Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 30

I am grateful for all my blessings and a chance to count them. It's easy to forget how good I have it. Life can get stressful. Life can be hard -- even in the best of situations. But things can always be worse. Many people have suffered great losses in the past year -- to natural disasters, to unnatural circumstances and to just plain old bad luck. I know that I am lucky to have the things I have. I am especially lucky to have people in my life that would support me and help me if I lost those things.

This exercise of a month of gratitude has really made me see how wonderful my life is. I need to carry this feeling forward throughout the new year and beyond.

Friday, November 29, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 29

I am grateful for a wonderful Thanksgiving.

The food was good -- always grateful for someone else cooking. The food was plentiful -- grateful that we always have enough to eat. The company was good -- always grateful for the love of my family.

And the faces were silly. I'm always grateful for laughter.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 28

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am grateful for my family. We're a little bit of a mixed bunch and we've had some losses that hurt pretty badly. But also some recent additions that have brought a lot of happiness.

Maybe becoming a mom myself has made me appreciate my family a lot more. Whatever the reason, I'm glad that I have gotten closer to them. I can't imagine not having these wonderful people to spend the holiday with.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 27

I am grateful for rest. I am grateful for relaxing days filled with laughter and the people I love. I am grateful for deep, restful nights in a comfortable place.

This picture has nothing to do with rest. It's just a cute smile.

I am grateful for a restful visit with my family. They are totally worth the long drive.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 26

I am grateful for helpful people -- whether they are friends, family or strangers.

There is plenty of ugliness in the world, so I really appreciate people who go out of their way to be nice. It may sound overly simple, but it seems like it's easier for a lot of people to be mean or at least indifferent.

From little gestures like a warm smile or holding the door to really big favors and gifts, there's nothing quite like true kindness.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Days 24 and 25

We’ve been on the road for the past couple of days. I am grateful for hotels with indoor pools. Milo loves the water. We need to get him some swimming lessons again. He took lessons way back when he was 9 months old, but I don’t think he remembers anything from that time. He’s confident in the water but can’t really get the hang of floating or swimming. But he sure has fun trying.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 23

I am thankful for the interstate highway system. Without it, getting back east to see family would be a long and arduous trip -- think covered wagon train.
"Although the Interstate System accounts for about 1.1 percent of the Nation's total public road mileage, it carries 24 percent of all highway travel. " - The Eisenhower Interstate Highway System Web site Interstate Fact of the Day
Sure, we could fly. But it's pretty pricey to fly the three of us, especially now that Milo needs a seat of his own. And we wouldn't get to see other family along the way.

Traveling with a 2-year-old is always an adventure, but thank goodness for clean rest stops and safe roads.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 22

I am grateful for my dad. I know I don't always appreciate him. And we don't always see eye to eye. But he's my dad and he worked hard to earn money to raise four kids. And we four kids turned out OK. We all have great kids ourselves so we must have learned something from him.

Daddy's girl

He had a stroke several years ago. I think it changed him in inexplicable ways. I often forget what it was like before. I do remember we had a pretty good childhood -- with both parents around. It was a pretty traditional - "normal" - family life. And for that, I'm grateful.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 21

I am grateful for today's snow. Yes, really. I'm sure in a few months, I'll be complaining that I'm sick of winter, the cold and the snow. But today, I'm thankful for the snow. Our area really needs the moisture. And, besides that, it's awful purdy.

It can totally go away by tomorrow though so we can drive to see my family.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 20

I am thankful for the ease of my life. I may complain a lot but I know I have it pretty good. I live in a country that doesn't imprison or kill people for their race or religion. I personally haven't had to endure a major storm or other catastrophe (knock wood). I have good health -- for the most part. I have a healthy child. The S.O. has a good paying job, and we have a good relationship.

Sometimes I forget how good I have it. I'm not saying people should never complain -- you can't just bottle everything up and be a Pollyanna. But counting our blessings is a good exercise. We all have things -- big and small -- for which to be grateful.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 19

Today, I am grateful for family movies that aren't awful. I know I will watch many terrible kids' and family movies over the course of Milo's childhood. So, I am extremely grateful for the likes of "Monsters University."  Which we watched over the weekend and all thoroughly enjoyed -- with the exception of one scene that proved a little too scary for a 2 1/2-year-old.

Up until recently, the S.O. and I have been able to pick out the shows and movies we watch with Milo. Lately, the boy has been insisting on certain TV shows -- some much better than others. At least with the TV shows, they last 20 minutes or so. Movies can go on and on. I am grateful for the ones that try to entertain kids and parents alike. I am grateful for the ones that don't rely solely on poop jokes and the ones that assume kids and parents are somewhat intelligent even if they don't always share the same tastes.

There are certainly worse things in the world than bad movies, but a good movie is one of life's true pleasures.

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 18

I am grateful for my gym and the time to go there.

I hurt my back at the very beginning of summer. It's been a long, slow recovery, and I still have to be careful of how much I do and how I do it. I have been getting to the gym about four or five days a week. It's great to feel almost normal again but I miss the classes I was taking. Still, I am grateful that I am able to work out at all. I'm glad I wasn't hurt so badly that I'm still laid up. I've been getting stronger and am starting to feel more like my pre-back-injury self.

The last few months have been stressful for several reasons. Having the gym to escape to has been wonderful. Milo gets time with friends. I get time to myself. And I've even made some gym friends at my aqua Zumba class.

I don't know if I'll ever get back to the fitness level I was before Milo came along but I sure appreciate the opportunity to try.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 17

I am thankful for easy Sunday mornings. I am grateful for a significant other who will let me sleep in while he takes care of our son. I am grateful for that same guy cooking us breakfast and cleaning up the mess. I am truly grateful for a break. I love my son more than words can say but it's so nice to get some time to myself.

My adorable little handful.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 16

I am grateful that I get to spend Thanksgiving with my family in Illinois. It's been more than a year since I've seen most of my family back "home." My lovely niece was out here to visit this summer. And I got to go back to see my nephew graduate from high school last May. That was the last time I saw two of my brothers and their families. And it's been longer than that since I saw my brother who lives in Michigan. We haven't seen him and his family since Thanksgiving two years ago. We need to remedy that.

I don't think Milo really remembers his aunts and uncles because he said, "I can't see Uncle Jim. He's mad at me." What's that about?

It's been too long since we've spent time with my side of the family. I'm thankful we get to see them soon. They are all going to get big ol' bear hugs.

"I'm strong!"

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 15

I am grateful for many things we don't often think about. It's easy to take conveniences for granted, but today, I am thankful for grocery stores. I'm especially thankful for pre-cooked meals at the grocery store. The leftovers I planned to cook last night turned into a disaster. I guess some things are not meant to be refrigerated and reheated. Never mind what it was supposed to be, it came out a gloppy mess.

The S.O. ran to the store and bought chicken and mashed potatoes from the deli area at the grocery store. We added a vegetable, and dinner was ready in a few minutes with no tears (well, just a few).

I am really thankful I don't have to grow my own food and butcher my own meat. I could if I had to but I am so glad I don't have to.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 14

I am grateful for our public library system.

I have loved books my entire life. I am trying to instill a love of book in Milo too. It seems to be working. The library is such a big part of that task because it would be silly to buy every book we read to the boy. Some of the books we check out are big hits -- big enough that we do end up buying him the book. Some are huge flops and only get read once before being returned. We have discovered new authors and rediscovered books that the S.O. and I loved as kids. We have learned that Milo especially likes books about dinosaurs, aliens, robots and any kind of transportation. (He's such a boy!)

Without the library, we would probably be stuck reading the same books over and over and over. I think even a 2-year-old gets tired of hearing how a dinosaur loves his dog after a while. Or, we would have invested a small fortune in buying books -- many that would just collect dust. The same goes for the S.O. and me. We check out at least a couple books each every month, some enjoyed, some returned unread.

We often take the library for granted but I really am grateful for it.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 13

I am grateful for the people who are helping me raise my son. No, not my family members -- although I am extremely grateful for them -- but the people outside my family who help out all the time. Mainly, I'm talking about the people at The Little Gym (especially Lisa, Valerie and Caitlin) and VillaKids, the kids' club at my gym.

We've been going since Milo was a wee babe, and the folks at these two gyms have helped so much in his development, both socially and physically.

The Little Gym has given both Milo and me a place to make friends and burn off energy. It's also taught Milo how to follow directions and work and play with other kids.

Milo accepts a medal on "show day" at The Little Gym

VillaKids gives me time to work out and recharge while giving Milo a place to play without Mommy hovering over him. They also teach songs and games and give him a chance to socialize with other kids -- again, without Mommy supervision. One of the best parts is that the folks at VillaKids continually tell me how well behaved Milo is. Something I don't always see.

I'm pretty sure The Little Gym and VillaKids have helped me be a better mom -- and allowed Milo and I time away from each other so our time together can be more relaxed.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 12

I am grateful for my friends.

Some of my friends I have had for a very long time. We may not see each other all that often -- hardly at all, in some cases -- but when we see each other or chat, it's just like old times.

Then I have some of my friends I've known just a short time. Still, sometimes it feels like we've know each other forever. It's great to make a new friend who really gets you -- or at least let's you be yourself around her.

I count myself extremely lucky to have a handful of friends who feel like family -- people who know they can call or text any time and I'll be there for them because I love them that much. While I am most grateful for those friends, I am thankful for all the folks in my life I call friends.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 11

Today is Veterans Day. I am grateful for people who have served in the military and for those who are currently serving.

My dad was in the Air Force long before I was born so I have no idea what it's like to grow up in a military family. But I have friends and extended family who do. I remember hearing about my cousins who lived in Germany. They probably weren't there all that long but it seemed like I never saw them until they were grown up. I have friends who spend long months away from their spouses and children in service to our county. I know plenty of people who have made big sacrifices to be in the Army and Air Force -- or to be married to people serving. I am grateful for them because I don't know if I could make the same sacrifices they do. And until the people of the world can figure out how to get along and stop blowing each other up, some of us will have to make sacrifices and fight for our country.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 10

I am grateful to have had the mom I had. I miss her constantly and wish she could have met Milo. I wish Milo could have known her the way my nieces and nephews did. Still, I'm grateful for the time I had with her. I am grateful for the things she taught me about being a mom. I am grateful for the things I learned just from knowing her and watching her. I am grateful for the how she raised my brothers and me -- the values she instilled in us. I am grateful I had her as a role model for the kind of mom I want to be.

Mom and the S.O. on my 40-something birthday

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 9

I am grateful for people who work in retail who go above and beyond the call of duty in the name of customer service.

Today, Milo kicked off a shoe in Costco. Of course we didn't notice until we'd walked a ways. We looked all over for the shoe (this would be the second shoe we lost at Costco in the past two months) to no avail. I stopped a random employee and asked where to go about a lost shoe. She pointed me to membership services, noting it probably wouldn't be there yet.

I would have been so sad to lose these.

We set about finishing our shopping, without much hope of finding our lost shoe. Just as we were about to check out. The employee who had pointed me to membership services chased us down with Milo's shoe in her hand. I had to give her a hug. It didn't take much for her to find the shoe, but it sure meant a lot to us. Maybe she sees it as her job. I see it as an extra step and an act of kindness -- especially on a day when things were looking a little bleak.

So, today, I am thankful for that Costco employee and other people who make shopping a pleasure instead of a dreaded chore.

Friday, November 8, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 8

I am grateful for furry friends. My dog, Ripley, has been a family member for more than 10 years now. She's getting along in years but she still wants to get involved in play time. She just doesn't have the stamina to keep up for long. She can be irritating but I love my old doggy. She been there through a lot of ups and downs.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 7

I am grateful for my son, Milo. The so-called specialists told us I was too old to have a baby without IVF or some other medical intervention. Apparently, this boy was bound and determined to be a part of our lives.

He can be a challenge sometimes. The time change has been especially challenging. And lately, he has decided to only eat cereal, bread, pickles and peanut butter. He can try my patience some days. And he often has way too much energy for this 40-something mom. But he is a joy to me and does something every single day that makes me so thankful to have him.

When I was younger, I wasn't sure I wanted to be a mom. But now that I am one, I'm so grateful that I get to be Milo's mom.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 6

I am grateful for my brothers. I'm sure there were times, growing up, when I wished I were an only child. It wasn't always easy growing up with three older brothers and no sisters. I didn't make it any easier on myself by insisting on being a tomboy. I always wanted to play with the big boys but was often too small and/or too young to keep up (or avoid getting hurt).

Me and the boys

I learned a lot from my brothers. Most of what I know about sports, I learned from watching them play. From peewee football and baseball through high school, I was pretty much watching them play sports from the day I was born. I learned but I could never really compete with how good they were. And I never really learned to love sports as they did/do. But I appreciate the knowledge I gained.

Sure, they teased and tormented but they also protected me. They made me laugh a lot more often than they made me cry. Miles separate us physically now, but I think we're all pretty close. And they're all pretty good guys. For brothers.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 5

I am grateful for the S.O. I may not always show my appreciation, but I am so thankful to have him in my life. He is a good father and provider. He does a lot for others. And he can make me laugh -- even when I don't want to. I love him.

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 4

Today, I have to express gratitude for my "sisters" -- the women who chose my brothers as their husbands (technically or not). Two of them have been family for a very long time and one more recently, but they have all made quite an impact on my life.

The two who have been in the family for a long time blessed us with one of my wonderful nieces and two of my wonderful nephews. The other "sister" brought my third brother much deserved love and happiness.

When I was little, I wanted a sister. As a teenager, I was glad I didn't have a sister because my friends and their sisters all seemed to hate each other and fight all the time. Sure, I fought with my brothers sometimes, but never over clothes or boys. When my brothers got married, I gained sisters. I can't imagine my life without them. And I can't imagine how my brothers would have turned out without their good influence.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 3

I am grateful for the young people in my life: my nieces and nephews, and my own little guy.

My nieces and nephews are all almost grown now. The youngest of them is nearly 18 years old. They have been a source of joy to me for their entire lives. It's because of them I finally decided I needed to become a mom myself.

Milo meets his boy cousins, Thanksgiving 2011

I missed out on a lot of day-to-day things in their lives, due to the miles between us. Whenever I get to see them and spend time with them, I experience firsthand what great kids they are. I've been lucky enough to spend extra time with one of my nieces and cherish that time so much.

The way my brothers and sisters-in-law raised these young men and women will be an inspiration for me as I raise my own baby. Even as my nieces and nephews move into their adult lives, they will remain little girls and boyss in my heart. Our relationships will change, but my love for them never will.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 2

I am grateful for so many modern conveniences, including hot and cold running water, electric heat, washing machines, smart phones and the internet. Without those last two it would be so much harder for me to keep in touch (or reconnect) with family and friends spread across the country.

With my smart phone, I'm able to text pictures and send messages to family and friends without having to wait days for a reply. With the internet, I'm able to post to Facebook or my blog and keep everyone up to date on Milo's progress and other things going on in our lives without having to write and send dozens of letters.

Some may argue that smart phones have made us less connected. It's true sometimes we're more likely to bury our faces in our phones instead of talking to those people standing right in front of us. I'm still grateful for mine and others' smart phones. Without them, I might not be able to keep in touch with so many people I love and miss.

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Month of Gratitude

Halloween's behind us, and regardless of what the stores and television would have us believe, Christmas is still almost two months away. I won't go on about how commercialized Christmas has become. Charlie Brown bemoaned that fact 48 years ago, so it's not a new thing. And never mind that some retailers are starting "Black Friday" on Thanksgiving ("We're so thankful for all we have, we need to rush out and buy more!").

But I do think we sometimes forget Thanksgiving comes first, and it's kind of a big deal of a holiday. I firmly believe we should count our blessings daily. Sometimes we forget though, and a holiday all about being thankful for what we have is a good reminder.

In that spirit, I plan to fill my blog with a month of gratitude.

Today, I am expressing my thanks for the people in my life that make me feel needed and useful. They keep me grounded. I know I am loved.