Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thirty Thanks, Day 27: Thanksgiving

I will be brief, for there are friends to be loved, conversations to be had, memories to be made. Today I am thankful for Thanksgiving--for the opportunity we are given to make our gratitude intentional. We are given a day and a space to be thankful for every blessing, to surround ourselves with love and thankfulness. For every good and perfect gift comes from God. I am thankful, today, to be in the presence of loved ones. There is a warm fire, an unending supply of coffee, beautiful snow on the ground outside, and a delicious meal in progress.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thirty Thanks, Day 26: Roadtrips

The movies will make you believe that roadtrips are always catalytic and full of growth, like a coming-of-age novella. They'll convince you that every pit stop can be transformative, every bump in the road a metaphor for life. Movies will also show you that at least one person is always miserable, and at least one person is oblivious to the other's misery.

But the truth is that sometimes roadtrips are just another part of life. Sometimes they're really meaningful. Sometimes they're full of angst. Sometimes you're asleep the whole way. I'm thankful for them, regardless of the outcome or the journey. 

Roadtrips have always just been a normal part of my life. They were often methods of travel--moving to Washington from Montana, visiting Montana, visiting family in Oregon at least once a year. And when I was little, they symbolized uninterrupted time with my a sketch pad or a Mrs. Piggle Wiggle book. As I grew I began to use the time to listen to my portable CD player, alone in the backseat. Even if we didn't stop anywhere exciting on the way to our destination, even if I was bored out of my mind because we got stuck in a traffic jam, I still enjoyed the journey.

Now that I'm an adult, my roadtrips are more meaningful, and transformative... but only because I made the decision to take them myself. Not quite a month after I got married, we roadtripped across America so I could get back to school. And last year some friends and I took a roadtrip to Missouri for a wedding. Today I'm roadtripping up to Wisconsin for Thanksgiving.

But they're not meaningful because of the location. Or the occasion. Or the duration.

They're meaningful because of the memories made with the people you care about most.

I'm thankful for roadtrips, because sometimes they do allow you to grow. And even if you don't grow into a "better" person or a "new" person sometimes you just grow closer to your friends, or yourself, or to God. I'm thankful for the opportunity to see new places and experience new things, to find adventure and inspiration. I'm thankful for a semi-reliable car. I'm thankful for the company of good friends, today and every day.

Thanks, roadtrips. You're incredible.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thirty Thanks, Day 24 & 25: Kids & The Bright Side

Yesterday was a lovely Monday. I was tired, and there was snow. Beautiful, beautiful snow. I bought a peppermint mocha/hot cocoa from a gas station on the way to work. When I got there I prepared for kindergarten, and then we made adorable Christmas ornaments for an hour.

I don't have a lot to say about it, because I've already discussed how I'm thankful for my job. But I am thankful for those kids. I'm thankful for their silliness, their giggles, their creativity, their willingness to try new things. Sometimes the most stressful days can turn around because a four-year-old likes your sparkly pipe-cleaner snowflake.

As for today... it was not a lovely Tuesday.

We're leaving for Wisconsin tomorrow to spend Thanksgiving at a friend's house, so a lot needed to be done today. We set the alarm for 10 but didn't wake up until 10:30 when the maintenance men knocked on our front door. I went to the door in my pajamas (yikes!) and made them wait a minute while we composed ourselves and Joey took the dog out. The men came in, replaced our smoke detector, and left.

We ate breakfast quickly, and watched a few minutes of 'Up' on the Disney channel. Then Joey went to do laundry and I started making a pie crust. I'm making apple pie to take with us... and will soon be preparing the apple filling. More on that later.

After he returned from the laundromat we got everything ready to go. Once again we stopped at the gas station for coffee. I went and taught kindergarten. I spent an hour and a half planning for next week. And then I intended on going to the craft store.

I did not make it to the craft store. No, instead I spent half an hour trying to start the car. When it started, I decided to go straight home instead. Then I remembered I hadn't eaten all day and my husband had suggested I get a pizza, so I stopped at Little Caesar's. I turned the car off, then tried to turn it on again (just in case) and spent another thirty minutes trying to start the car. I made the same mistake again, just trying to figure out if maybe I could start it without any trouble.

The best part is that the Little Caesar's is literally a five minute walk from home. I could have gone home, gotten warm, except that I couldn't leave the car in the parking lot all night, especially since my husband wouldn't be around to turn it on (because he knows how) until after midnight. So I called roadside service, and bought a pizza while waiting for the two truck. It didn't take long for him to arrive and only took thirty seconds to get home.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it took thirty seconds to drive me home. Watching him jerk and pull my car up onto the ramp was fascinating. Because of the problem we have with the car, it couldn't be put into neutral, so part of me feared the car would just break apart when he pulled it. It didn't.

Getting into the tow truck was also an adventure. I'm 5'3. And my legs were numb from sitting in the car for two hours in 21 degree weather.

I did finally make it home. I ate some cold pizza. I warmed my numb legs. It was a hard, stressful day. But in the end.... I am thankful for the bright side of this day. 

I'm thankful I didn't have to work all night, or sit at the computer and wait for my husband to get off of work. I'm thankful that I have a car, and that my husband knows how to start it. I'm thankful for car insurance. I'm thankful that we have free roadside service. I'm thankful for the really nice tow truck guy (although he was wearing way too much cologne.) I'm thankful for cheap pizza and my warm apartment and for the wonderful task of making an apple pie at midnight.

Thanks kids, and thanks bright side. (And thanks two-truck-man.) You're all incredible.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thirty Thanks, Day 23: My Mind

I dreamed there was a consuming darkness. Even the sunlight was tainted by shadow. The world seemed faded and muted and dull--and yet, each negative sensation was more severe. All of the painful, confusing emotions that we typically try to keep at bay were enhanced and overwhelming. Thus, people found odd ways of putting their guard up. 

I went to a museum, dressed in all black leather, and felt at ease in my surroundings merely because I appeared sinister and untouchable. I wore awful heeled boots (definitely not real life anymore) and believed I could kill, if I wanted to. I felt that powerful, and that close to the edge. But the darkness seeped into even the indecipherable art in the museum. I knew I was looking at a sculpture, or a painting, but couldn't make out distinct colors or shapes. 

In search of something more engaging, I went to a mall. (Now we have definitely left Kansas.) I informed my husband and a friend (the same friend who visited me in real life last weekend) that I would be at the mall, and they should come pick me up. Once inside the enormous, gray shopping center I tried to find a suitable department to browse, but everything was separated by large doors and security agents. You couldn't look at baby clothes unless you were certifiably pregnant, or at formal dresses if you had no proof you would be attending a formal event, and the same went for any type of clothing or appliance or houseware. The agents would interrogate customers in order to let them through the doors and so I curled up in a shopping cart and took a nap. 

When I woke from my mall nap, there appeared before me a large rack of scarves. They were all brilliantly colored and had bright patterns. They were draped at all angles on the rack, calling me with their blues and reds and golds. I crawled out of the shopping cart and marveled at the scarves--the only truly colorful things I had yet found in this shadowed world. But each time I attempted to pull a scarf from the rack, it became caught. I could not have a single one, could not hold it or touch it or enjoy the fabric. 

Infuriated, I decided it was time to go home for dinner. We would order a pizza, because surely a pizza can't let you down in a shadowy place. I saw my husband and my friend approach the mall from a distance. It was extremely windy outside and my husband was carrying my purse, struggling against the coming storm. It would have been a funny sight except that he decided he would just meet me at home. My friend waved goodbye--he was heading back to his home on the train.

Once arriving at home my husband informed me that all pizza was now banned, and so we went to bed. I asked if our friend had made it home safely, and my husband looked at me like I was crazy. Apparently the friend was alright, but he had been in a train wreck, because the train had been carrying a large yacht. This overwhelmed me with sadness and despair and I wept, uncontrollably, inconsolably, for what seemed like years, until my husband started talking again. He said that all of this had happened a long time ago, and I had been in a coma, and while I was in the coma he had started helping out a woman with a baby. She was unmarried and needed to borrow our car on a regular basis. She had the car at that very moment.

Dazed but angry, I redressed in all of my powerful leather and my horrible boots, and went back to the mall. I wanted to get the car back, at least. When I returned to the mall I saw her immediately. She, too, was wearing all black leather. However, she was Latina, with long, dark, curly hair and gold hoop earrings--she pulled off the look much better than I did. Her eyes were sharp. She was pushing a stroller, and I knew there was a little girl sitting in it, but I could not tell what she looked like or if she was even alive. 

The woman intimidated me. I intended on confronting her but found myself incapable. I asked her where the car was and she said, "This way, another storm is coming." Her voice was hard and yet beautiful, her words pointed and haunting. We to the entrance of the mall and it started to rain. It came down in waves of water, relentless and violent. I stepped outside with an umbrella, which promptly broke. With my vision almost completely obscured I pulled my leather jacket over my head and we walked towards the car.

With every step the rain lessened. When we reached the car it had stopped and the ground was drying, but I noticed all the car doors were open--even the trunk and the hood. I suddenly realized the woman had not gone into my car, but had gone to another car next to it. Hers was white, and she put her child in the back. I also realized there was a green car pulled up behind mine. Initially I thought, "You've got to be kidding me! I can't back out with them there!" until someone started talking. 

Sitting in the car were two black men, wearing Harvard sweatshirts. They announced that they were taking my car, and one told the other to search the car for valuables. I told them I didn't have any, and the driver said, "I'm sorry, ma'am, but I don't give a damn." A voice in my head somehow restrained me from telling them that the car wasn't worth much either, although it was definitely worth more than any 'valuables' inside. 

The woman drove away in her white car and I stood next to my black car, drenched and confused. All the doors were open and my life seemed to spill from it, pouring out of the seats and the little garbage bag and the blankets stored in the trunk. I felt defeated and broken from the inside out, like the shadowed world had taken advantage of me, had robbed me of my very soul, my only hope. I kept thinking that it simply didn't make sense, that I had so little--why would someone take from me when I practically had nothing to be taken? 

And so I told myself it wasn't real. I had an ounce of strength left and I used it to remind myself that none of it could be true, and I had to find what was true. 

I woke up breathless in the dark. Half-asleep, the sound of my own breathing and pounding heart immediately reminded me of the ocean. My senses slowly returned but I still felt terrified that all I had was gone. I listened carefully and found the sound of my dog snoring on the floor. I could not regain awareness, did not know where I was, could not find my husband. A few minutes of breathing deeply finally allowed me to roll over and find his warm back.

It was a nightmare. None of it was real.

I know I've mentioned before how lifelike my dreams are. I am easily convinced of their truth, in the beginning. I am carried away by the excitement of a new world, a sleepy discovery. This is why my nightmares are never short-lived. They carry on like a Charles Dickens novel, and you keep waiting for the happy ending, except that in this case they never come. The orphan does not find their family, or come into riches, or marry their true love. And so rather than stay trapped, I keep exploring until I can escape.

And so I am thankful for my mind.  It is a gift, surely, to be able to dream up such magnificent, detailed stories. I have traveled the world and flown the skies and had the desires of my heart, all without leaving the comfort of my bed. But when I am in danger, there is no real suffering. My mind has learned, after all these years of dreaming, to defend itself against the lies of a nightmare. It has learned to find a way out before my heart believes it is broken, before all the misery of the world crushes me in my sleep. It finds a way back to what is true.

I wasn't going to write a blog for the 23rd by itself. It was a long day and so I was going to pair it up with the 24th. But I went to sleep filled with anxiety, apparently. And I had this nightmare. So I was all shaken up. I tried reading the Psalms... but I couldn't resist the need to write it all down.

So perhaps this post is a little odd, considering the others I've done this month. But I truly am thankful not to be trapped in my nightmares.

Thanks, mind. You're incredible. Scary, but incredible.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Thirty Thanks, Day 22: The Art in Me

When I was little I used to sit down with a stack of paper or maybe a few coloring books and this big tin of crayons. Yes, a tin of crayons. My favorite color alternated by the hour, depending upon which crayon was sharpest. I would begin to draw and the pictures would just pour out of me--they practically gushed--like a frenzy of uncontrollable, heavenly colors. I would draw picture after picture until they probably piled around me and at the end of the day my mother would have to secretly throw most of them out because she couldn't possibly keep every single one.

This was my element. And it still is. When I am allowed the space and resources for creativity I am almost literally unstoppable. I am never more focused, more exhilarated, or more at peace than when I am making art. It doesn't have to be crayons and paper (like the photo to the left, August '14). It can be a square of polymer clay, or a canvas and some acrylics, a notebook and pen, a piano and some solitude, or even an apple pie.

Below is a project I'm prepping for kindergarten on Monday. Right now they are just tiny canvases with puffy painted words, but soon they will be fabulous Christmas ornaments. There's paint and sequins involved. Really.

And here's a sneak peak of this year's Christmas cards. The process has just begun.

The point is, art has always--and I mean always--been part of my identity. It wasn't until a few years ago that I began to realize how spiritual art is for me, how it grounds me and connects me. There's an old Jars of Clay song called "Art in Me," in which the speaker begs someone to "see the art in me." I've resonated with that on many levels, and it's that phrase which helps my understanding of my own art. I am so thankful for my own creativity--for the art in me. 

I'm thankful for what art gives me--peace when I am restless, resolution when I am aimless, clarity when I am overwhelmed, distraction when I'm anxious, joy when I'm in sorrow, and tenderness when I'm in rage. I'm thankful for how it allows me to connect with others, either by sharing my art with them or partaking in another's art. I'm thankful for the colors and sounds and textures I can be surrounded by. I'm thankful that my parents encouraged my artistic nature when I was young, even when I resisted. (I still resist taking art classes--I don't like being told what to do.) But most of all I'm thankful for the spiritual element of the art in me, the way it engages me with God in ways that cannot be explained or otherwise experienced. By creating, I connect with my Creator.

Thanks, art. You're incredible.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thirty Thanks, Day 21: Homespaces

I am slipping this post in just under the radar, I know. But it's my first "do nothing" day in over a week. I have been busy. I've been hostessing, and having doctor's appointments, and teaching children and teaching adults and planning plans. I'm a busy woman. My mind is at 110% capacity 200% of the time. (I am also really bad at math.) I am never not thinking about something, even if I look like I'm relaxed. It's this never ending cycle of being strong enough to handle all of it but fighting myself every step of the way because I either feel like I'm not doing enough or I'm sure that if I don't stop I will actually explode.

I used to call it "fighting my own strength." I wrote horrible poems about it in high school.

But you know what makes all of this fighting worth it?

Homespaces. Yes, I just made that up. But it's a real thing, which I will explain.

A homespace is a space (...) that feels like home. Obviously. You probably could have figured that out. But the root of it is that it doesn't have to be home. There are other elements that make it feel that way. This can make life tolerable, especially if you don't actually have a place to call home.

I've felt homeless for a while, really. My parents no longer live in the house I grew up in. My apartment, while it is the place I sleep, is not exactly homey and the fact that the property owners won't fix our leaking wall definitely doesn't give me a sense of belonging. And, in general, Illinois has never felt like home. The weather makes me miserable year-round, and most of my favorite people are very far away. I will always call Washington my home, even though I personally don't have a place to live there.

And that's because a homespace isn't about the location... it's about the sense of belonging.

So when I'm with my husband, I'm in my homespace. I belong where he is. When I'm with my parents in their apartment, I'm in my homespace, because I belong with them. When I'm with my dearest and closest friends in a coffee shop or at the movies or walking around the city, I'm in my homespace, because we belong with each other.

I am thankful for the many homespaces in my life. I am thankful for the group of wonderful women who have supported me this last year, and the ways they see me and love me and make sure I know I belong with them. I'm thankful that despite my apartment's shortcomings, it is a place where I can be safe with my husband or with friends. I'm thankful for the opportunity I had last December to visit home for Christmas, to experience a different homespace with my family. I'm thankful for the friends I've made at work, and the homespace there where I can be challenged and can touch the lives of students. I'm thankful most of all for the Holy Spirit, in allowing me to find "homespaces" in so many different experiences and places and situations.

Thanks, homespace. (Not homeslice...) You're incredible.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thirty Thanks, Day 20: This Man

Five and a half years ago I met a really nice guy. He had, literally, the bluest eyes I'd ever seen and this adorable crooked smirk. He was really good with kids and animals and had such an upbeat attitude most of the time. He was just so nice. Such a nice guy.

And this was the summer I decided not to date anyone, or even think about dating anyone, or even become friends with boys. I'd just had my heart broken, so I swore I would not make the same mistake again so soon.

Oh well, right?

So I met this nice guy and we fell in love and two years after that we got married and now I'm living happily ever after with this really nice guy.

Except that he's not a nice guy.

It's not because he's the opposite of nice. It's just, I really hate the word nice. When I was teaching, I admonished every student that used "nice" as a descriptor. "Nice" has lost all meaning. Nice is boring, nice is simple, nice is uninspiring. There are so many more words that convey something deeper than "nice." So... no. My husband is not a nice guy. But he is a lot of other things. I am so thankful for my husband, and all of the not-nice things he is.

I am thankful that he is hilarious, because he loves making me laugh and finds humor in everything. I'm thankful that he's focused, and that (even if it takes a while for him to get started) once he gets into a task he doesn't stop until it's finished. I'm thankful that he is gentle and kindhearted, because it means even in our worst arguments he never aims to hurt me or cause me anxiety. It also means that when he apologizes, to me or other people, he is sincere. I'm thankful for his creativity, which allows him to do well at work but it also inspires me in my own creativity. I'm thankful that he's so ridiculously handsome, and that he has an awesome beard (because without it he looks like a twelve-year-old.) I'm thankful that he is faithful--not just to me, but to God. For underneath all the stress and fear caused by this world, he knows who to really trust and serve. I'm thankful that he is adventurous and isn't afraid to try new things with me. I'm thankful that he's extroverted and outgoing, because it takes a lot of the pressure off of me when we're in social situations. (Phew!) And I'm thankful that he loves me, and that despite my human-ness he chooses to love me every day.

I'm grateful that he's not nice, too. Thanks, husband. You're incredible. <3 p="">

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thirty Thanks, Day 19: Coffee (200th Post)

This is the 200th post on this blog. I'd say that's quite an accomplishment. So we have a very special topic for today's "Thankful" feature. Enjoy.

A long time ago in a faraway land called Montana, my mother gave five-year-old Katie two ounces of coffee in a tiny tupperwear container. It was part cream, part coffee, part Sugar Twin. It was perfectly flavored, and I fell in love with that perfection.

Fast forward to July 4th, 1996 in Seattle. It was my family's first (or second? I can't remember) trip to Gasworks Park for their fourth of July celebration. We ate sandwiches in the car and, because I was so accustomed to "dipping" my PB&J in milk, I needed something to quench my thirst. My father had a gigantic travel thermos--I swear, that thing held at least 40 ounces. The lid was used as a cup and I begged to take a drink. "I NEED coffee!" I exclaimed. Dad was driving and mom took care of the coffee-dispersion. "It's just plain, black coffee," Dad warned me as Mom passed back the cup-lid. I don't remember much else except that I was reprimanded for not saying "please", and of course that I was actually fancied the heavy flavor of black coffee.

Fast forward once more to 2001, just as I began 7th grade. Because I'd started private school my parents now drove me to school on the way to work. There was a coffee stand at the end of our street (something common in Washington) and on Mondays they had $2 mochas. My mother and I began a long tradition of stopping here each Monday, sipping our coffee on the way to school and work.

And now fast forward one last time... not to a singular moment, or a precise date on the lengthening calendar of my life.... but to a thousand moments, a million separately wonderful instances and events in which coffee enhanced life's greatest treasures.

The first time my husband said he loved me, we were sharing a caramel macchiato. (It was on accident, and I told him to take it back because we weren't even officially dating yet, but still...)

My best friend and I first bonded at a coffee house.

When I was a teenager and my dad and I both had free time in the summer, I felt incredibly hospitable and grown up when I volunteered to bring him more coffee.

In all of my jobs, I have connected with coworkers over coffee.

I have more coffee cups than anything else. More mugs than socks, underwear, spoons, maybe even more than paperclips.

I am so thankful for coffee. I am thankful for how it brings people together, connecting us through sorrow or joy or rage. I am thankful for it's alleviating strength, how it can make an awkward situation endurable or a weakening fatigue less overwhelming. I am thankful for its approachable nature in that "meeting for coffee" can be both a safe way to interact, or an ordinary event that could lead to something more adventures. I am thankful for its many flavors and varieties and methods of being brewed, allowing food-artists the opportunity to be innovative and creative. I am thankful how it is desirable in every season, in every circumstance, for many ages and stages of life. I am thankful for its calming nature, for the way a cup of coffee can bring me back to focus and center and stability, or give me the headspace for inspiration and creativity. I am thankful for its presence in so much of my life, for what it adds to life, for what it exposes in the ordinary and the extraordinary.

Thanks, coffee. You're incredible.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thirty Thanks, Day 11 - Day 18: All These Things In Between

An entire week has passed since I made the time to blog. I mentioned, I think, that November was my busiest month. I wasn't lying. Perhaps this is why it's important to stop and be thankful for things amid all the chaos and bewildering activity. I would attempt to go back to each day I've missed, thinking of something that happened on those days that I can be thankful for. But it's been a long week, and then a long weekend, and so these smell in-between things are going to be arbitrarily chosen.

Day 11: I am thankful that my apartment is fairly clean right now, and that (for the winter, at least) the spiders have stopped invading.

Day 12: I am thankful for winter clothes, and for the excitement I experience when I take them out of storage and put away the summer dresses.

Day 13: I am thankful for stores that are closed on Sundays, even if it inconveniences me.

Day 14: I am thankful for friends who come to visit me in Illinois, because it makes me feel grown up and worth hanging out with.

Day 15: I am thankful for Chicago and all its wonders.

Day 16: I am more thankful for Seattle, because it's my favorite city, even if its wonders are more familiar and less mysterious.

Day 17: I am thankful for stores that haven't put up their Christmas decor yet.

Day 18: I am thankful for peppermint flavored things, and the abundance of them during this absolutely delightful season.

And now I'm all caught up. I promise to try to get on top of everything again tomorrow. I may even write some posts in advance because Thanksgiving is coming soon and I will be even more occupied and busy.

Thanks, all-these-things-in-between. You're incredible... and your brevity is convenient.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Thirty Thanks, Day 10: Mistakes

Everybody makes mistakes. It's one of the purposes of this blog--to fully accept my failures, my blunders, my losses. Every body is a loser at some point (some more often than others) and so it's easy for people to connect to the concept. We all fail, we all mess up. Processing and healing (or letting go of) these things is easier if we can start by accepting that they happened.

I'm thinking about this because I totally messed up today. It wasn't anything too horrible, but it was pretty embarrassing. Today was a math day at kindergarten, and I'd been planning this awesome lesson. It's "Around the World" month, and this week we're in Mexico. All of that is beside the point, because I was going to teach them about "touch numbers," which is when each number has dots on it to help you count. I made a poster for the wall and bookmarks for each student. My co-teacher (an awesome undergrad student getting Service Learning credit) and I laminated everything right before class and they looked great.

So we taught the touch numbers, and the kids caught on pretty quickly. We had moved on to practicing counting +2 and +3 with dice when a student asked me, "Why do the numbers go five, seven, eight, nine? Where's six?"

My co-teacher looked at me and then we both looked at the bookmarks and, surprise! There was no six. I designed the poster over a week ago, and worked on the bookmarks all weekend. We had sat there, cutting out the bookmarks and then laminating them and cutting them out again from the laminating sheet AND doing that whole process over again because the papers moved inside the laminating machine and somehow... somehow... neither of us had noticed that there was no six.

I have nothing to blame it on except that I didn't notice it. I spent so much time lining up the stupid little dots that I inexplicably did not notice I was missing a number. There was no 0, or 10. I knew that. But no six? Completely escaped me.

Tonight I went and remade it all. Re-laminated everything. Placed it all nicely on top of the supply box. I sat in the dark office all alone, still bewildered at how I could have missed it.

But you know what makes everything better?

Several things. 1. The problem was easily fixed, and I can give them updated bookmarks tomorrow. 2. My students laughed it off with me. They didn't get upset, or say something mean. (They don't know how.) 3. It gave me the opportunity to be humble in front of my students, and to accept my mistake gracefully.

I am so thankful for mistakes. In a world where social media allows us to only ever show our good side, our triumphs and victories, our ever-impressive lives... it is good to be reminded of what we are. We're human. We are all sinners, all in need of a savior. We mess things up. We say hurtful words and think destructive thoughts, we judge and curse and condemn, we ignore and neglect and abuse, we deceive and cheat and manipulate. Sometimes our mistakes are small and we need comfort or affirmation, but sometimes they're big mistakes and we find ourselves in need of grace, forgiveness, and redemption. Our mistakes give us the space to need saving. It's okay to need saving, you know. It doesn't make you less of a woman or less of a man.

It makes you human... a loser, just like me.

Thanks, mistakes. You make us incredible.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Thirty Thanks, Day 9: Fall

I don't have much to say, because I'm pretty tired, and I have some work yet to do tonight. It's been a busy weekend, and I have a busy week ahead, then a busier weekend, then a less busy week, then a REALLY busy week, and then... it will be December, which is like all of that packed into one.

So today I am thankful for Fall. Fall is sort of a conundrum in the Midwest, because it takes forever to get here, and then it's gone in about four weeks. Summer lasts forever and then a little breath of autumn and then ALWAYSWINTERBUTNEVERCHRISTMAS. I mean, ahem, it snows a lot and I get bronchitis.

I have talked often about fall, and how I love the changing leaves and the colors everywhere. So I won't say a lot more about it. It's beautiful. It smells nice. It makes for many pretty pictures. Also, pumpkin everything.Thanks, Fall. You're incredible.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Thirty Thanks, Day 8: The Story (Part 2)

Many things divide your life into two halves. The time before you met your spouse, and the time after. The time before you lost that friend, and the time after. Before kids, after kids. Before getting that job, after having that job. 

There has never been a time before stories. And there will never be a time after, for all of life is a story. The chapters change and the pages increase in number and spine becomes bent and cracked with age. But there is never after. It always is.

However, there was a time when I didn't know what stories meant to me. 

Children who love books usually know they love books, but they don't know the power held in them--we can't all be Matilda Wormwood. Children who love books will cart them to and from the library in large stacks. They will have trouble on library day at school, because they can only check out two books at a time. They will sneak peeks into their parents' bookshelves and steal glances at books they're not mature enough to read. They will do all these things and find thrill in every moment without ever realizing that their love for books is actually a love of story, which is more than a hobby or pastime--it's the adventure of a lifetime.

This sort of adventurous love for story is a compulsion, a conviction, a belief. It is the belief that for every question the answer is a story. Every sorrow comforted, every wound healed, every mistake forgiven, and every joy affirmed by a story. Jesus himself used stories to express his love for people and carry out his mission. The Bible itself is a story of epic measurements. 

And so we have this belief as children without knowing it, until one day we do. We know it. We feel it. We believe it. 

During the year I decided I wanted to be a writer, I also realized how deeply I loved books. But even then it wasn't until later that I understood it was a love of story that really fueled my love for writing. And there was a difference in everything. My thinking change, my writing changed, my heart changed. The world looks different when you comprehend its story-ness.

Yesterday I was thankful for the stories of my childhood. Today I am thankful for the stories after childhood. I am thankful for the transformative power of a story, for the way they alter my way of thinking and the way I perceive the world. I am thankful for the depth added to books when we recognize a good story, and not just a plot or characters that are "interesting." I am thankful for the way stories engage us at every turn. I am thankful for the way stories allow us to connect with each other, regardless of the people we have been or the people we are or will be. I am thankful that stories follow us and shape us. I am thankful that stories can be uniters and changers and inspirers and convicters. I am thankful for the way faith in Jesus is so naturally shared by story. Most of all, I am thankful for who stories have made me--before I knew they were changing me, and after. 

Thanks, stories. You're incredible. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Thirty Thanks, Day 7: The Story (Part 1)

Long ago there was a blackbird whose wife was stolen by an Indian ruler. Blackbird made put on his armor and made himself a drum and traveled toward the palace to get back his wife. On his way he met some ants, some cats, some sticks, and a river. They had all been wronged by this evil ruler too, and so they climbed inside Blackbird's ear. They made their way to the palace, overcame every obstacle put in their way, and rescued Blackbird's wife.

This is my favorite childhood story. It's adorable, but that's not why I'm thankful.

Last year I made a blog post that was thankful for simply all books, or at least my favorite books. But this year I want to express more about the foundation of that feeling. I did not reach adulthood and suddenly become a book-lover. No, my love for such things was built over many years. Today I want to say that I am thankful for children's stories. 

The story mentioned above is an old Indian folktale, called Rum Pum Pum. It's one of my favorite books from my childhood, but also one of my favorite books EVER. It's not because there are talking animals--I couldn't care less about talking animals. In fact, I'd rather do without them all together. And it's not because it's a "hipster" book that no one knows about, or a "folktale" and therefore more moralistic and meaningful that more popular children's books. I love it because of its phenomenal story that resonates with reality.

Our protagonist has suffered a great loss. Rather than give up hope, he finds his strength and starts a journey. There are many adventures to be had and friends to find along the way. He is victorious not by his own strength, but by the unity formed between them all.

In real life, we suffer great losses. We feel compelled, sometimes, to lose hope. But we don't. We hold on. We fight. There is a fight to win, a battle to begin. And there are others who have suffered their own losses, others who have their own tragedies and sorrows and they will fight with us! Many things in this life we must do alone, but a victory--vindication!--is something to be shared.

This is true of Rum Pum Pum, of Little House on the Prairie and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Little Engine that Could. There is a fight, there are friends, and a grand finale. This is also true of the stories my father told me when I was little. They were about Princess Goldenhair (ahem) and her brothers (ahem) and some evil goblins. These were stories about fighting for justice and friendship and being brave.

I am thankful for the stories of my childhood, for the lessons they allowed me to learn. I am thankful for the deep love for books they ingrained in my soul. I am thankful for the connections I was able to make within each story, how every character taught me something about real life. I am thankful for the good guys and the bad guys and the illustrations and even the talking animals. I am thankful for the way books can be friends themselves, and for the way they can heal and comfort and inspire.

Thanks, stories. You're incredible.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Thirty Thanks, Day 6: Those Friends

I have not always had wonderful friends. I have not always had the pleasure of knowing friends who would lay down their own life for mine, or give me their time and energy freely, or listen sincerely, or want only good for me. I have had them, my whole life, but never before so many at once.

This is partially caused by the hormonal chaos of high school. A friend today, a rival tomorrow. But it's also because I have high expectations for my friends. 

My parents always attempted to convince me that if only I lowered my expectations, I wouldn't end up so hurt or disappointed by my friendships. However, I didn't agree then, and I don't agree now. My expectations were not ridiculous. I was resolved to be a good friend, and wanted the same in return. 

A good friend, by my understanding, should never reject you, even temporarily. That is, they shouldn't end a friendship based on temporary emotions. A good friend also never rejects you based on the presence of "other" friends. A good friend is honest about their feelings--if they're angry, they should say so, even if it causes conflict within the friendship. A good friend listens, even if they don't "agree" with what's being said. (Unless, of course, they're listening to someone admit to murder or something horrible--then they should stop listening, and call the cops.) A good friend doesn't give unwanted advice. A good friend doesn't stop being your friend simply because they have a boyfriend/girlfriend. A good friend should want to spend time with you, even if it's inconvenient. A good friend should want to talk with you, even if you have a bad day and aren't very pleasant to be around. 

I say all of this because my experience was often the opposite, particularly in high school, and even more specifically when I was depressed. It seemed the more depressed I became, the less my friends wanted to spend time with me, or talk to me, or even acknowledge me. I often felt that my depression was inconvenient for them, and when I went to them for comfort (or just company!) they came across as irritated that I was "still depressed."

In a strange way, I was thankful for those friends. And there were other good friends that I could depend on, but I always hoped I would be able to depend on all the people who claimed to be my friend, and not just one or two. They all had their methods of supporting me, and I can give them all grace because we were teenagers. But they don't hold a candle to the friends I have now. 

I am so thankful for my friends. I am thankful for their  laughter and their smiles, how they not only brighten my days but allow me to brighten theirs. I am thankful for their genuine enjoyment of our friendship, and their sincere desire to spend time with me and talk with me. I am thankful for their support when I am in sorrow or joy. I am thankful for their acceptance. I am thankful that we belong together. I am thankful for the conversations we share and the endless amounts of coffee consumed in each others' presence. I am thankful for the ATLA marathons and the Star Wars parties and the snowball fights and the photos and the roadtrips and the weddings. I am thankful for their strength. I am thankful for the patience they have with me, for the comfort they offer to me, for the words shouted or whispered or sung. I am infinitely thankful for the abundant blessing of each and every friendship.

Thanks, friends. You're incredible. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Thirty Thanks, Day 5: The End of the Day

As far as schedules go, mine is pretty weird. My husband and I both work nights. I get done at 8pm, he gets done at about 11:30. We're not usually tired when we get home, so this is usually when we relax together. We spend a little time together during the day but it's not usually as relaxed because we have to watch the clock and get ready for work.

It's clear, however, that we are both night owls. (Although I can be a morning person, if I want to.) When we get home he takes the dog out, and then we usually watch some television on-demand (because we're not home when shows air, duh). We make popcorn and I get into my comfiest sweatpants, and when we're bored of TV we play video games. Yes, we play them together--and they're not even multiplayer games! Right now we're playing through The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. We take turns, but he usually beats all the bosses for me anyways.

Sometimes we read instead. We've been reading through the Harry Potter series again since June, but things sort of paused after my work schedule at school started up. We also started reading Wicked sometime last winter, but... I can't remember why we stopped, or where we are in the story. It's also very common these days for us to be reading separately, but next to each other. (Of course, Joey is only reading 2 books right now. I'm reading 5.)

One night, we even colored together. With crayons. Look, proof! (Yes, we found a legitimate Star Wars coloring book at the dollar store.)

I am so thankful for the end of the day. I'm thankful for the rest I find when work is over, and for the peace in being at home with my husband. I'm thankful for the comforts the end of the day provides. The chaotic thoughts of the day seem to drift away. The building is quiet, the dog is content to snuggle on my feet. I get to spend time with my favorite person, with some of my favorite things.

There was a time, it seems long ago, when getting ready for bed meant putting on my pajamas, wasting time in the dark (while my roommate went to sleep) and then sitting a cold hallway where I would talk to my fiance. Joey was 2000 miles away from me, and every night I would wait to go to sleep until he finished working. This meant it was 1am for him, 3am for me. I was thankful, then, for the time we spent together.But it doesn't beat what I've got now.

Thanks, end-of-the-day. You're incredible.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Thirty Thanks, Day 4: Sleep

Le sleep space.

There is nothing special about being thankful for sleep. It's something everyone needs, and usually they find a way to have it, so it's not something I often think about being grateful for. It's kind of like free coffee at work: you take it for granted, until it's gone. You barely notice how much you appreciate its presence but when it's missing you can't think about anything else. (I'm not saying this from personal experience. I usually partake of the free coffee at work but once a week.)

I've personally gone through many eras of restless sleep. I couldn't tell you the reason behind most these times. It could have been stress, or an irregular sleep schedule, or allergies. (We can blame much of it on stress, probably, or the chaos of college life.) I don't know. But I do know that I missed good sleep immensely. And, of course, there's that tragically desperate period between when you head hits the below and finally falling asleep. That time when you perpetually glance at the clock, calculating how many hours of sleep you would get if you fell asleep right now. 

I haven't done this recently, and I'm grateful. But there was a period of time when this happened all the time, mostly due to the difference in how I sleep, and how my husband sleeps. In general, men fall asleep much faster than women. My boss and I once discussed how men say they "shut off" their brains at night, and that's all we need to do to fall asleep. This is far from realistic for women, but somehow men manage it every night. When the hubby and I go to sleep, he goes to sleep. He shuts his eyes, his legs and hands twitch, there's usually a loud noise (a snort or cough) and then he's out. It takes less than two minutes. For me, I have to lay there, and think about something soothing.

Yeah, that's right. I have to think about something to fall asleep. I usually imagine a paintbrush covered with green paint, held by an invisible hand painting beautiful vines and leaves. I also think about rivers, and sunsets. Pretty things. You know, because I'm a woman. ;)

My real problem is that I'm a very light sleeper. It doesn't require a lot of noise to wake me up. But once I'm awake, it's even harder to fall back asleep. This is why even on my days off I wait to go to bed until Joey comes home because if he wakes me up when he comes in, I will be awake for another several hours.

But, as I said, this hasn't been an issue recently. Our sleep schedules are synchronized. Our work schedules allow for decent amounts of sleep and rest and relaxation.  There is nothing quite like feeling well-rested. Plus, one of my favorite things about sleep is dreaming. My dreams are like movies, but I've probably said that before. They have a plot with a beginning, a middle, and an ending. And I remember most of them, although most people forget most of their dreams approximately 10 minutes after they wake up.

I would also like to mention, as a final note, that having a sleep space is really important. You spend a third of your life sleeping, so it should be enjoyable. Comfy pillows, warm blankets, soft lightning (see photo above for inspiration!) I get to go buy a brand new comforter next week (so far all of the blankets we've had since we got married have been from thrift stores) and I'm so excited, it's practically all I think about. Just sayin.' Sleep space is vital. 

I am so incredibly thankful for sleep. So, thanks sleep. I couldn't live without you. Literally.

(Did you know that if you avoid sleep for 10 consecutive days, you'll DIE?)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Thirty Thanks, Day 3: This Job

It seems to be the trend for college graduates to go out and work somewhere that doesn't quite match their degree. Maybe I get it from my dad, who, after getting his BA and MDiv and working as a pastor for several years, decided to move to Seattle to work in a parking garage and a Jewish bakery and even delivered newspapers. (Don't worry, I know the real story behind that. I think. But maybe if I make fun of him enough, he'll read my blog.)

My job isn't completely unrelated to my degree, but it is a little bizarre. I majored in English and Secondary Education. My life's dream (other than to be a famous published author with a big fancy house in which most rooms are actually libraries) is to be a middle school English teacher. That's right, I love middle schoolers. I think they are precious and pesky, wise and wild, but above all... they are hilarious. They make me laugh without offending me, and usually without offending each other. They are are that perfect age when they still admire their teachers but they can also have great conversations, like mini-adults.

But I teach kindergarten.

It's not full time, or anything. I actually work for my university, despite graduating over a year ago. I'm the "lead tutor" there for undergraduate tutoring. Students come to me with their papers and essays and other writing assignments--even articles! I love every minute of it. But as part of the University Student Success Center, I also teach the "Kindergarten Enrichment" program for an hour on Mondays and Tuesdays. It doesn't seem like a lot, but those two hours occupy much of my mind, and my heart.

I don't think I could ever teach this age group for a whole day. I would rip my hair out. Kindergartners are hilarious, just like middle schoolers, but they also require frequent potty breaks and often have sticky hands and I am always asking them to stop playing with their clothes. (Middle schoolers do this too, but if you notice and ask them to stop the embarrassment will keep them from doing it again.) I love them, but it's just not my passion to teach them.

Still, I am thankful for my wonderful job. 

I am thankful for the tiny child hugs, their absolutely hilarious misnaming of things (like calling sequins 'scorpions'), their unknowingly encouraging words, their total faith in me ("You're the teacher, so you already know how to do everything."), the joy I find in planning lessons and activities, the creativity I experience with them, the learning I experience with them. I am also thankful for the courageous college students that come to see me, who press on in spite of the "going to tutoring" stigma and ask for help. I'm thankful for their desire for improvement and their graciousness when I don't know how to use their Mac laptop or when it takes me more time than usual to explain something. I'm thankful, above all, for the opportunity to teach in these circumstances. I learn something every time I teach something. And I find that incredible.

Thanks, job.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Thirty Thanks, Day 2: The Fambly

Those baggy pants, though. 2001.

When you think of that perfect, quintessential family, the first images that pop into your mind are likely those from television. You think about Leave It to Beaver or The Cosby Show or maybe Full House. Maybe you think about The Simpsons, who knows? And it's easy for me to do it too--it took literally seconds to rattle of half a dozen shows that feature "wholesome" families. But truthfully, television families don't have anything on families from literature. The Cosbys and the Tanners and the Simpsons alike, they all wrap up their problems in less than thirty minutes. A family in literature, on the other hand? Well, they like to take their time.

The difficult thing about families in literature is that the families are frequently incomplete. Often a parent has died, or both of them. Our protagonists get shipped off to live with aunts and uncles, like Pip in Great Expectations or maybe they have a living parent but don't know who it is, like Eragon in the Inheritance Cycle. But they make it work with one parent, or no parents, or foster parents (like Leisel in my favorite novel of all time, The Book Thief) or with just their siblings (like the Pevensies in The Chronicles of Narnia.)

Literary families are much more accessible to me than television families. They process their issues in a more realistic way. Problems arise and are solved (or accepted) naturally, over the course of time, instead of being battled and conquered between belligerent commercials. 

One of my favorite examples of a literary family is that of the Joads from The Grapes of Wrath. Gosh, that family has so many problems. I mean, aside from the era they live in and the situations they are forced into because of the Dust Bowl, they have some serious issues. But throughout the story they make it work. They find a new place to pick fruit, a new place to sleep for a while. They don't always get along or treat each other kindly but most of the things they do are for "the good of the fambly." 

So today I'm thankful for my fambly. Er, family. (Sorry, Ma Joad.) 

We don't always get along. Sometimes I actually think the scales tip more towards hating them than loving them, but it's usually only temporary. (Like when they have tacos without me.) But we do love each other, and we know we can count on each other. This last week my family had a crisis (more than a minor crisis, but I won't divulge the details of that which is not my own story, for it's not mine to tell.) I was both terrified and inspired. My family rolled up their sleeves and set out to do what they could, even if some of us only did it from afar. When it was over, and what was lost was found, I sat back in awe, simply astounded that nobody fell apart. I am so thankful for this family, and their courage.

I thankful for their resilience, and their devotion. I'm thankful for their creativity and their humor. I'm thankful for their compassion and their passion. I'm thankful for their words and their prayers. I'm thankful that they're mine. I find them incredible. Thanks, family.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Thirty Thanks, Day 1: That Dog

I am way ahead of the game this year. I started planning this post a whole week in advance. It's November, again. We all know that means there'll be a cascade of gushing Thanksgiving blogs from coast to coast. I might pretend that I won't be one of those melodramatic bloggers, and I won't express all of my overly sentimental thoughts--but that wouldn't be completely honest. I will probably slip and say something mushy. Deal with it.

I decided to dedicate today's post to my dog Holly because her birthday was just this last week on October 29th, and she turned 10. (That's 53 in human years. And yes, that's an accurate number, because it's not an exact 7 human years per dog year. Look it up.)

For her birthday we took her to the local dog park. It's about a two-minute drive from home, and even though we've lived here for two years, we didn't know of the park's existence until about a month ago. She always has a great time, and sometimes even makes friends with other dogs.

As a treat, we gave Holly her first-ever cheeseburger. (Just beef and cheese on a bun, nothing else.) She probably liked it. I have no idea, she swallowed it before she likely got a taste. I figure, she's 10, she can handle a burger. Plus, I know I don't have much longer with her. She's old. She's basically incontinent, has weird bumps on her body, and no longer listens to commands on a regular basis. (Either she's gone deaf, or her stubbornness has increased with age.)

I am thankful for my dog because she is my oldest friend. She has been through so many things with me--every broken heart, every creative endeavor, every late night spent reading while I should have been sleeping. She is the best cuddler, the best kisser, and the best playmate. I want her to somehow understand just how much she is loved and cherished.She adds so much joy and laughter to my life, I cannot imagine losing her--but I know I will. And so I hope to make her last few years on this earth wonderful.

That sweet face!