Monday, February 12, 2018

Gratitude Daily

I try to be intentional in demonstrating my appreciation of others. I am extremely lucky to be surrounded by a solid, loving, "will drop everything and go to bat for me" group of peers.

While I am grateful for so many things, there are days when I am down, depressed and hard on myself and others in my life. As part of my daily practice, or intention, I keep a mason jar on my desk with little strips of colored paper at the ready. Regularly, if not daily, I try to write down something I am grateful for and I stick it in the jar.

Naturally, not every day is perfect. As a matter of fact I could probably count on both hands the number of perfect days that I've had. Days you would think might be perfect such as a graduation, a wedding, a firstborn child, or a family vacation were smattered with an eye patch from a chlorine gas burn, exceedingly warm temperatures, vomiting blue freezy-pop into a dirty garden bucket in the car, and unexpected yet surprisingly frequent trips to the ER for stitches, poison ivy, broken bones, etc. Needless to say perfection is hard to come by thus, the Gratitude Jar.

My Gratitute Jar is a reminder to me to appreciate the life I have. I am healthy. I ate at my favorite restaurant for my birthday. Someone shared a cookie with me while I waited in line for 5 hours. I have had great neighbors growing up and currently. Someone made me laugh out loud.

It is especially important to take time to be grateful when all has gone to hell. At work I rarely have my door closed. On one particularly rough day at work I got up and shut my door to have two minutes of silence. My secretary walked in and reported that parents were here to talk to me, there were two phone calls for me, and... She looked at me and asked, "What are you doing? Are you doing art?"

"I am trying to think of one thing that I'm grateful for, then I'll be right out."

It's amazing how much better I feel when I remember how fortunate I truly am. For this, I am grateful.


Monday, January 22, 2018

Chicago

One of the best things about living in the Chicago area is its location. Chicago is a hub city. Friends fly or drive through frequently and I can get almost anywhere in the continental United States, fairly quickly

Of course, it's not the very best thing about living here. If you ask 100 people, you would get 100 different answers. The diversity. The food. The Lake. The transportation. The music. The festivals. The sports. The arts. The zoos. The gardens. The museums. The parks.

In one weekend I can go to a Mac & Cheese Fest, a Renegade Art Show, ice skating, and a concert. In November I saw the first Harry Potter movie with the score played by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. It was amazing. It was seamless and fascinating to experience. I enjoyed it so much, I took my mom to see Singing in the Rain. Again, fabulous.





Saturday, January 20, 2018

A Road of Possibilities

There's nothing quite as freeing as leaving a job. I have loved where I've worked, I have loved what I've done and, above all, I have loved the people. But, turning in that letter of resignation is frought with anxiety, uncertainness, and a big heavy boulder sitting in the pit of your stomach. All this is followed by a nice word, a sincere compliment, and a sadness producing tears. Then there is a lightness and road of possibilities.

In high school I spent summers lifeguarding, teaching swimming lessons, and water aerobics to the ladies. College lead me to volunteer at Planned Parenthood during the AIDS epidemic where I was teaching about safe practices and, what at the time was called, ARC - AIDS Related Conditions. My favorite gig during that time, however, was volunteering at The Ronald McDonald House. 

Ronald McDonald Houses, at least the one in Des Moines, have a host family that live there full time. My job was to stay at the Ronald McDonald House one weekend a month and let the host family go away for a weekend.

Families and patients check in and out of a Ronald McDonald House at all times, arriving after following an ambulance or helicopter containing a loved one. Families arrive after hours of travel and waiting at the hospital. Oftentimes, they are tired, distraught, and exhausted, as in the case of a very pregnant woman, who would sleep at the Ronald McDonald House, waiting to hear about the expected recovery of her husband who dove into a body of water and broke his neck on a picnic table submerged at the bottom.

One of my favorites was a 12 year old boy who didn't need to be hospitalized but who needed cancer treatments regularly so couldn't commute the hours from home. His parents worked so his grandma lived at the House with him. Grandma loved when I came because it gave hear a break from endless games of Rummy and watching music videos on MTV (it was the mid-80s after all). His face was swollen and misshapen from steroids and the other chemicals designed to extend his life.

I have made a career for myself in public education although, at times, I come home like I'm a guest at the Ronald McDonald House, tired, distraught, and exhausted. I love working. I am too young to retire, and even if I were old enough, I wouldn't do it anyway. I, instead, am open. I hope I have many more healthy, productive years on this earth, I just want to make sure I'm experiencing more of it.


I've got big plans. I've got big ideas.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

There's No Such Thing As It Being Too Cold Outside

As my friend, Bob Rice, pointed out, "There is no such thing as it being too cold outside. There's only the matter of not having the right clothes."

I drug my friend Shelly to norther Wisconsin to go dog sledding. The day started bright, sunny and -8 degrees.



We drove half way between Cornucopia and Bayfield, WI along Lake Superior. One missed road closed sign would have been disastrous. We would have driven right into the frozen lake.


We arrived at Wolfsong and got geared up in proper musher wear. We greeted the dogs, fed the dogs and then wrestled them into harnesses. The puppies were last, as they quickly chew through the harnesses.

We had a quick lesson on how to ride a dog sled and hooked up the dogs. By the time we took off, I had a slight river of sweat running down my back and pooling in my long underwear. 

Two-thirds of the way through our forest trail, we tied up the sleds and the dogs and had lunch. It took about 35 minutes to get the dogs untangled and reattached to the sleds. Afterwards, we headed back to Wolfsong, unharnessed the dogs in reverse order, fed them, unlayered ourselves and went to Bayfield for Bloody Marys.

These are the only pictures of our trip, as at -8, the phone battery dies instantly.





Saturday, December 16, 2017

Christmas

I work in a school district. Christmas, holidays and time off are particularly difficult for many of our students. Minor thoughts and gestures of kindness go a long, long way.


Storytelling

I do not like jokes. I like stories. I like the humanness of the mundane, everyday lives of people. Ultimately, we are all doing the best we can to survive.

This week I went to see The Moth Story Slam. Thirty minutes before the show they only had two storytellers but needed 10. Here's a photo from the end of the evening.


Friday, December 1, 2017

Changing things up this Year

For the past several years I have been in Traverse City for Thanksgiving. This year I was home with my best girl, my grandma. Since I was going to be home I volunteered to assist at the local 5k. I woke up early, to get there to set up. I was having a bad hair day. I looked like Scar from the Lion King. I threw on a hat with braids already built in and headed out the door.






The afternoon was spent ironing scarves with my girl, while she sat in her wheelchair and had a little scotch.