Sunday, June 19, 2016

52ish Weeks of Gratitude: Where I Live

I got hung up on this one and tried crafting this elaborate retelling of the time Miki almost got run out of town by some passionate Rocky fans. Then I got wrapped up with work and traveling and then I got not-bronchitis/pneumonia but was sick for pretty much ever/4 weeks or so. And then every time I came back to that draft, I just couldn't recapture the spirit I was initially going for.

It's busy season for me at work with the ending of one 200+ employee program and the start of another 100+ employee program, quickly followed by the hiring process for a new year of the 200+ employee program The good thing is we have a lot of employees - teens and adults - that return year after year, so the sheer number of total employees isn't as bad as it seems. The paperwork, however...

This evening, as we finished up a magnificent dinner - pork loin, grill wok'ed sugar snaps, and roasted red potatoes and turnips - I sat down to work on my current quilt in progress and noticed the neighbor across from the dining room had a friend over.

I'm sorry to say that we don't remember this guy's name, he's the son that struck out on his own and found some level of success. Dad died some time ago, and the sister and another brother and the mother all lived together for half a decade or so. Mom died in the last year, and the house was vacant for a few months until the successful son moved back. He figured it was rent-free, a connection to his youth and his parents.

We know enough about the family - among some of the early residents on the block, old timers, know or knew everyone in the 'hood at one point. The dad - Don - would spend any temperate afternoon sitting on his porch, watching the traffic and passersby. Miki and I would saunter over to his porch once a week or so and catch up on any valuable neighborhood gossip. Don was one of the first people to alert us to who was leaving their dog's shit in our yard and in return, I happened to be home playing with a new digital camera the day contractors were doing work on their immediate neighbors place and damaged Don's retaining wall (those photos won the court case!).

After Don died and some of the kids moved back in, we kept our distance, and the 50 feet that separated our houses became more like a mile or 5 or 500. We'd exchange waves and basic neighborly salutation. We'd send a holiday card across the street via the post office every year, and get one in return.


As I was getting ready to continue on this current quilt, I saw the neighbor and his friend across the street. Here are two men of a certain age, that have clearly grown up in this neighborhood, and probably went to elementary school together, took joyrides in an older brother's car, contemplated joining the service together, and shared more than one or two beers at the local bar.

The friend, I'll call him Wayne, lives just a block from us. We know him - know his truck, know that he has a bad back, know that he lives next to a guy that may or may not be more than mildly racist... We've both seen Wayne taking his evening, limp-laden stroll around the block. Wayne's always been among the first to move his vehicle when a snow emergency has been declared, and he one time showed up on our porch with an empty porch and a shipping label for a stolen side view mirror for the VW.

What I am most grateful about where I live is the fact that it is a caring neighborhood. There are friends at every corner, whether we know them or not. And we might not hang out weekly or monthly or yearly, but so many of us can easily pick up where we've left off.

Watching Don's son and Wayne chatting on the porch this evening was heartwarming in a way that I don't think I would have been able to appreciate 18 months ago. I've been following some websites or Facebook pages for various neighborhood interests that end up being quickly steeped in nothing but negativity. As with anything, it's easy to focus on just that and lose sight of what really makes up a neighborhood. The loudest - or most prolific website commenters in this case - only represent but so much of where I live. The genuine evidence of friendship that I witnessed this evening? That's what makes me grateful for where I live.

Friday, February 19, 2016

52 Weeks of Gratitude: Gifts

As expected, I'm playing a little bit of catch up. But, rather than focus on missing "scheduled" posts, I'm just gonna make it happen when I can.

Week 5 is "Something someone gave you". When I printed out the original list (which I keep on a wall at work as a way to keep thinking about gratitude throughout the day), there were more than a few weeks that stuck out as impossible. This was one of them because I initially added the notion of this being about the best material thing someone has given me. But that's not at all what the prompt says.

I've had more than 5 weeks to think about this, and I keep coming up with no one thing, but rather lots of little things. I am rich with stuff.

Here's a list of 10 things someone has given me. It's not in any order; no one is more important than another.

1. Time - whether it was an impromptu lunch date or a sewing lesson over wine.
2. Money - for my birthday last year, several people donated money they might have put towards a gift instead to a fundraising effort that was near and dear.
3. Second chances - the biggest giver of this one is Miki. I cannot imagine where I'd be now if he hadn't given me a second chance way back in January 1994. True love for sure.
4. Trust - I value that so many friends, family members, and coworkers trust me with their worries, concerns, and even secrets.
5. Tiny vessels with lids - don't ask, but I just love a little lidded trinket box. I didn't realize how much, though, until Mike brought home from Tanzania a hand-carved box. Perfect for squirreling away bits and pieces!
6. Support - not going to pretend this last year wasn't among the worst. The support from friends and strangers near and far continues to amaze me.
7. Freedom - I am so thankful to be able to do what I want, when I want, with the support of my darling Miki.
8. Companionship - this goes hand-in-glove with freedom. I really have the best partner. We have not yet grown weary of each other (despite my eye rolls over the weekends when he refuses to shower...).
9. Appreciation - More on this in a few short posts...
10. Ponies - OK, so I don't actually have a pony, BUT I can dream.

Surprisingly, not a lot of material things on that list. Guess I'm even richer than I thought.

Monday, February 08, 2016

52 Weeks of Gratitude: Mom

It's hard picking just one family member for this post, but without mom, there wouldn't really be anyone else to select, you know? And I could list all these mushy attributes, like, I'm grateful for mom because she brought me into this world, or I'm grateful because she hasn't taken me out of this world. Or, I'm grateful for mom because she's always been my biggest fan/cheerleader/support.

That's all true, for sure. But the real reason I'm grateful for mom is because she is just simply the best at what she does. Need a laugh? This ding dong has it. From making up her own language to arguing with her GPS for all 6 hours it takes to drive from Philly to Boston, it's hard to think of a time when we've gotten together and NOT had it end in laughter and tears.

Love you, mean it, Momma!!!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

52 Weeks of Gratitude: Family

As a kid, family was pretty cut and dry. Mom, dad, sister, brother, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, and the occasional family friends we were told to refer to as aunt or uncle. I grew up knowing that family was blood, who you were born to, and who gave birth to you.

I'm grateful for this version of family, for sure. Maybe 22 years ago, I had different feelings, but who among us wasn't different then?

When we moved to Philadelphia in 1998, we didn't know anyone aside from Miki's coworkers and one or two of my classmates. All of our friends and family were home, and we were away. The internet changed that, though. Early on, I haunted some forum or another for Tori Amos (OMG, I was going to love her forever) (I somehow haven't purchased any of her albums since Pele), and by virtue of following link after link, I found various webpages and weblogs, and found quasi-invisible friends. For a self-identifed shy girl (yes, I think of myself as shy, but maybe what I really mean is unconfident?), this was a fantastic way to talk to people without actually talking to people. Win!

But as the internet got faster, and bigger, and also somehow smaller, I started finding real people online that were like me - they shared my interests, or intellect, or sense of humor. I found my tribe.

My idea of family is now so much richer than when I was a kid. I don't think that's necessarily a profound statement, you know?



My life is so rich with friends that I consider family, and I wouldn't even know how to begin listing them all without ending up sounding like an awardee at the Oscars getting cut off as they go on and on remembering 5 more people that mean so much to them.

Also, combing the hard drive and FB for photos of friends and family reminds me that I just don't have enough photos of the people that mean the most to me. I think that needs to change. :-)

Saturday, January 16, 2016

52 Weeks of Gratitude: Miki

Here is a list of just some of the reasons I am grateful for and towards Miki:

He makes me coffee every morning.

He now understands when I counting stitches for knitting, and waits.

He's been a part of my life for just about 25 years.

He does not embarrass easily.

He accepts the craftiness.

He is ungrudgingly open, honest, and generous.

He will give you the shirt off his back. You might not want it, but it's the thought that counts, right?

He always knows the answer to "what do you want to do for dinner?" Delivery.

He is the best kind of horrible person.

He makes it easy to start the day.

He always can put a smile on my face and a spring in my step.

He cleans up pretty well, considering his unofficial title is now Professional Hobo.

Monday, January 04, 2016

52 Weeks of Gratitude: Why?

I think it's far too easy to get hung up on the things that make us feel less than grateful. Instead of focusing on the kindness you might have performed or witnessed, instead you focus on the lack of acknowledgement received. It's comfortable, in a way, to stay the course of not-grateful, forgetting along the way exactly why it is you might have been feeling ungrateful to begin with.

So, why gratitude? Why now?

Why not?

I miss updating this little blog, and the ungrateful me would justify the continued lack of blogging by thinking, "Well, only 1 or 2 or 3 people read this anyway... Why bother?" Sometimes, it's okay to be a little selfish - and I think it's even acceptable to be grateful for those flashes of selfishness. Why did I ever begin trying to create an online presence? For fame? Glory? Or for the satisfaction of expressing my thoughts and sharing ideas not for accolades but simply for the enjoyment of writing? It's completely wonderful if you, my audience, find humor or joy in these posts, but it's truly great if I do. Does that make sense?

This last year has not been the best for me and my circle of friends. And it became easier to NOT share anything - good or bad. But 2015 wasn't a total waste. I actually learned a lot about gratitude. I learned that it's not too late to make new friends. And I found that even as my heart broke watching Miki go through pretty much the worst experience of his life, I was grateful for the experience of being able to be present. To be in the moment, however sad it might have been. There were multiple days that I felt my own heart swell with gratitude - friends being there without invitation, strangers becoming friends, people in the very face of grief opening their arms to those they might not have ever otherwise considered talking to. I found myself again and again feeling more gratitude than not as the year wore on.

Maybe it's part of now being in my 5th decade (math nerds, you'll get it), but suddenly those trivial things that caused me to hold myself up in comparison to everyone and everything just no longer matter. We're all here for a similar reason, it's not a competition. You can have successes and I can not, and that doesn't mean I've lost. Or you've won. The inter-connectivity of gratitude is something that's become more apparent to me especially in this last year. Gratitude for love, life; for self and others.

I hope to explore this topic more over the next 52ish weeks, and I hope to revisit these posts next January and see where I end up. I hope you enjoy the introspective journey!