actually seen the movie, so this is all hear-say from my two older you can take it with a grain of salt.

Last week Miles and Liam went to see Frozen with my dad and husband.  They came back so excited about how much they loved the movie - begging to see it again as soon as possible.  That's not unusual - they love movies.

But all day yesterday was spent with them playing Elsa and Anna - the two main female heroines in the movie.  They weren't damsels in distress, or lovestruck.  They were just pretending to be super powerful and kind sisters.

Today I am thankful that my sons have good female role models. 

I'm no longer just talking about Elsa and Anna, or even Disney (who I don't actually endorse), but nearly all of the females in their lives seem super to them. Without a single other girl in our house, I sometimes worry about how they'll learn to love and treat women.  But when I look at their surroundings I can't help but hope that they are taking all of this in.  Soaking it up. 

Because even I am inspired by the people they are so lucky to know.

The Year of Gratitude 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Day 2, Questions

A few weeks ago Liam started asking me a lot of questions about dying and heaven.  Of course I gave him all of the right answers - the answers I remember my parents giving me when I would tiptoe out of my room at night distraught with worry.
But something inside me began to panic.  Somewhere along the way, without knowing it, I had lost my faith in heaven.

Not my faith in God, or Jesus, or his love for me, but heaven.  I mean it seems so scientifically improbable - this beautiful life after we leave earth.  I was suddenly terrified, but couldn't reconcile the realist shouting inside my ears.

So I began to read and research.  For the first time in my life I was an unbeliever that wanted so desperately to believe what I told my son.  I looked up first-person accounts, but at the same time was ashamed of what my lack of faith meant.  I knew that I was supposed to be blindly faithful, but at some point my disbelief had snuck up silently on me, and I felt like I just needed a little faith-boost. I prayed. I prayed hard that God would show me that heaven really did exist.  But ironically I didn't really want God to show me, if you know what I mean.

Today I am thankful for the hard questions that my little boy asks me.

I had lost my faith and didn't even realize it until he started quizzing me on whether we'd be together in the end.  I felt lost, but now I'm found.  God knew I was lost even when I was oblivious to it.

Of course I'm still delicate. I'm still reading. I'm still praying.

Because I want more than anything in the whole entire world for there to be a heaven.  I can't think of a life worth living without it.

This Christmas season I feel like those questions saved my life.

The Year of Gratitude 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Day 1, A New Year.

When I was little 2014 seemed so far away.  I was sure we'd all be driving flying cars by now and talking into our wrists.  I guess talking into our wrists is pretty close to what we do now.

I barely stayed up past 9:30 last night, crawling into bed and laughing with irony that I felt grateful to be in my bed with my book than out at some party trying to pretend like it was the BEST. NIGHT. EVER.  I don't blame "having children" on this attitude shift, but perhaps just "wising up".  I know that's boring.

But there is something beautiful about the new year.  A do over. Fresh days ahead. Resolutions and hope.

Today I am thankful for the marking of a new year.

When I look back at my life I think of the things that have happened to me in terms of years.

For example - in 2009 we brought home two babies, (Miles in April and Liam in December) I got my MFA at the Academy of Art, my aunt Marsha died suddenly, and I closed a business that was beautiful and amazing and under-appreciated.

Needless to say, I don't actually remember much about 2010.

Some years have been filled with set-backs and some with miracles.  Most are filled with both.

But when you start a new year you only have hope.

What I hope this year brings....
Two new healthy babies - one for each side of the family.
Healing for my father-in-law.
A brother and sister-in-law moving much closer to me.
A sister-in-law that gets into a college program she is perfectly suited for.
A brother that stays sober and works hard to do what's right.
Healthy parents.
Healthy children.
Uneventful doctor's appointments.
Sustainability doing what I love.
New projects.
New clients.
New art. 
A new attitude.

What do you hope 2014 brings?

The Year of Gratitude