Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Gratitude day #13

Today, more than anything else, I'm grateful to have food in the house. My husband had an appointment at a church that offers legal services yesterday, and they also have a very large food pantry. While we have food in the cupboard, it's not enough to make it past the weekend, and we agreed that he would visit the legal help department while I would wait in line at the food pantry section.

That is, until we got there. There was a sign at the door, and a man who was turning people away who had come for food. They didn't have enough to meet the demand. He offered me an emergency bag - a small grocery bag with eggs and a couple canned goods - but I turned him down, told him to give it to people who were worse off than I am.

As I sat in the waiting room with my husband, I watched people get turned away. Old people. Homeless people. Families with young children. One woman hung her head and walked away with the emergency bag while her child sobbed "I'm hungry, mama!" while holding her stomach.

So today I am grateful - so grateful - that we have food in the cupboard, and that it will last until payday even though it won't last much afterward. I'm thankful that I don't have to hear my children crying in hunger tonight.

And I'm wishing I could bring that young mother and her hungry child out of the cold and give them oatmeal for breakfast, and soup with bread for lunch, and the biggest pasta dinner I can manage for supper. Because hearing that little girl crying tore my heart.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day

Today I am grateful to all the brave men and woman who fought to preserve the principles this country was founded on.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Gratitude day #8

Today I am grateful for books of all kinds. I first learned how to read simple words when I was three, and once I got formal reading lessons I started to devour any and all types of books.

Reading books that were too large and complex for my age almost ended up getting me suspended from school when a teacher challenge my right to read The Clan of the Cave Bear.

Books have always been a revelation to me. I'll read anything. I follow medical journals online, blogs, certain authors, particular subjects - you name it, I'll read it. I enjoy everything from light romance novels to political non-fiction diatribes. I've read through the Bible multiple times as well as the Koran and books on Wicca, Buddhism, and other faiths. I get giddy when I get my hands on anthropological studies and archeology periodicals. My husband actually made me swoon one time when he put ten credits on my Paperback Swap account (each credit can buy a book, so that was a lot of new books!).

To date, getting a book is still my number one favorite gift, followed closely by crafting supplies and kitchen gadgets (yes, I'm weird).

Some of the people I have to thank for my love of the written word: my mother (who used to read to me with her finger under each word as she said it, which allowed me to recognize the repetitive patterns which lead to me learning to read). My teachers. Some very memorable librarians. My husband, who enjoys reading as much as I do. Thanks, you guys. You totally rock.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Gratitude Day #6 and #7

Both yesterday and today I was (and am) grateful for medication. I have a lot of health issues that have been kicking up lately; most importantly my hip/back pain and depression. Medication helps control both of those problems. Due to regularly taking my meds (which, trust me, is not something I've ever been good at before), I'm now much more positive and active, and as a result have lost 17 pounds in the last two months.

Oddly, I'm hoping that being on the medications will bring me to a state where I don't have to take pills daily anymore. The pain will ease off with weight loss, and my mobility will increase. More activity will mean more serotonin in my brain, naturally, so I'll be able to go off antidepressants.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Gratitude #4 & #5

I was exhausted last night and didn't have the energy to type. But I will say that last night, I was most thankful for my bed, and my fluffy pillows, and the layers of blankets I like to sleep with.

And today, I'm thankful for my pets. They provide amazing companionship and don't ask for much in return.

Ayla is the pet I've had the longest. In 2007, the kids and I were staying with a friend while I was getting back on my feet financially. We were walking back to her apartment after getting some groceries and we passed this marsh. I said "Listen. Do you hear the frog croaking?" Jacob looked at me like I was nuts and said "Mom, that's not a frog. That's a cat!" Well, after arguing it for a minute or two, I called out "Here kitty kitty kitty!" And sure enough, the plumed tail started bouncing through the marsh in our direction.

She was half-grown, and so thin you could see her ribs and hip bones behind the matted long-haired fur coat. She'd bounded through a puddle to get to us, and was soaked. It was October in Wisconsin and very cold, and she was shivering. But in spite of all of that, she was purring, thrilled to have found people. I carried her home, my friend was sympathetic, and she became a member of our family.


Gryphon showed up in the spring of 2008. I was sitting on the couch reading when I heard him meowing - though to be fair, it sounded more like screaming than meowing! His screams grew louder as the woman carrying him came up the steps to my door. She was a casual acquaintance of mine who knew I liked cats, and she thought I would adopt him. His mother's owner had threatened to kill her newest batch of kittens, and so she had taken the entire litter and was going to everyone she knew to see if anyone would adopt one.

Fast-forward five years and Gryphon is now a happy, mature cat who can still bellow with the best of them when he's in the mood (which fortunately isn't very often). He's currently fighting the battle against his tummy bulge.

Trouble came to us in June 2011. His mother lives down the road from us, and she had produced a litter of nine pups....but was only capable of feeding eight. As the runt, Trouble was often pushed out of the way by his siblings and wasn't able to feed as often as he needed. His mother's owner knew I fostered for a local shelter, and asked if I could help him. He was so tiny, and emaciated, and I made a deal with her that if I saved him, I'd get to keep him. He came home with me and pigged out on a can of wet cat food before collapsing into an exhausted sleep. He's been with us ever since, and is a boon companion who can always pull me out of a funk.

Trouble (as an eight week old pup)
 Bonus: Milo

Milo isn't really one of our pets...though he thinks he is. He was dumped here, quite literally, last September by one of our former neighbors, who found him and his sister abandoned in the home they were moving into. The neighbor's husband is allergic to cats, so they couldn't keep him. His sister managed to get out the door and run off, but they captured Milo and brought him here. We reluctantly agreed to care for him for two weeks while she looked for a permanent home for him. We never heard back from her.

Milo is still looking for his forever home. He loves catnip, enjoys playing with the dog, and is thrilled to chase the laser pointer as well as any pesky bugs that fly into the house when your children forget to close the door. He loves to cuddle with his human to sleep at night. If you would be interested in giving him a forever home, please contact me.

Milo, cuddling with Trouble

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Gratitude Day #3

 Today I am grateful for technology.

There are some things I like more than others. For example, I LOVE my washing machine. Utterly love it. I've been in positions before where I've had to wash clothing by hand...and washing the clothing for three children plus yourself in the bathtub every night, wringing them out by hand, and then hoping against hope they will be dry come morning? Yeah, don't miss that at all. Now I can just toss the clothes in the washer, add some soap, and push a button. That's it.

Another thing I'm grateful for is my computer. Being able to access the internet is such a blessing. I can stay in touch with family and friends, look up answers to my questions, share cute/funny/important life lesson links with my children, and even blog.

One of the new ways the internet has come to impact my life is the way my husband has started using it to stay in touch while he is at work. He sends a series of emails the night before his shift, and they are numbered. In the morning, I open email #1 to find a set of instructions plus links to things that are designed to make me laugh, or cry, or think. Also in each email is a time to open the next one on the list.

And the emails aren't all just chores, either. Sure, some of them will say things like "Don't forget to start the roast in the crock pot" or "please organize the desk; it's getting a bit cluttered". But others will say "If the kids have been behaving, sit down and watch an episode of Star Trek with them" or "after the kids go to bed, run a hot bath and add the bath powder I bought you, and take a nice long soak". And oftentimes the links he sends during the day are funny enough to share with the children, and he will occasionally leave a message for them, too - so even they get to enjoy the emails.

This enables us to feel close to him even when he is working his long shifts (his normal shifts are 24 hours long). And knowing he took the time to create these the night before makes me feel loved. I'll post some of the images he's linked to that the kids enjoyed.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Gratitude day #2

I'm fighting off a bit of a flu bug, so today I am grateful for my health (usually). My body has issues - I'm overweight and losing it is a struggle. I have fibromyalgia, and deformed hips, and lower back issues that make mobility difficult.

But you know what else I have? I have two legs. Two arms. Hands that can create beautiful things and delicious meals. My body has grown three children to term (and seriously, when I give that any thought, the miracle of it still awes and humbles me). My skin is clear, my face is attractive, my hair is thick and lush.

I have eyes that can see. Ears that can hear. A nose that is particularly sensitive, which comes in handy identifying seasonings and ingredients. I took that one for granted until I met my husband, who was born without a sense of I appreciate everything I smell, knowing some don't have that ability.

And best of all, I have a higher-than-average intelligence that allows me to enjoy learning. Research is, oddly, one of my favorite things to do. I love reading, learning, growing, expanding - mind puzzles, philosophy, conundrums, etc. I would be utterly bored without my brain!

So today I am grateful for my health, and my body - the blessings I have been given far outweigh the negatives.

Friday, November 1, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude

It's a sad fact of humanity that we tend to focus on the negatives. We allow them to bloom and grow in our mind's eye until they seem like great concrete barriers that would take a wrecking ball to bring down. In the meantime, the positives in our life tend to be taken completely for granted, and even worse, ignored.

The simple fact is that dwelling on negatives brings on negativity, while celebrating our positives can bring beams of light and laughter into the darkest corners of our psyche. And yet most refuse to acknowledge the blessings in life.

Today I discovered the 30 Days of Gratitude Project. It's to run through the month of November, and each day you focus on one of your blessings. I love the idea of this project and thought I would do a brief post each day for everything I'm grateful for.

Today, on the first day of November, with the rain and cold pressing in outside our windows and the air carrying a taste of winter, I find I am grateful for our home. I know I've complained about it before, and it does have flaws. But all in all, I've lived in far worse places, and not many nicer ones.

We live in a small cottage-style house (at least that's how I like to think of it - architecturally, it would probably fall under the definition of ranch style, loosely). The 960 square feet include the living room, kitchen, bathroom, and three bedrooms. I've bemoaned the tininess of it before, but honestly, when I think about it, I like the size of it. It doesn't cost too much to heat or cool, due to the size of it, and it's got a coziness and comforting feeling that would be lacking in a larger, more open home.

It's also got it's touches of beauty. The hardwood floor was installed right before we moved in. The two large windows in the living room are flanked by two built-in bookcases that make my book-loving heart sing. Every room has windows (I've lived in places that didn't), and the windows are all double-paned (again, I've lived places that had single pane windows).

Can I see room for improvement? Oh yes! But I'm not going to focus on those aspects today. Today is the day to be thankful for what this home represents and provides for our family.

(I discovered, to my surprise, that I don't really have many pictures of our house from the outside. The only one I found was taken after the winter blizzard in early 2011, our second winter in this home. I took it more to show how high the snow had gotten, but now, looking at it, I realize it also shows a sense of comfort. "It's cold outside, yes, but you can come in any time and warm up.")

P.S. If you want to join the 30 Days of Gratitude project, they do have a facebook page here.