Monday, January 24, 2011

Thankful for All the Fun Things We Did on Vacation

Our vacation, although fraught with conflict did include some very fun activities.

We got to play in the carousel park.

Visit an old jail

Play at the beach

Ride scooters, bikes and even a go-kart

We visited an old Spanish Fort

And we even sipped water from the fountain of youth

So as you see we had lots of fun things to do on our vacation, and for that I am thankful.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Thankful for a Bad Memory

The distance from the situation that arose on vacation has given me some perspective.  Although I will always love my extended family, there will be times that I don't like them.  This vacation was one of those times.  I can honestly say that from the first day we arrived I was uncomfortable.  I am not sure why this trip seemed to so bad, but I can only attribute it to the constant turmoil that surrounds them.  I know that I tend to err on the opposite side, and I have found myself avoiding conflicts that are necessary to keep moving forward, but they seem to look for battles everywhere they go.

I did talk briefly to my brother about the situation, and I was baffled by his responses.  First he said that he believes that his family unit a unit, and that any battle that one is in, they are all in.  That means that instead of calming each other down, they rile each other up.  It also means that even if they each only had the normal amount of conflicts, they would end up with fives times that amount as they take on each others battles.  He said that it was about trust.  I think he should trust the other members of his family to fight their own battles.

The part of the conversation that confused me the most was when he referenced the fight or flight response, and said he normally chooses flight unless it is something very important.  I looked in his eyes as he said it, and I could tell he truly believed that.  I don't think anyone who knows him well agrees, and that led me to question how he could really believe it.  I haven't reconciled that yet, but I am still thinking about it.

As I mentioned, I have been trying to gain perspective on this, and of course I have been talking to my husband who thinks the situation is much more cut and dry.  As we talk he keep bringing up things that have happened with my brother's family that I have forgotten.  We're talking about 12 years of on and off conflict, and I don't remember more than half of the problems.  That leads me to something strange to be thankful for.  I am very forgetful.  Normally that is not something to be thankful for, but in this case it helps me not hold grudges.  So even though I will remember that there was a scuffle, I won't remember the details, and for that I am thankful

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Thankful for This Blog

It doesn't seem possible that I have had this blog since Aug. 2007, but I have.  Still it is only since I began blogging regularly a few weeks ago that i began to really see its worth.  You see, I am a thinker.  When I have a problem I can spend days thinking it through.  I am not usually the kind of person to rush into a situation until I feel I have a good grasp of the outcome.  I guess it is another control freak thing.  As I have gotten older it has become more difficult to keep all that information straight in my head.  I am finding that this blog is a great place to think things through.

It has led to another problem though.  On the one hand I like the idea of writing with an audience in mind, but on the other hand that means that my very personal internal dialogue is out there for all to see.  So when I need to vent about something others become privy to my worst moments.  When I feel insecure, lazy, jealous, or just plain bitchy I am sharing that with the world.  That takes a level of trust that i am not known for.  The funny thing is, I wouldn't mind sharing these things with anonymous strangers, but I like people who actually know me to think better of me.

Luckily, so far at least, people have accepted me with my faults.  I haven't scared anyone off, and for that I am thankful. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Thankful for Home

We have been home for several days now, and things are getting back to normal. As I mentioned in my previous posts our vacation did not fir my personal definition of what a vacation should be in most ways. Still, it did lead to me be thankful for things I often take for granted. One of those things is my house.

I know it sounds silly. My house is fairly modest by todays's standards. It was built in the 1950s (by my Grandpa). It is a simple raised ranch, and although I think the decor looks nice, it wasn't exactly decorated by a designer. Still when I walked in the door after this trip, I felt like a sailor whi was setting door on dry land for the first time in months. I truy had to resist the urge to drop to the floor and begin kissing the ground.

Of course this was an extreme case, but I feel kind of like this every time I travel. I don't know what makes it so special except that it is home, and for that I am truly thankful.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Back to our regularly scheduled thanks :)

So now it is morning. S always, a good night's sleep helped me gain perspective. It mussy have been good for my girls too because this morning they seem much better. This morning I can see clearly all the wonderful things I have to be thankful for.

The warm weather here
The resilience of children
The big free continental breakfast in the hotel
Friends who care about me and my trifles
A husband who once again put aside his thoughts and said just what I needed to hear
A mom who loves me kids so deeply that she will go to bat for them even at her own expense
A brother who was willing to calm himself down enough to set things right with my kids
A nephew who feels things every bit as intensely as Kali (a rare thng in a boy)
Some peace and quiet
And most importantly, a home that is so great that I cannot wait to return to it.

"Apparently, there is nothing that cannot happen today." Mark Twain

Monday, January 17, 2011

Thankful for???

This month is supposed to be all about being positive and finding the silver lining, but I must admit that I am having a lot of trouble this week.

We are visiting my brother and his family in Florida. Sometimes I have a hard time believing we are related (let alone brother and sister). We are so different in every way. That is fine with me, I have plenty of friends who are not like me, but some days it seems like our differences may be a deal breaker. Today is one of those days. I don't want or need to recount the gory details. Suffice to say that our extremely different parenting styles led to a problem between his kids and mine. This alone should have been no biggie, after all kids fight some times. The problem is that my brother and my mother got involved. I was sick on the couch, and so I didn't know what was going on until too late. It came to a head with my mom saying some not so nice words to my brother, and then my brother kicking her out of his house. Of course since I was the primary driver on our rental I left too.

As I said there are many more details, but it boils down to my brother's self righteous attitude. He has been this way his whole life, and sadly for him he alienates everyone with it. So now here we are in a hotel room instead of enjoying our last fun night with his family. The kids of course had to be consoled, and luckily everyone involved seems to want to make sure the kids are ok. So I guess that is something to be thankful for. It's the best I've got for tonight...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Many Thanks

We're on vacation so posting every day is difficult. That means I have a few thanks built up right now.

First I am thankful that even in the middle of a rough trip there are things to add a bit of levity. On the way here, as Q-Bert and I were walking to the restroom in the airport, we heard last call for a flight departing from a gate near where we were walking. Then we hear a man yelling "Here!" the man passes us up and I see that it is quite a large black man. He is struggling with the waist of his pants. When he gets about four feet in front of us his pants fall to his knees, and Q-Bert gets a full of view of a very large very hairy butt. She was horrified, and I am still laughing about the look on her face.

Next I am thankful, for the trick my brother played on us. We had a layover in Nashville. As we made our way from one gate to the next we bump into my Aunt Becky who lives in Nashville. She proceeds to tell us that she is taking the same flight as we are because she is going to see friends in Jacksonville. So we got to ride the plane with her, and when we arrived she tried to call her friend for a pickup and couldn't get a hold of her. So we meet up with my brother for lunch, and then we decide to just bring Aunt Becky back to his house until she can get a ride to her friend's place. After several hours we finally find out that she and my brother had arranged the whole thing, and she would be staying here with us for the whole time.

Third, as much as I enjoy my brother and his kids I am thankful they don't live nearby. Even over the course of the past few days, the quantity of drama in their lives is far more than I can handle. Their eldest son is in trouble all the time (recently it has even included the cops). They are fighting with their neighbors. My sister in law is fighting at work about her schedule. They are arguing with the school about one kid's gifted plan and the other kid's IEP for speech. I just cannot function with all the excitement.

Lastly, I am thankful that I get to sleep with Bear when we are on vacation. She used to sneak into my room in the middle of the night, but as she grew up those times got fewer and fewer. I know it is for the best because neither of us was sleeping that well. Still it is so nice to snuggle up with her. I know before too long she won't want to so for now I will enjoy it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Thankful for Good Friends

I just woke up from a horrible dream.  I've been having similar dreams on and off my whole life, but they got especially bad after I had kids.  I call them the incompetence dreams.  You know, the ones where you do everything wrong?  Well, last night's was a doozie!  It started with me losing my clothes in a public changing room.  Then I dropped a hot iron on someone's toe.  It went on and on finally ending with me losing my kids in a restaurant.  I hate these types of dreams, and when I wake up I feel so awful. 

This morning was no different.  After the dream I got up, and got on my laptop.  I figured I could catch up on some of the blogs I read.  The first one I came to was from one of my close friends, and it was about how fear and lack of confidence can cause a person to miss out on lots of things.  Considering I am sure that my incompetence dreams are rooted in a fear of failure the timing was perfect.

I struggled with confidence when I was a kid, but once I got to high school I felt good about who I was.  At that time I met people who were good for me.  They thought I was great.  The things which made me special were appreciated.  It was such a relief to be liked for being me.

That experience changed me.  It made me realize that I am a worthwhile person.  I am not perfect, but there are people who don't expect me to be.  These same people even find some of the ways I am not perfect endearing.  I have chosen to surround myself with these people.  I have no problem chatting with just about anyone, but if I am going to invest in really getting to know someone I need to know that they will be good for me.  I cannot allow people whose goal is to tear others down into my life.

Luckily I have found a few people who fit the bill.   Obviously, my husband is good for my ego, but I also have a small circle of friends who I genuinely like and care about.  So today I am thankful for people I can be myself with (even if I am a nerd).  I just hope that those around me realize that I feel the same about them.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Thankful For a Day Off

After such a long weekend I was very thankful that we had nothing planned yesterday. It was so nice to regroup before all the craziness. We spent the day just doing mundane things like cleaning. The girls also did their schoolwork, and I actually cooked a yummy dinner. We finished off the night by watching X-Men. It was just what the doctor ordered, and I felt ready to tackle the world when I woke up this morning.

"There is more to life than increasing its speed." Gandhi

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Thankful for the Ways Bear is NOT Like Me

Today Bear had another gymnastics meet. Overall her team did very well. In facet Claire did well too. The judges scored low on beam in general, so while her score was 8.5 (lower than the last meet) she still got 7th place. Her goal for the meet was to get over 9.0 on something, and she did on both vault and floor. That brings us to bars... She had a LOT of trouble. It started when she missed her shoot through. Then she missed her mill circle.  I could see her fighting back tears as she mounted the bars one final time.  With determination I can only imagine, she did the shoot through and fought her way through the mill circle.  Then she finished her routine and saluted the judges.  Only after she stepped off the mat did she collapse into her coaches arms crying.  That coach comforted her, and then passed her off to Coach Julie, who I have waxed poetic about in the past.  Coach Julie snuggled her for a minute, and then it was back to business. 

The most amazing part of this story is that bars were the first event.  After a start like that many kids might have messed up the whole meet, but not Claire.  You could see the determination on her face as she warmed up for beam.  When I asked her later how she was feeling at that moment she said, "I was thinking I'm gonna do great on my next skill!"  You could see that in her face.  She was pissed off, and she wasn't going to let anything beat her.  That impresses me more than any of her actual gymnastics skills because I just don't have that ability to garner strength from adversity.  It's not that I am a quitter, but it takes me time to recover from something like that.  I may have been able to gather myself in time for the next meet, but definitely not for the next event. So today I extremely thankful that Claire is so tenacious.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Thankful for Coach Julie

It's the beginning of what could be a long weekend.  Bear has her second competition tomorrow, and because of the schedule we are going to stay at a hotel near the meet.  As I have mentioned before I practically get sick when my kids are involved in competitions.  So as this weekend approached I had my usual symptoms of bad dreams and nausea.

So what to be thankful for today...
Well, the first thing that comes to mind is Bear's coach Julie.  You see, as of Wednesday she was not going to be able to make it to this meet.  Bear's other regular coach would be there, plus a replacement coach who Bear knows, but hasn't worked with much.  As of yesterday, Julie is coming to the meet which is great news because Bear and I really trust Julie.  I'm not sure if it is because she is a mom, or because she is a bit older, or because she was a competitive gymnast.  I just really trust her.  She has a way of pushing for the best from the girls without taking the fun out of it.  She also seems to read them better than the other coaches which is wonderful when you are trying to figure out what to say to a little girl who just fell off the balance beam.  Anyway, I feel very thankful that Julie will be with Bear tomorrow.  Since I am not allowed past the velvet rope, it is nice to know that someone I trust is back there with her.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Thankful for Shoes

Shoes may seem like a strange thing to make my list, but I am thankful for them for two reasons today.  The first is a silly personal reason.  I have been wearing the same black loafers for 4 years.  For the past 2 years they have had holes in the soles.  When the first hole appeared I began to look for shoes.  I searched every store that sold shoes, and I could not find a pair that met all my criteria.  My criteria weren't all that crazy.  I wanted shoes that were in my budget, looked decent, and felt comfortable.  So when it became apparent that I was not going to find what i wanted, I did what anyone would do. I resorted to duct tape.  I pulled up the insole and patched the hole with duct tape. Then I replaced the insole.  I repeated this procedure several times over the past couple years, and even bought new cushy insoles at one point. Of course each time I fixed the bottom it was more apparent that I NEEDED to find shoes.  Finally yesterday, after enduring the ridicule of my peers, I found a pair of shoes that I could buy, and feel pretty good about.  And so with no great sadness I bid adieu to my old shoes...

The second reason I have to be thankful for shoes involves the Earth Scouts group that we participate in.  My favorite component in of the group is service opportunity.  This month we held a shoe drive for Share Your Soles.  This is a group that collects gently used and new shoes and sends them to people around the world in need.  Shoes are one thing that I never considered necessary except in extremely cold places, but the information we were given prior to this service project surprised me.  I hadn't considered how far many people have to travel for resources that we take for granted such as water and education.  So our group placed a collection box in the library, passed out fliers to the neighborhood, and gathered shoes from our own friends and family.  As it turns out we collected a big pile of shoes.  I guess more than being thankful for the shoes I am thankful for the opportunity to be a part of something good. 

Here's a picture of the group with the giant pile of shoes.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Thankful for Creativity

I don't think that as a child I was particularly prone to creativity.  Partly it is just my personality.  Even as a child I felt that there needed to be a purpose to my actions, and so much creativity seems pointless.  The fruits of all this creativity seldom end up on the walls or displayed in any way, and do it felt like a waste of time to me.  The other reason was that I was always afraid that I was dong it wrong.  I felt that I wasn't good at art, and, as a child, I refused to even try things I wasn't good at.  So I spent the better part of childhood avoiding opportunities to be creative.

When I first became a teacher I was stunned by how much my students loved to create.  It didn't matter that most of the work they did ended up in the trash at the end of the day.  It didn't matter that the block castle that they spent hours building had to be torn down before lunch.  Most of the time they saw their creativity for what it was, a process.

So when I had children and for some reason decided to homeschool them, I was prepared for their creativity.  I was prepared for the way they alternate between seriousness and whimsy when creating.  It's rubbing off on me too.  We spent hours yesterday making paper snowflakes, and I enjoyed every bit of it. 

Check out this great video about creativity.

Schools Kill Creativitty

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Thankful for My Problems

Yesterday was a rough day.  In fact, it took me most of the day to find my thankfulness; and in truth, I am not sure my heart was in it even then.  As I lay in bed last night worrying I was struck with the realization that my worries are so small. 

True I had to spend $150 on a battery for a car that I am hoping not to own for more than a month or two.  More importantly, I could afford to buy that battery.  Also, while I was waiting for the battery to be changed I got to go out to lunch with my parents and my kids.  Most importantly, in a few months I am probably going to get a mini van that is in great shape without having to take on a car payment.

Another problem yesterday was the discovery that Q-bert told me a lie that caused me to tell a lie.  I was so upset by this.  Trust is so important to me, and I do not trust easily.  When I back away from the situation I can see that this is just a normal part of growing up. I can also be thankful that when I expressed how hurt and betrayed I felt, she felt almost as bad as I did.  So although her pain caused me more pain, it also made me proud of her and gave me hope that this stage will pass quickly.

I also spent a lot of yesterday feeling like I need to clone myself.  I spend a lot of time feeling that way.  It seems like there is never enough of me to go around.  Of course I should feel special and loved, and I do on most days, but when I feel like I am failing everyone that doesn't help.  Still, I do feel good that those around me appreciate me so much.

So you see, every single problem I was worrying about was something to be thankful for.

Thankful for Family

As I sit here this morning trying to recover from Q-bert's math lesson I am finding it difficult to practice thankfulness.  Sometimes, like everyone I suppose, I feel negative thoughts creeping in.  My oldest daughter struggles with negativity often, and for some reason her emotions and mine always seem to be intertwined.  Today seems to be an especially negative day for her, and so I thought to help boost both our moods I would write about more things I am thankful for.

Lots of people say they are thankful for their family, but I truly have reason to be.  Obviously, I think my hubbie is great.  As I have mentioned in the past, he just knows me.  He can anticipate how most situations will affect me, and he cares enough to try to buffer them for me.  I have written at length about my two awesome daughters.  Q-bert keeps me on my toes with all the insightful things she comes up with.

The surprise is how lucky I am to have my parents.  For example, the battery died on my car yesterday.  Not only did my parents come rescue me with jumper cable, but my Dad offered to check the battery for me. I didn't take him up on it because NTB does it for free, but I feel so lucky that he would offer.  My Mom helped with my Christmas shopping.  My Dad helped my husband with a big plumbing project all Christmas weekend.  My Mom is always available when I need her. 

I listen to others talk about the relationship they have (or don't have), and it makes me so thankful that I have the relationship I do.  I also, love the relationship between my parents and my kids, btu that is another post.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Thankful for Technology

Today's gratitude is somewhat less noble.  Today I am so thankful for my computer and the internet. 

I spent the morning planning for the month of January.  We will be going out of town in the middle of the month so I wanted to have school, homeschool group, and meal plans done before we get back to our regular schedule.  I cannot begin to explain how having the internet lessens the work involved with these things.

First my calendar...
I use Google Calendar, and I hate to admit it but I am not sure I could remember where to go at any time without it. My entire life is on that calendar.

Second education resources...
I find lesson plans and printable education resources all the time.  For this week I printed money math sheets, a poem, and blank writing paper.

Third recipes...
I love to cook.  I have dozens of cookbooks which I used to use all the time.  The truth is I do not have hours to spend scouring cookbooks for recipes that strike my fancy any more.  Now I use my search engine.  Chicken breasts and asparagus were on sale so I search for that.  Also, since I use my crock pot at least once a week finding recipes for that is priceless.

So while it may not be the most virtuous thing to be grateful for, my technology definitely make my life easier and so is worthy of my thanks.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Thank Goodness

My first goal for 2011 is Practicing Thankfulness. I got the idea from the FB game in November where people would post what  they were thankful for each day. It seems like religious people are constantly being reminded to "Thank God." Those of us who are not religious are faced with a dilemma. Even though we may realize how fortunate we are, we don't really have anyone to thank. Without "God" where do we go with our feelings of being blessed. I am told that in Japan many people give thanks before eating a meal. It is not a thanks to God, but rather a general feeling of gratitude that recognizes that many people have worked so that we may have our needs met. It also recognizes that while we are fortunate enough to have our needs met, others are not. So that is what I mean by giving thanks.

So why Thankfulness for my first goal...
I have so many things in my life to be thankful for, but sometimes I want more. There is nothing wrong with that wanting, as long as it is tempered with gratitude for all the ways I am already blessed. Once a person starts to dwell on what they want instead of what they have it can be an endless cycle. There is always more to be had. I don't just mean physical things like a bigger house or more money. It is also easy to want more from other people instead of being thankful for all they give you already and all the ways they are already great.  Remembering to be thankful pushes those wants back where they belong. Also, focusing on the positive every day makes it easier to avoid all those negative thoughts.

My life is great right now. It is not perfect, but in terms of all the basics, things are going very well. I think if I get in the habit of recognizing all that I have to be grateful for now it will be easier to see when things aren't so great. Some day something bad will happen to me or my family. In those dark hours, although I won't have God to turn to, I will have the knowledge that in general I have led a blessed life.

And so for today January 1, 2011 I am thankful for the blank slate that a new year brings. I am thankful that 2010 was a pretty good year for my family, and I am thankful that I got to ring in the new year with my wonderful husband and my almost perfect daughters.

Happy New Year's To All