Thursday, November 28, 2013


I'd like to think I am a grateful person.

I have saved every note or card given to me by a student (even the one by a German exchange student that said after taking my journalism class, she knew she didn't want to be a newspaper reporter anymore).

The greatest moment of kindness in my life was eleven years ago. I was at CNU, about an hour from home, and as I was walking to the car at the end of the day, I was struck with such a wave of sickness that I had to lay down and rest before I could even begin to drive home. Then, I had to take several more rests from driving to nap before I could make it home. I went to the doctor the next day and he said I had the flu and pneumonia. I had/have never been so sick in my life. I had to drive myself to the hospital for a chest x-ray. I remember sitting in the car in the parking lot, just about to get out of the car, and I sneezed. It made my head swim with such dizziness that it took several minutes to recover. Eventually I made it through the bureaucratic process of hospital administrations and onto the x-ray table. The tech that was taking the pictures brought a cold washcloth and laid it across my forehead. Have you seen one of those movie moments when angels descend to earth, all aglow, and lay their hands on a mortal. Yeah, it was like that- an ethereal experience. It is bringing tears to my eyes right now to write about it... and making me realize just a little how sad it may be that one act of kindness eleven years ago meant so much.

I believe in Random Acts of Kindness. On the day last week that I received flowers for Teacher of the Month (yay me! I really avoiding giving myself the kudos on that, as pointed out by a reader... so kudos to me!), I also left a Seed of Happiness  in a co-worker's mailbox.

Check out the website if you want to more about them; it's a great story. Basically, it's a random token gift to bring a smile to someone's face. I saw a display of them last year and bought a bunch at Hallmark. I received far greater satisfaction from the co-worker's anonymously thankful comment on Facebook than the flowers sitting in my room for a week. Though it was nice to get flowers...

Perhaps though, I don't recognize the every day, every moment reasons to be grateful.

I dread November on Facebook. Worse than all the Pinkness of October... and cryptic messages about where we hang our purse... to promote Breast Cancer Awareness, are those dreadful "Thankful" lists that emerge in November. Every day for the month of November people post about what they are thankful for, from loved ones to coffee & chocolate, soft beds & warm blankets, to the simple act of waking up to live a new day. Well, I find the whole practice to be irritating and self-serving. If you lived a life of gratitude, do you need to proclaim it on Facebook for all to see what a loving and appreciative person you are? Does that give you the ticket to not feel thankful for those same things the other eleven months of the year? Do the very people that receive your accolades of gratitude on a social forum of an anonymous million, feel that from you every day?

I have always thought it would be much easier to make a month-long list of things that irked me for 30 days. I think it would be much more entertaining to read too. That would not be very holiday-oriented of me though, would it? Heh...

So, I decided at some point earlier this month, that I would challenge myself on Thanksgiving Day in this much smaller forum in a more condensed fashion to determine the 30 things in my life that I am most thankful for.

1. I am thankful for Second Chances, that we live in a society that allowed me to pick up and move into a new life- new husband, new home, new town, new career. The "me" I am today is a very different person than the "me" I was in my 20s.

2. I am thankful for Military Insurance. There are many benefits to Jason's military career but with his health issues over the past several months, I have felt the tangible benefit of health insurance- free and for a lifetime.

3. I am thankful for my Resolve, that I didn't live to repeat the cycle of dysfunction and abuse that defined my childhood; that even though it took too long into my adult years, I gave myself permission to divorce my family roots.

4. I am thankful for a Husband who likes to cook and lets others know how proud he is to have me for a wife. I wasted too many years of my life with someone embarrassed by me and not realizing I was too worthwhile to endure that. As far as cooking, I don't know how it evolved to this point- but the more I hated cooking, the more he enjoyed it, and the balance is working out well for our family right now.

5. I am thankful for my life as a Teacher. It was my dream deferred, one that I never thought the chances in life were going to line up and support, but eventually they did. And it was the right time for it, after over 35 jobs during my 20s, it is near impossible to believe I am in my 10th year of teaching... in the same school even.

6. I am thankful for my School Administration. I have certainly had my stressful years and my low years when I was unsure of what the next one would hold for me, by my choice or not. However, I have grown to a place with those people I work for that makes me feel like a valued and integral part of the school system. I feel a tangible support in everything that I do, every day.

7. I am thankful for Co-Workers who feel teaching is their privilege and not burden. Namely, I am thankful for Angela, our new English teacher, who I would like to call my first Mentee, but who has taught me just as much as I could ever teach her. It has been a long time since I have worked closely with who someone shared my student-centered views on  teaching. She enriches our Department and improves the entire school. I am thankful for the other teachers too that take engaging approaches to teaching, that have stories about their students to tell me because they simply love their job... or just don't ask me "How long until Friday?" every. time. I. pass. them. in. the. hall.

8. I am thankful for my Students. I truly believe that every single one of students has something to teach me. In some cases, their lesson may be more important than what they learn from the 90 days of mine. Unfortunately though too, I know many of those chances to learn from my students are lost to class sizes and curriculums. I am extremely thankful for the students that I am able to teach for two years and really see their growth in writing skills and just how they view the world. It validates my efforts. Those are the very same students that often influence how I see the world too.

9. I am thankful for the Key Club. There is a line in a praise song, "This is the air I breathe." When I think of my Key Clubbers, that is how I feel. Few people in this life are given the chance to learn their purpose, to see their legacy. I am one of the lucky ones. Most days I think I will retire from teaching high school. Some days I think I will move back to publishing or forward to teaching at the college level. Whichever path my life winds through, I am certain that I will forever seek opportunities to work with youth in volunteer service.

10. I am thankful for Former Students. Honestly, #9 can be broken down to a list of 30+ gratitudes all on its own. For now, I will only break away this one. I am thankful for Amanda, Leannah, Jordan, Jessica, Grace, Ashley, Christian, Kristen, and several others who let me know how important Key Club was to them, who let me think I had just a little influence on the amazing young men and women they have become, who remind me that it is worth the time, the frustrations, the effort.

11. I am thankful for books. A good book is one that you are as equally anxious to see as it ends as you are regretful that the end has come. I am thankful for those.

12. I am thankful to be a Home Owner. Childhood nights spent in the spare rooms of relatives and friends. Early adult years spent in a homeless shelter, a motel, an attic of a church member, in a roach-infested duplex. I am thankful not just to be in "a home." I have been in "a home" most nights of my life, but that this being the first home that had my name on the deed is big and beautiful and newly refurbished... and unique and quirky.

13. I am thankful for my car. (I know this is starting to sound superficial.) Most cars in my life were chosen for me. I had to find a dealership that would work with me and then pick among the ones I could afford on their lot. When it came time to buy my most recent car, which was actually nine years ago, I knew the specific car I wanted and went shopping for it. Now it has over 120,000 miles on it and has not cost me any money in unplanned maintenance. It did not even need new brakes until this year. The current plan is to give it to Cameron for college and I will buy a new one, but the truth is I'm a little hesitant to let it go.

14. I am thankful for life's unexpected surprise that is Benjamin. I always thought I wanted a third child, but Jason did not. I thought we needed "our" own child to truly define a marriage. Then there was this very distinct moment probably about five years into our marriage when I passed my reflection in the mirror one day and told it that we were done with babies. Life was entering a new phase when the boys were old enough to be home alone for an undetermined amount of time and it was a pretty great phase to be in... now, like when unexpected things often happen, I cannot imagine a life any different than the one that delivered me a newborn at 39.

15. I am thankful for my Health. There is no one that is going to look at me and think "healthy." Obviously I have issues to address. However, in the grand scheme of living life, mine has been pretty healthy. My only surgery has been a cyst drainage. I have never broke anything, had any major or long-term disease. My biggest battle is eye allergies. I have encountered so many people, so recently in life- those younger, those healthier- dealing with so. much. more.

16. I am thankful for Technology. Being part of the 80s generation saddled between staying up for all night talks stretched to the couch with the long winded cord from the wall phone to brief text conversations with a phone shoved in my pocket, I have first-hand experienced the shifts in society from ovens to microwaves, from TV Guides to DVRs. I know the benefits and conveniences of technology, and I am thankful.

17. I am thankful Justin asked to come for Thanksgiving. No, he doesn't have to "ask" to come home but I am glad that he sought out the opportunity to come home for a week. I won't use the trite phrase "Tough Love," but when unexpected turns took his life off-course, he fell into a holding phase that he had to just be kicked out of. And, he's still figuring it out, but things are looking much better.

18. I am thankful for Cameron's sense of inclusiveness. I would worry at times that Cameron didn't have friends. He could be an awkward child. I learned my lesson with Justin and just stayed out of his social life and let him make his own decisions, his own mistakes. Now that he is in high school I see that it is not friends he is lacking, but a clique... and that is not a bad thing. He considers everyone a friend, and treats everyone as a friend... even when that can be a very irritating thing.

19. I am thankful for Night Skies and Roaring Oceans and other majesties of nature that remind me how insignificant we are and how temporal life is. I could never live too far from the ocean, even though I rarely visit it, I just need to know that I can. And some of my favorite memories with the boys are laying outside during the early morning hours to watch meteor showers.

20. I am thankful for Dishwashers, Washers and Dryers. This is our first home with a dishwasher. Oy vey! Welcome to the 20th century! I spent childhood hanging out laundry to dry (into stiff sheets of fabric during cold weather) and had far too many visits to the Laundromat in my early adult years.

21. I am thankful for uncontrollable outbursts of Laughter. Let's face it, I'm a bit of a cynic. So when something takes me by surprise that I can't help but laugh about, it's a good thing.

22. I am thankful for Relay for Life. Cancer is a beast. Its scars are visible on its victims and the families of those victims. No one is outside of its grasp. It paints a scary world to live in, but through Relay I am able to help empower hundreds of people in our community, many within our own school, to thinking they can do something. From scooping spaghetti, to washing cars, to doing the Wobble on a Relay field at midnight, they can raise the money to provide the services and research to conquer this beast. It is all we can do... but it is a lot.

23. I am thankful for my freedom. I know that sounds trite, but I mean it with sincerity. I spent half of Jason's military career with him. Our family knows first-hand the costs of freedom paid by our military men and women, and their families. I am thankful for every single one of them. There is no single more tangible feeling of freedom than a military Homecoming following deployment. I am thankful for every one I was able to experience and only wish we could have did it together for the full twenty years.

24. I am thankful for People who are Good at their Jobs. Sofrina, my favorite barista at Starbucks. Amy, our favorite waitress at Applebee's. Tommy, who manages our car repair shop. Jason and I often have a conversation about the myth we feed children that the goal of every one of them should be to go to college and get a white-collared job. We, as a society, devalue so many jobs, yet we could not function as a society without the people to do them. I make a conscious effort to show my appreciation to anyone that has an optimistic and responsible work ethic, from our custodians at work to the girls at the drive-thru window.

25. I am thankful for Reality Television. (Ha! I know some folks expected to see that one!) It is my drug of choice. It is my guilty pleasure. Project Runway, Real Housewives of New York City, Dance Moms, Extreme Cheapskates, Million Dollar Shoppers, America's Next Top Model, Snooki & JWow, the list goes on- anything that doesn't involve alligators or long beards.

26. I am thankful for Office Supplies. Seriously. The way some women have that stereotypical genetic predisposition to shoe addictions (missing that!), I'm like that with office supplies. If I were to win a limitless gift card to any store of my choice, it would be a hard toss-up between Barnes & Noble and Office Max... although, Barnes & Noble would win because they do carry a limited amount of office supplies. Pens for color-coded agendas, journals with inspirational or quirky covers, funny folders, most of which I will never use but fill my closets and filing cabinets, I. must. have.

27. I am thankful for the perfectly carbonated Diet Coke. Again, yes, seriously. A poorly carbonated fountain Diet Coke can ruin my day just as quickly as one well-balanced in carbonation can make my day a little better.

28. I am thankful for Days when I have Absolutely Nothing To Do after coming home from school. These days are rare and treasured. No pressing household needs. No school work or Key Club or Relay to-do's. Just my bed, lap-top (not for work), television, and Benjamin snuggles.

29. I am thankful for the Gift of Animals. I wish I could be a pescatarian, but am not. I don't feel guilty for eating seafood but am riddled with guilt when I think about the meat I do eat. I love all animals. All except the occasional insect. I am filled with joy to come home and see a wild rabbit in the yard, and will just sit in the car and watch it for a while. Wow, that sounds corny, but it is true. Zoos make me sad, and hunting season even more sad.

30. I am thankful for Moments of Calm. My life is bordered by stress. I have an ongoing internal dialogue filling my mind with chatter. Prattle. I mute the television during commercials and rarely listen to music because the influx of information, in addition to my internal dialogue planning the next event, the next day, the next few minutes is just too much to work with. So, those rare moments when life is just calm, my mind is just calm, I am thankful.

Ok, confession... this list wasn't so easy. I found myself walking away from it a few times and having to come back. I don't think it's because I'm not a grateful person (the lady doth protest too much?) but that doing it in this format was hard because it called for much bigger umbrella examples (not that I am claiming in any manner these are all gratitudes of great or equal worth) rather than a lot of the small or immediate things that you think to note when doing it daily.

That, of course, causes me to begrudgingly admit that those expressing their gratitudes daily have a purpose... however, I still don't think it needs to be publicly broadcasted, on a schedule, highlighted during one month of the year.

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