Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day 29 - 30 Days of Thanks: The Earth

Today - and every day - I am thankful for this amazing and beautiful planet. From the tiniest organism to the tallest mountains, the Earth is filled with so much wonder. Is there anything more incredible?

I find so much joy in the Earth. I could spend hours watching birds flit around my backyard. Or a rosy sunset. Or the ocean waves rolling in. Hiking in the woods can bring tears to my eyes because I become overwhelmed by the beauty of animal tracks in the snow. Or moss growing on boulders. Or majestic trees shading the forest floor.

I know that the Earth can be deadly and dangerous, too. Volcanoes erupt and destroy homes. Earthquakes and tornadoes and hurricanes and drought and blizzards can kill animals and people. Wild animals kill each other and attack humans. But there is awesome power there. And, a circle of life and an overall balance that must be respected.

To me, the most amazing thing of all is how resilient the Earth and its creatures are. Despite everything that we humans have done to this place, the Earth rebounds. Life goes on. Not always, of course. Species have become endangered, then extinct. But I think about how plants can take root in the most inhospitable places. I think about the movie Wall-E, where a tiny plant managed to grow amidst mountains and mountains of garbage and deadness after hundreds of years, after humans had trashed the Earth and abandoned it to live in space.

I believe we have an obligation to take care of this Earth, to respect and cherish and honor this place that sustains life for us and millions of other species. But that's a whole other post for another time.

Today, I'm just eternally grateful for this beautiful planet and every living thing on it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Day 28 - 30 Days of Thanks: This Bloggy Thing Here and Other Internetty Goodness

Can you tell I'm getting to the end of the 30 days? I'm having a rough time coming up with new posts! It's not that I don't have things to be thankful for - it's just that the things that come to mind every day are the same ones I've already posted about - family, friends, R, sleep, animals, etc. The basic wonderful things and people in my life.

But, as I was lamely attempting to participate in my first Tweet chat tonight (for #MrsMeyers via @ResourcefulMom - I just couldn't keep up!), I thought about how thankful I am for blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and the Internet in general. I know they can be huge time-wasters, but through them, I've found other people with the same interests as me, people who inspire me with their art and talents and food. I've even seen new sides of my family and my friends as I've read their blogs and Tweets. And, probably most importantly, I've found other moms, especially when R was a baby and a toddler and I needed to know that I wasn't alone in the world. (Okay, hold the phone on the Tweet chat - I actually won one of the giveaways - woohoo! Another reason to love the Internet!)

And, I love having an outlet for writing, for sharing my thoughts and stories -- even when no one is reading them except for my dad. :-) This blog gives me purpose apart from work and motherhood and wifedom. For that, and for all of you out there, I'm thankful.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Day 27 - 30 Days of Thanks: My Three Sons

It has been really hard not to write about R every single day of these 30 Days of Thanks. I truly am thankful for him every day, and every day he does something that makes me love him even more. This morning, he asked me to help him decorate his cardboard doll house (all his own creation - down to the tiny bunk beds with scraps of fabric for blankets, bookshelf with tiny cardboard books, fireplace, and slices of cardboard pizza) for Christmas. We made little cardboard wreaths, strings of lights, stockings to hang up on the mantle, and candy canes. The house is home to several of his Lego figures, including storm troopers, miners, divers, and a farmer - quite the diverse family!

Tonight, R yelled to me from the bathtub that he didn't want to take a bath. When I explained that he needed to wash his hair, he yelled back, "Well, let's get on with it already!"

He is such a blessing. :-) I will forever be grateful to God for bringing him into my life.

Some of you know that I struggled for a long time with the fact that I only have one child. I always wanted at least two. I always wanted R to have a sibling, for many reasons. I spent many years yearning for another child, pleading with my husband, praying, crying, waiting.

This year, I learned to accept things as they are. I've even learned to appreciate and love having just one child.

But, during the time when I hadn't yet accepted my parental portion in life, I found an outlet for my desire to have more children. I found Compassion.

Through Compassion, I was able to have two more sons, both around the same age as R - one is just a few days older than him. One of my Compassion sons lives in Uganda, the other lives in Haiti. My support provides them with food, medical supplies, access to education and Sunday School, mosquito nets, and more. One of my boys was able to buy a goat for his family with his birthday money - I was so excited for him! But as much as my few dollars a month help these boys, I think that they bring me as much or even greater joy.

Sponsoring these two boys has completely changed my life. I think of everything I do, every dollar I spend differently. It colors my view of everything. Every time I go to the grocery store and load up my cart, I think about what a luxury that is. I can't watch some of my favorite TV shows anymore, like "House Hunters." I find it really hard to listen to people complain about bathrooms or bedrooms that are too small, how they "need" granite counter tops. I end up yelling at the screen, "You NEED shelter and food! No one NEEDS granite counter tops!"

Being a Compassion sponsor has been at the root of many of my recent lifestyle changes - using cloth napkins, switching to locally grown organic foods, taking shorter showers. I always have at the back of my mind how the typical American lifestyle uses up so much more of the world's resources than necessary. I'm trying to change how I live because I think about how my Compassion children live.

I'm not trying to toot my own horn here. There is so much more I could do. I am not holding myself up as a model for responsible living.

What I am doing is expressing thanks for the eye-opening experience of sponsoring these two special children. I'm thankful for the change they have brought about in me, for the impact my sponsorship is having on these boys and their families, and for the awareness and empathy that sponsorship is developing in my own precious biological son.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Day 26 - 30 Days of Thanks: A Plan-Free Day

Tomorrow, we have no plans. Or, rather, our plans fell through. (Hope you're feeling better, Dad!)

So I'm excited for a day when we don't have to be anywhere, when we can just relax and sleep in, and when we can decide to do something on a whim. I think it's the perfect way to end our long holiday weekend!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Day 25 - 30 Days of Thanks: How I Spent My Black Friday

Today was another day of little joys. And, none of it involved shopping - yay!

A lazy morning. A delicious breakfast at the diner. A few hours at the Museum of Science. An amazing film about whales, including rare footage of blue whales surfacing! Running into an old friend from Plymouth. A leftover turkey sandwich. The first clementine of the season (so juicy and sweet!). Taking a blissful 2-hour afternoon nap. Listening to R playing and singing while taking his bath. Reading Calvin & Hobbes at bedtime. Some late night leftover pie. Realizing that tomorrow will just as mellow and special. :-)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Day 24 - 30 Days of Thanks: Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. Partly because it's about family, friends, and food without the distraction of presents (and the shopping and overspending that can go along with it), but I'm sure a lot of it has to do with the fact that I grew up in "America's Hometown" -- Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Thanksgiving is a big day in Plymouth, naturally. There's a huge communal meal at Plimoth Plantation, where you can eat like the Pilgrims did. My family always ate at home, but we did go to the ecumenical church service on Thanksgiving mornings. It was held in the oldest church in Plymouth, a beautiful old stone building in the center of town. We'd sit, huddled together in the hard pews, while people dressed as Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians processed in. We'd hear readings from the Bible, the Torah, a proclamation from the Governor of Massachusetts, and (my favorite part) The Lord's Prayer spoken in the Wampanoag language by the chief of the local Wampanoag tribe.

Afterwards, we'd go around the corner to a little coffee place and have toasted muffins with lots of butter and hot cocoa. Then, we'd head home to put the turkey in, prep the vegetables, chow down on appetizers, and finally stuff ourselves silly.

I hope I can make Thanksgiving as special for R as it was for me. We don't have any Pilgrims around, but we are making our own traditions. Today that included watching the Macy's parade and the Charlie Brown special about the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving, building a Lego jail, eating blueberry muffins for breakfast, and in a few minutes, heading to the park to play some soccer before we cart the turkey that A is smoking over to our friends' house for the big meal.

How are you celebrating Thanksgiving today?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Day 23 - 30 Days of Thanks: Friends

I was in a bad mood this evening. I wasn't feeling great physically and I had some unpleasant news at work that upset me. I was angry and in pain and ready to explode. In my opinion, I needed to go home, relax, and go to bed.

Instead, A called to tell me that friends were coming over for dinner.

I'm not always great with spontaneous plans, especially when they involve people coming to my house when I'm not there to clean it beforehand. I just wanted A to call our friends back to cancel. But we didn't. So, I freaked out a little. (Okay, a lot.)

In spite of my stupidity, our friends were just what I needed. A few hours sharing a meal together by candlelight, watching R play with and be absolutely adored by two toddlers, and talking about everything but work made my crankiness disappear. I even smiled and watched happily while the toddlers methodically took out every toy and game we own. Because who cares about a clean house, especially when you're surrounded by tiny people who jump into your lap, throw their arms around your neck, and squeal with giggles?

I'm glad I didn't miss out on this sweet time with people I love.

I'm thankful for friends and friendship.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Day 22 - 30 Days of Thanks: Short and Sweet

Today, I'm thankful for a short work (and school) week.

Just 2.5 days of work, and 1 is already over. Thank goodness!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day 21 - 30 Days of Thanks: Beautiful Things, Creative People

Today, I'm thankful for sites that are full of inspiration, creativity, and beauty. These are a few of my recent favorites:
  • Interior Accents - The Etsy shop of a very talented woman who specializes in painting and finishes
  • red.house.design - I've written before about this Swedish designer's blog, but now she has an Etsy shop featuring her colorful Swedish prints
  • Sandra Juto - Swedish designer and knitter who invented Wrist Worms (I can't wait to get a few pairs as Christmas presents)
  • A Country Farmhouse - When I found this woman's beautiful blog about her and her husband and their life as renovators and lovers of their farmhouse in Washington state, I told my sister, "She's living the life I always dreamed of!"
  • Soule Mama - A blog about raising children, living simply and naturally, and loving an old farmhouse in Maine
  • Reluctant Entertainer - An encouraging, beautiful site by a woman who teaches that entertaining is not about you ("My house isn't big enough/pretty enough/clean enough/etc."), but about building relationships with others and making them feel welcome. Her book is amazing and completely changed my view about having friends over to our home.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Day 20 - 30 Days of Thanks: Antiquing

One of the things I love about A and R is that they like to visit antique shops and fairs with me. Today, we headed to Hopkinton, MA to Vintage on the Common, a wonderful antique shop where we spent A LOT of time and made some fabulous and affordable purchases.

The shop was having a special Christmas event, and we were welcomed with cookies, cider, eggnog, and chocolates. The very kind shop owner sat down with R to show him how to make a pomander out of fruit, cloves, and cinnamon, which was great because it gave A and I time to browse. Our friend PJ also met up with us there, and she made quite a few purchases herself, including a framed antique postcard with Santa on it that she and I are going to share (i.e., I get it this Christmas, she gets it next Christmas, etc.).

Antique/vintage shopping is a fun way to recycle! R immediately found a little gilded pineapple jewelry box that he wanted because of the "secret" compartment inside. I found a huge, rustic wooden candleholder that holds 12 votive candles and is perfect for the mantle above our fireplace - or as a table centerpiece. It was once some kind of equipment from a farm. I also swooned over a tiny little stool that had a handpainted bird on top. A found an interesting coin set that included coins from year 0, 1000, and 2000; a vintage bronzing kit with all kinds of bronzing and gilding powders; a collection of Edgar Allan Poe stories published in 1903; and a science book for kids from the late 1800s. There were so many other things we were interested in -- we'll definitely be going back soon!

Today, I'm not only thankful for the fun finds we got, but I'm also thankful that antiques shopping is another activity my family enjoys doing together. I don't think I would enjoy it as much if my boys weren't with me!

What does your family like to do together?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Day 19 - 30 Days of Thanks: Simple Things

A warm fire. A delicious, home-cooked meal. A new magazine in the mail. A soft blanket. A bottle of prosecco. Chocolate. Cardinals, blue jays, chickadees, and sparrows at the bird feeder. A hot cup of tea. A pile of books yet to be read. A hug from my husband. A sweet voice calling, "Good night, mama!" A still, quiet house at bedtime.

I am thankful for all of this tonight.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Day 18 - 30 Days of Thanks: Teachers

On Thursdays, I get to spend an hour in R's classroom, helping the kids with various math activities and games.

I love volunteering because I get to spend more time with R and see how he behaves and participates in school. I know it's not a true picture due to the fact that I'm there, and my presence will always change how he behaves at least slightly, but it's still interesting to see him interacting with his classmates and teachers.

I also love this time because I get to know (and appreciate!) all the kids. It makes me feel more at home within R's school community. I feel connected to his world outside our home. And, the kids are really smart and talented and funny and kind. Each one of them has a special place in my heart.

But, most of all, volunteering in the classroom reminds me how hard R's teachers work, how patient they are, how much they truly love teaching. It is no easy feat to get 20 six- and seven-year-olds to sit in a circle and listen to a story or to organize them into groups and get them rotating between math stations (not to mention herding them all to lunch or the library or recess). Even when they are all at their own seats working on writing projects quietly, chaos can quickly ensue.

Somehow, despite constant interruptions and distractions, R's teachers manage to get their knowledge across. I am constantly amazed at how much R has learned in his short time in elementary school. And, it's not just reading, writing, math, social studies, art, music, and science. R's school and teachers spend a lot of time teaching the children how to be kind to one another, how to give compliments, how to be inclusive, how to respect privacy, how to be polite.

On top of all that, R's teachers take a lot of time to communicate with us parents - through email, written notes, meetings, and impromptu conversations before and after school.

I know that teachers do so much more than what I've mentioned here. I can't do justice to the work and dedication and time they put into their jobs. But I can be thankful for all of it.

Is there a teacher that you're thankful for today?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Day 17 - 30 Days of Thanks: My Job

I complain about my job a lot. I let it stress me out. I wish for something else. I was grumbling about it to God this morning on my way to work.

As I climbed the stairs up from the subway, I saw a homeless man there, his belongings in plastic bags piled up around him, his head in his hands in obvious distress and heartache. He looked like he had lost all hope -- and that the world had forgotten him.

I said a prayer for that man and for my ungrateful heart. I prayed as I hustled off to my well-paying job in my warm office with a view of the city, in a building with a lobby lined with marble.

I am unbelievably lucky to have my job, to work with people I like, to do work that I enjoy (most of the time), and to be paid well for that work. My job enables me to provide food, clothing, and shelter for my family and then some. Somehow I lost sight of that.

I'm thankful for my job today -- and for being humbled when I lost my spirit of thankfulness.

Day 16 - 30 Days of Thanks: A Break

Notice how I missed posting Day 16 on the 16th? Well, I combined some of my recent thanks yesterday. I still have my cold and a bad cough and was feeling achey, so before dinner last night, I took some NyQuil. Goodness, I have never fallen asleep that fast and that deeply before. A had to wake me up for dinner, which I somehow ate, then I vaguely remember reading to R and climbing into bed with him, and that was pretty much it for me. I was asleep by 8:30 and at some point made my way to my own bed. And, guess what! This morning I felt better! It's amazing what not staying up until 2 am does for your health! ;-)

So, even though I had written out a thankful blog post, my body took a little break from blogdom yesterday. My thanks go out to medicine and sleep for a second day each.

OK, on to Day 17!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Day 15 - 30 Days of Thanks: Laughter

I've been feeling a little sad today because I've been struggling with my annual lingering cough that comes out of nowhere and leaves me exhausted. So, I thought I would focus on the positive. Today, I'm thankful for laughter and humor and silliness! And, R is an endless source of all of those.

It's really hard to be sad when R is around. Not only does he do crazy things and make crazy faces, but he also says the most hilarious things, especially when he's not trying to be funny. Last week, he lamented, "Every second of my life brings me one step closer to death."

One of my favorite websites to visit when I need a laugh is Catalog Living. If you haven't seen it yet, it's written by a comedian who takes photos from catalogs like Pottery Barn and Ethan Allen and adds her own captions relating to an imaginary family (Elaine and Gary and their children). I haven't been able to go into the Pottery Barn store without giggling now.

Laughter is such a wonderful gift. It helps me get through difficult or stressful situations and heal from past hurts. It releases tension and puts people at ease. And, you can find humor in almost anything.

Case in point: This sign I saw last Thanksgiving. 

What makes you laugh?

Day 14 - 30 Days of Thanks: Animals

As I sit here typing with a warm, fuzzy cat asleep on my legs, I can't help but be thankful for animals.

My cat Harley is 14.5 years old, and I've had him since he was a kitten. He's my little buddy. He meows incessantly when he knows it's my bedtime to get me to go upstairs to bed. He also meows incessantly to tell me when he's found a centipede somewhere in the house. He still plays catch and chase with balls we make for him out of aluminum foil. He freaks out when he sees us pull out our suitcases because he hates when we leave him or change our routines.

Harley's usual spot on the couch
Harley brings our little family a lot of joy. R adores him, even though Harley has avoided him more than interacted with him. I love how he always has to sit on my lap or legs when I'm on the couch. And, Harley keeps A company in the wee hours when the rest of the house is asleep. I'm thankful for this tiny, fuzzy member of our family.

I'm also thankful today for all animals. If you've ever watched Nature on PBS or the Life series on Discovery Channel or the BBC's Planet Earth series, or spent any time with animals or observed them, you can't help but be amazed by them, by their fortitude and adaptability, by their beauty and their interconnectedness with other species and with the Earth itself.

I can't possibly do justice to the entire animal kingdom here, but I do have a special place in my heart for two species in particular: manatees and elephants.

Manatees are so gentle and trusting and curious, which has unfortunately contributed to their status as an endangered species. Because they increasingly have to co-exist with people, they are often injured or killed when struck by boat motors or by ingesting fish hooks, fishing line, and trash.

Source: Miami New Times, "Record 429 Manatee Fatalities in 2009," 1/7/2010
Sometimes when I visit my mom in Florida, we go to visit Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park, which shelters and cares for injured manatees. The first time I saw them up close as they were fed whole carrots and cabbage leaves and alfalfa, I cried. It kills me that these gentle animals are at risk mainly because of human beings and our thoughtlessness.

Elephants also have this effect on me. Their matriarchal society and their behavior that shows their love and caring for one another are incredible. The other night, I caught the end of "Echo: An Elephant to Remember" on Nature. I'd seen other films in the past about Echo, but this was a tribute to her after she died, a look at how her family is surviving, and how her family developed. One of the most touching parts was a look back at Echo's son Ely, who was born years ago with crippled front legs. Ely kept trying to stand despite his poor crumpled legs, and after three days with Echo's caring and encouragement, he did! Ely would have died if hadn't managed to stand up because he couldn't reach his mother's milk otherwise and wouldn't have been able to keep up with the herd. When this show was filmed, Ely was an adult male and had left his family previously, like male elephants do. But when the rains came after a long drought, Ely found his family again at the river and tenderly touched tusks and trunks with one of his sisters. There were many, many examples of these elephants helping each other, protecting each other, mourning and grieving for family members who had died.

Like manatees, elephants are in danger, largely because of human beings. As our need for additional space and resources increases, we encroach upon these animals' native habitats and come into conflict with them.

When I observe animals and the natural world around me, I feel closer to God and appreciate his amazing handiwork more. Manatees, elephants, and all animals are an integral part of the Earth's design. When something happens to one species, others are affected in unforeseen ways. I believe if we take care of the natural world, we're also taking care of ourselves and of God's beautiful creation.

These two organizations are doing important, wonderful, and fascinating work to save manatees and elephants:
  • Save the Manatee Club - You can provide support by adopting a manatee. My friend Rob adopted a manatee (Dana) for me as a Christmas present one year. It was one of the best presents I ever received!
  • Amboseli Trust for Elephants - This organization funds the Amboseli Elephant Research Project, which was founded by Cynthia Moss, the researcher who has been studying elephants in Kenya for years, including Echo and her family.

What animals are close to your heart?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Days 11-13 - 30 Days of Thanks: Family

I feel badly that I didn't have a chance to post over the last few days. We were visiting my family in Florida, and somehow I just never found a good time to hole up with the computer and post my thankful entries. But we're home now, and I'm trying to get back on track!

What I should be thankful for this week is air travel, since it's what allowed me to visit with my family. Well, air travel plus the Veterans Day holiday, plus a fantastic 50% off Jet Blue sale. I am very thankful for all of those things. I feel very blessed to have been able to take this trip.

But the point of our trip was to see my mom and stepdad, my sister and her husband, and my three nephews - and we had such a nice time! R loves being with his cousins. Even though they've only seen each other a handful of times in their lives, they get along beautifully and it's like they've never been apart.

Cousins making silly faces
I miss my sisters a lot, and it was really great to spend almost a whole day with my middle sister. We just hung out and talked and laughed and then took the kids to a playground. I wish we could do that every week.

Being with my mom always feel homey and special. She made us an early Thanksgiving dinner, took us to a beautiful island where we enjoyed the beach and walked a nature trail, and went mini-golfing with us. But I enjoy sitting and chatting and watching TV with her just as much as going on special excursions.

Right before we headed home to Boston - R was exhausted!
So, for days 11 through 13, I'm thankful for my family and the precious time we got to spend together this week. It was a short visit, but a very sweet one!

Now, I would be eternally thankful for someone to come and unpack the suitcases for me! :-)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Day 10 - 30 Days of Thanks: The Medicine Cabinet

Today I'm thankful for Tylenol, sore throat drops, decongestant, Emergen-C, and tissues.

For home remedies like warm cider and chicken soup.

Source: Scientific American, "Can a good night's sleep prevent a cold?"
And, a second shout-out to good ol' sleep.

All of which I'm hoping will help me feel better soon!

How do you deal with a cold? Here's hoping you stay healthy!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Day 9 - 30 Days of Thanks: Sleep

I'm giving thanks today for sleep. I don't get much of it (which is totally my own fault - I need to learn to put the laptop away hours sooner than I do), but the little I do get is precious.

The transforming power of sleep amazes me. I can fall asleep angry or stressed or sad, and wake up calm, refreshed, and excited for a new day, for a new start.

Pre-marriage and pre-parenthood, A and I would stay out until the wee hours and then sleep until early afternoon. When R was a baby and toddler and took naps every day, I'd usually sleep during at least one of his naptimes. I didn't realize in those days how much I would miss the freedom to sleep almost whenever I wanted to.

I fantasize about napping now. Especially on cold, wet, dreary days (like yesterday) when the world seems to whisper, "Stay in bed."

Do you get enough sleep? How much is enough?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Day 8 - 30 Days of Thanks: Food

I'm thankful for food today, but not just in the being thankful that I have enough to eat way. (Which I am, of course!)

I'm thankful for the strong connections that food can make between people.

For A and I, talking about food, shopping for food, cooking together, eating together - that's what binds us as a couple outside of our role as R's parents. We love the adventure of food, of trying new things and new restaurants, of sharing each other's meals. We talk about food and recipes and produce and cheese and wine A LOT. Going through cookbooks and cooking/baking catalogs and kitchen stores is thrilling to us.

This same love of food - and talking about it - is woven through our relationships with my family, too. Every time we visit my dad, he prepares an amazing feast, usually beginning with an antipasti platter like the one above. Inevitably, our conversation centers around food. My dad shares stories of restaurants he's been to, remembered by a particular dish he had there. And, usually, while I occupy R in the other room, my dad and A chat about food in the kitchen. It has helped my dad and my husband make a connection.

My youngest sister and I share the food connection, too. When we catch up, we usually talk about what we've made. She is a whiz with preserves and cookies; I make a mean pie crust and blueberry buckle.

Food connects people with their family heritage (which is why I've been obsessed with my Swedish cookbooks recently). Having a recipe box full of handed-down recipes from family and old friends is as precious as a photo album. I think of my sweet grandma every time I bake something because I use her Jadeite bowl to mix my batter. And, A has learned to cook my favorite meal from growing up, my mom's pork chops with rice and mushroom gravy.

Some of my favorite memories with friends are of a crew of us, crowded around a tiny kitchen table at our friends' tiny farmhouse, devouring bread and cheese and wine together. Or, at another friend's rustic vacation house on Martha's Vineyard, when we all tramp down to the docks, buy whatever seafood we want, and then cook it up for everyone to share - after enjoying a baked stuffed quahog right there on the docks.

Last night, A and I had planned a fall feast to share with friends, but our friends were sick and couldn't make it. We were disappointed at first, but we decided instead to enjoy the food anyway. We had warm, crusty bread, Cotswold cheese, fresh pear slices, and local hard cider to start. Then, A made up a batch of his spicy pumpkin ginger soup. Finally, we had a pork roast, with slices of homemade cranberry bread on the side. Nothing fancy, but a perfect meal to warm you up on a chilly night, while sitting by candlelight and in the glow of the fireplace. It was magical and helped A and R and I relax and reconnect after a busy weekend.

What connections has food made for you? What are your favorite food blogs? (I was going to list mine, but there are too many to count!)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Day 7 - 30 Days of Thanks: Time

Source: ronntorossian.com
This morning, I'm thankful for an extra hour in my day. Even if it didn't mean an extra hour of sleep for me. Because daylight savings means nothing to a six-year-old who is raring to go!

I'll be using my extra hour this morning to make a batch of cranberry bread.

Did you remember to turn your clocks back? How did you use your extra hour?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Day 6 - 30 Days of Thanks: The Weekend!

I asked R at dinner last night what I should write about being thankful for today, and his answer was, "The weekend."

What does the weekend mean to a six-year-old? It means swimming lessons, soccer, a play date with a new friend, fewer restrictions on TV time, and - most importantly - no homework!

What does the weekend mean to me? It means grocery shopping, cleaning the house, lazy mornings, pancakes and bacon, dinner with friends and family, spontaneous day trips, evenings in front of the fire, time outside, and relaxing at home with my boys.

Happy weekend! What does the weekend mean to you?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Day 5 - 30 Days of Thanks: The Best Gift

Today - and every day - I am thankful for the most amazing gift I have ever received ...

... a sweet, smart, funny, tow-headed boy who squinches his eyes when he smiles.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Day 4 - 30 Days of Thanks: Water

On Tuesday afternoon, a construction crew around the corner from our house accidentally cut through a water main. Our water was shut off for awhile and, when it was back on, our water was smelly and discolored for hours. R skipped his bath, we delayed doing laundry, and we drank juice instead of our usual water for the evening. It was a small inconvenience for one night.

Reality check: More than half of Africa's people lack access to safe drinking water.*

I pray a lot when I'm in the shower. In the winter, I usually start my prayers off by thanking God from the bottom of my heart for hot water. Because there is nothing like searing hot water when your toes are numb from cold. In the summer, a cool shower (not to mention a swim in the community pool) changes my whole outlook when I'm sweaty and cranky.

Reality check: The average distance a woman in Africa and Asia walks to collect water is 3.75 miles.*

Today, I am thankful for nearly limitless access to clean, safe water. I turn on the faucet, and it's there. I have water to drink, cook with, bathe in, wash my clothes in, feed to my plants. I even have water to give to my cat and to the birds and squirrels in our yard. To help conserve water, we have a rain barrel, we turn off the water while we brush our teeth, and we try to take short showers, but I know those are just small measures.

Reality check: In developing countries, one person uses an average of 2.6 gallons of water per day. In the United States, one person uses an average of 75-80 gallons per day.*

I promise not all of my 30 Days of Thanks posts will feature me up on my soap box! But I think God has planted a seed in my heart to be aware and conscious of some of the things that I used to take for granted - and to share the tiny shoots of that seed with you.

Thankfulness in Action
*The water facts in this post are from Drop in the Bucket, an organization that builds wells and sanitation systems for communities in Africa. You can donate even just $10 to help provide wells to African schools.

At my sister's wedding last year, I met a fascinating friend of hers that works with Engineers Without Borders. Ruth is a water consultant engineer who travels around the world, working with residents in developing communities to design and build systems to provide clean, dependable water. Although fundraising for her trip to Kenya earlier this year is now closed, you can read more about the project there.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Day 3 - 30 Days of Thanks: Choices

Source: Tuscola Today
Today, I am thankful for the choices I have the freedom to make -- not just the votes I cast on Tuesday for people and questions, but also the hundreds of decisions I have the privilege to make each and every day.

I open the refrigerator and cabinets and choose what to eat for my meals. I go to the grocery store and choose organic or conventional, healthy or junky. I can choose to eat fresh foods, to cook something, or to eat out. I can even choose not to eat if I'm not hungry.

I select the water temperature for my shower and how long to run the water. I choose what soap, shampoo, conditioner to use. I pick from among a closetful of clean towels.

I choose what clothes to wear. I can vary my choices based on the weather, my mood, or what activities I'm undertaking each day. I choose when to wash my clothes and whether to wash them by machine or hand. I can use the dryer or hang them up.

I decide how warm or cool to keep my house. I choose where I want to live, how to decorate my home, what to grow in my yard.

I don't always remember to be thankful for these choices. Too often, I take them for granted. Today, though, I acknowledge how unbelievably lucky, blessed, and privileged I am. I know that there are millions of people on Earth who do not have the choices I do. For so many, food, clean water, clothing, and shelter are not choices - they are inconsistent, inadequate, or non-existent realities. They are distant dreams.

I don't know why I have been so blessed to live where I do, to have the freedoms and choices I do. But I believe that with these blessings comes a great responsibility to share. Over the next few days, I'll tell you about some of the organizations and people that help me share what I have with others.

What choices are you thankful for today?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Day 2 - 30 Days of Thanks: The Ocean

"When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused."
- Rainer Maria Rilke

Over the last few years, life has become a whole lot busier and more complicated for my little family. Between work, school, after-school, swimming lessons, soccer, play dates, and errands, the weeks seem to fly by. I can get overwhelmed by all the activity.

I cope by going to the ocean as much as possible.

There have been so many Sundays when I've felt the need to head to the shore, and my family indulges the call. So, we pack up a bunch of snacks, changes of shoes and socks, and my trusty bucket for collecting rocks, shells, and sea glass. We throw everything into the car, drive 45 minutes to Gloucester or Rockport, and spend a few hours watching the waves, turning over rocks to look for crabs and snails, building sand castles, and climbing the rocks along the beach cliffs.

My favorite part is when I get to sit with the sea spray on my face, taking it all in and watching my boys explore the beach together.

A always laughs at me because, whenever we're at the ocean, I get all giddy and smiley and I hop and dance around with glee. I thank him for indulging me in these spontaneous trips, but the truth is that he and R love it just as much as I do. Especially R. The ocean is part of his young soul already. I love that he and I share that. When the wind is just right at home, which is a few miles inland from the water, we'll smell the ocean in the air. R always turns to me and says, "The ocean is calling to us, Mama."

It is hard to express how thankful I am for the ocean and the beach and for what they do for my soul. And, I'm equally thankful for the fact that I live close enough to be able to enjoy them year-round. (My favorite times to head to the water are on cold, overcast, and rainy days. It seems even more beautiful to me then.)

What part of nature speaks to you?

Thankfulness in Action
Here are two organizations working to preserve our oceans and the delicate balance of marine life:

Monday, November 1, 2010

Day 1 - 30 Days of Thanks: Sisters

Welcome to 30 Days of Thanks! Although I was tempted to start off my series by giving thanks for Halloween candy, I decided instead to kick things off by focusing on some of the most precious women in my life.

I am blessed to have two sisters. When we were growing up together, we often didn't get along, but today, Johanna and Ericka are my closest friends. We rarely see each other these days because we're spread out across the eastern United States, and sometimes weeks go by in between our phone calls, but we always know that we love each other. We are three very different women - in personality, talents, and life paths - but we have one major thing in common: our family. Our family has been through some pretty difficult and crazy times (whose hasn't?), and through it all, my sisters and I have coped and supported each other, usually with laughter.

I am so thankful for and proud of these two beautiful, smart, and kind women. Ericka just completed her Ph.D. in neuroscience and has relocated to another new city. Johanna is raising three brilliant boys, trying to give them the best opportunities in life in spite of many challenges. My sisters are resilient, strong, and two of the funniest people I know.

One of our family's Christmas traditions was watching "It's a Wonderful Life" (of course!) and "White Christmas." We used to quote from those movies a lot. So, here is one of those memories, in thankfulness for my sisters. :-)

I have also been blessed with several women in my life who are like sisters to me. What sisters (biological or otherwise) are you thankful for today?

Thankfulness in Action
In honor of sisters, friends who are like sisters, and all the other wonderful women in my life, I want to share two ways that you can support breast cancer research:
  • My friend City Girl, who is undergoing chemo now for breast cancer and who keeps her optimism, thankfulness, huge heart, and sense of humor through it all
  • My friend Christine, who has formed a team for the Komen Foundation 3-Day Walk to celebrate her 15th anniversary of being free from breast cancer in 2011