30 Days of Thankful: The Finish Line and Finding Love

Wowza, folks, 30 posts on being Thankful. (I think, maybe I should double check that. Yep, this is post 30.) Here I am at the finish line of my challenge, and I’m super grateful I put myself through this exercise. I wont lie, I had a panic attach just this morning, but they are fewer and the length between each attack is longer. I believe it is because I set about to start seeing the good in each day (even if I didn’t necessarily write it down), and I began to find the funny, the wonder, the magic, in many of the parts of my life.

The person who helps me find the good in life the most is Chris. One year ago today I picked up my phone while I was lying on my friend’s couch in Chicago, and started sending out mass texts to friends wishing them a Happy New Year. I have this thing, that when I wake up, I’m awake. Especially if cats are trying to sleep on my head and it’s a holiday and I could be sleeping in. So, while my friends slept, I texted. As I was going through the contacts in my phone I found Chris N. and for the life of me I could not figure out who it was. I checked back through old text messages and realized it was my brother-in-law’s friend that I had met in November when I helped my family move to Texas. I shrugged my shoulders and sent him a greeting as well.

And that was the beginning and the end of so many things. The beginning of sustained happiness and joy, the end of loneliness. The beginning of love and hope, the end of trying to make all things happen on my own. We texted, soon we were talking on the phone, and three months later Chris came to visit me and that was another beginning.

Chris is my favorite person in the world. I tell him that every day. Sometimes to remind myself, to not take for granted the wonderful person his is. How he is always taking care of me, emotionally, sometimes physically. Like the time I fell to my knees throwing my arms over my head because I thought we were being bombed. I maybe had a bit too much to drink, and perhaps had taken to heart subconsciously all the worries of his aunt about the nearby naval base. Chris turned to his cousin who had popped out of a doorway, on purpose to scare me, and said, “I just got her standing!”

But he picked me up again, set me on my course, and watched, a bit anxiously, as I literally had to hold my mouth shut with my hand in between sips of water, so I wouldn’t say anything I shouldn’t outside on the veranda talking with his relatives.

One evening I came home to him sitting in the rocking chair, his knees spread out, his cap with horns on his head looking smug and for all the world a viking. With the medals around his neck swinging, he pointed to the left and, after some bouts of laughter, I looked at saw a print of The Butler, matted, framed, and mounted on the wall. I lost my first print of that particular painting moving to Texas, and bemoaned the loss of the centerpiece of my living room decorations. Forgoing his own desire of another, print and frame, he bought the one that he knew would make me happy.

I’m thankful for Chris because he makes me happy by being himself. He is goofy, thoughtful, and he can reach things off the top of the grocery shelf. I’m thankful he is mine and I am his and he will string up holiday lights even though he hates Christmas. I love him very much and I’m looking forward to knowing him another year in 2014

Happy New Years everyone!!!

chris and i 2

30 Days of Thankful: My Best Friend Sara

The first day I met Sara was at a tea party at the library for the very popular American Girl Dolls. I went dressed as Felicity, my favorite doll I didn’t have the money to own. Sara came with her own Felicity doll. We sized each others bounty and were appropriately jealous 11 year olds.

Soon after we met again at a home school soccer team and became fast friends. I’ve helped Sara’s family decorate their Christmas tree, milked their goats while they went on vacation, and one spring break made 7 lbs of fudge, which never set, so we sat around eating it from spoons. We consumed the entire batch in 7 days.

I haven’t been able to eat fudge since.

Sara is amazing. I can call her in hysterics at midnight after finding out the bookstore that shall not be named is going out of business and she calms me down, assures me we can handle anything, and comes up with a game plan for the next few days. She rides a motorcycle, choreographs fights for plays, and gives the best hugs.

I’m thankful for Sara because she always knows how to say the right thing, she loves unconditionally, and she gives of herself to the people in her life. She is amazing

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30 Days of Thankful: Books and The Ones I Loved in 2013

As you have probably guessed by now, I’m trying to catch up on my 30 Days of Thankful Challenge. There is a reason, and you will see why tomorrow. So, you get four posts from me today! Woot. Aren’t you lucky? 🙂

I always do an end of the year, here are my favorite books go back and read my links so I get better stats post, so I’m doing a two-fer here and posting a think I’m thankful for and following tradition. ‘Cause I’m awesome like that. Also, everyone else is posting their favorite books and I have to jump on the bandwagon now, cause I’m good at that. Some times. Ok, like every once in a while.

Hoo, boy this is difficult. I read a lot of books in 2013 and a lot of really good books in 2013 and some I haven’t even gotten around to reviewing yet. Here are my favorites.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (click on the link to read my full review)

Summary: Code Name Verity is a historical fictitious tale, Wein writes the struggles of two friends as they help their country in a time of need. The story is written from both girls’ perspectives, and I guess it could also be termed an epistolary tale, as it is told from the letters one girl writes and the reports another girl writes.

Why I loved it: I liked the period that it was set in and the way the story unfolds. There are a lot of twists and turns I didn’t see coming. I especially love the relationship between the two girls, their friendship is inspiring and amazing. Wein’s writing is excellent and makes the amazing (could be true, but wasn’t) tale all that much better.

Cinder by Melissa Meyer (click on the link to read my full review)

Summary: Cinder is a fairy tale retelling of the classic Cinderella story, but this one has cyborgs, plagues, and a Moon Queen who threatens the Earth’s existence!!!

Why I loved it: This book has all sorts of elements that I absolutely adore. It had cool sci/fi centered around androids and cyborgs, a dystopian future because of a plague, and a really cool take on retelling fairy tales. Meyers takes all of these elements and brings them into a cohesive story that has heart, great character development, and interesting relationships. I read the second book immediately, and I greatly anticipate the third book in the series, Cress, when it is expected to be published in February 2014 (there is a count down on the author’s page).

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (click on the link to read my full review)

Summary: When Richard Mayhew stops one day to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London pavement, his life is forever altered, for he finds himself propelled into an alternative reality that exists in a subterranean labyrinth of sewer canals and abandoned subway stations. He has fallen through the cracks of reality and has landed somewhere different, somewhere that is Neverwhere. Blurb from GoodReads

Why I loved it: Honestly, this is when I fell in love with Neil Gaiman, and then I discovered his wife Amanda Palmer and they became my favorite people that I’ll never know in real life of 2013. Gaiman has an amazing way with words and story telling, that I even got my hands on a copy of his comic book series The Sandman. And long time readers know how much I hate to read graphic novels. This was also the year I started really listening to audio books and I enjoyed listening to Gaiman read his own creation.

Gaiman has an excellent speaking voice, is a good voice actor, and  hearing the story from the author was one of the best parts of this audiobook. The minute I started listening to Neverwhere I was entranced.  I also like how Gaiman writes stories that discuss greater human themes in subtle and engaging ways. He does this without preaching, he does it with out pointing it out, he just makes his comments about society fall at the right moment from the right person.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (click on the link to read my full review)

Summary: The Raven Boys follows the story of Blue and four boys from a local prep school set in the Virginia nowhere. Blue, daughter to a psychic, goes with her “aunt” to the corpse road on St. Marks Eve as amplifier for her psychic aunt who sits on a wall drawing a strange symbol waiting for the soon to be dead people to walk down the path. Every St. Marks Eve those people who will be dead within the next year appear as ghosts traveling the corpse road and Blue’s family takes down names to tell clients if they are soon to die. Blue never sees any of them herself, merely an energy amp, she is tasked with writing down the names and waits for her aunt to be finished. But this fateful St. Marks Eve (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) she sees a ghost, a boy who calls himself Gansey. No less shocked her aunt tells her “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

Why I loved it: I know a lot of people had some difficulty with this book, even devoted Stiefvater fans. But I loved it. It was dark and startling and unsettling. If felt like and unfinished tale, a beginning, and it is. I don’t mind the first book in a series, being a bit raw, I think it was done on purpose. Once again, Stiefvater is a masterful storyteller, pulling pieces of the story from each of the five characters. The magic of the book is just as entrancing as the story itself, and I have high expectations for the finished product (supposedly there will be four books).

30 Days of Thankful: Sabrina and Silly Faces

My sister Sabrina is the person who I have the most silly faces pictures with. She is always up for adventure and enjoys life to the fullest. She has a great attitude and a ready word of encouragement for the people in her life.

Sabrina is a midwife and has lived in Haiti working with a medical team. She was my traveling companion to Israel in 2005 when we went with our parents and everyone thought she was our interpreter because she learned enough of the language to ask questions and she wasn’t afraid try to talk to people. She is courageous and brave and I’m thankful she’s my sister.

Here is a picture of us outside one of the places we stayed in Israel.

sabrina and i in israel

30 Days of Thankful: Laughter, Listening, and Lucas

My brother Lucas is amazing. He is both strong and vulnerable. Able to talk about anything when he wants. He hears everything. And he’ll reply to it. Even if it’s under his breath at the supper table and your listening to his comments and you can’t laugh because he’s making fun of the honored guest, your grandfather.

Once when we were much younger, oh like I was in my early teens and Lucas was maybe 11, we discovered that our grandparents car had a backseat that you could lay down from inside the car. This discovery happened while we were driving with them, and an idea was hatched. Somehow it was transmuted from brain to brain, or maybe Lucas whispered in my ear, the memory is a little vague, but I sat forward in the car in between my grandparents front seats almost, to block their view, and distract them. I jabbered on for a good few minutes while Lucas climbed into the trunk and Megan rearranged his jacket as though he was sleeping in the backseat.

My poor grandfather, I’m a bit surprised now that he didn’t have a heart attack when he opened the trunk and up popped Lucas among the groceries. But my grandfather also loved a good joke, and it’s hard to stay mad at Lucas when he’s grinning up at you, or down at you as the case is now that he’s not 11 and stands about 6 foot tall, so my grandfather broke into laughter as did my grandmother after exclaiming, “Oh, goodness.”

I’m thankful for Lucas because he inevitably brings laughter into my life. And while he may joke around and sometimes make fun of people, he has a way of doing it so that the person who is being punk’d ends up joining in the laughter too. I think it is because Lucas is always listening, to what people say, to what they don’t say, he hears it all. And then he says the one thing that makes it all make sense, and funny at the same time.

lucas1

30 Days of Thankful: Kitchen Cabinets, Friends (the TV Show), and My Sister Melissa

Well, I’ve complete 24 posts in my 30 Days of Thankful. They weren’t daily posts, like I had wanted to do when I first started this project, but I think 24 posts and counting where I discuss what I’m thankful for, is still pretty amazing. Especially when I think back to why I started this exercise, to avoid a mental breakdown and get out of some bad thinking habits. And that has been a huge success.

I still have my down days. I still have days where my bed is easier to deal with than the to-do list sitting, mocking me, on my dining room table. But I have begun a good process of thinking about what the day brought for which I am thankful, even if I didn’t always write it down here on my blog. And that, is a good thing, and a worthwhile thing, even if I beat myself up everyday that I didn’t write it down on the blog, and then I have to start all over my good thinking process.

Counting this post I have six things to write about that I’m thankful for, and I’ve been meaning to write up about each of my siblings, my friends, and my fiance. I have four more siblings to write about so that takes me to the end of my 30 days and then I’ll go back to reviewing books and movies and posting odd things I’ve found on the internet.

Today I’m thankful for my sister Melissa. Melissa is quirky, complicated, an she always tries to do more than she should. She gives to the people around her, she takes care of everyone in her life, even to the point where she burns out. She reminds me to keep on going, because helping people is what brings joy.

Melissa makes me laugh. She can beat me at Dutch Blitz, which is not easy to do, and she loves to make home made eggrolls, which I love to eat. (Occasionally, I’ll help make them too. Darn things take forever to make! Soooo, worth it.) She’s the big ideas man, and I’m the do the details man, and we make a great team. Each of us has our strengths and we appreciate the other person’s part on the team.

One of my favorite memories, and which shows the typical way in which we work together, Melissa decided to deep clean the kitchen when we were teenagers. She comes up with random things like that. When she pulled the stove away from the wall to get behind it, she noticed that the floor under the stove was a completely different color from the floor that was getting used. In fact, she turned to me and said, “It looks like somebody peed all over the floor.” And indeed it did. This was due to the fact that the previous renters had been smokers. So, yay, nicotine stains.

So she decided to take up the entire floor. You know that scene in friends, where Joey points out to Monica that the floor is discolored, and goes to take up a part of it, and discovers that it is all glued down tile? Yah, that is exactly what happened next. The tile was all glued down. Well, except the few pieces Melissa had pulled up.

Then, without finish the first project, Melissa got another idea. She would redo the entire kitchen in 48 hours. Which meant of course that she had to go to Lowes and I got to be the person left behind who spent hours on her hands and knees finishing removing the tile from the floor.

In the end it was worth it. We repainted the cabinets, wall papered the top half, painted the fake wood panels, put in a chair trim, and in 48 hours transformed out kitchen. It was pretty amazing. That’s the wonderful thing about Melissa, she has amazing ideas, and when executed, despite my grumbling, I’m always very happy with the finished product and thankful Melissa is my sister.

30 Days of Thankful: My Job

When I lived in Chicago, I was often working two or three jobs at a time. I’ve done this all my life. It’s about impossible to live on one income anymore. I went to law school to alleviate that problem, but that just placed me in a whole lot of debt, kicked me out when the economy tanked, and for the past five years I’ve been barely making above minimum wage, told I should be grateful, and eeking out a living by never being home.

I’m still waiting for that gravy train to show, but one thing I’m thankful for is the job that I do have. I work for a clothing company, and you would think that it would be full of materialistic whiny people, and there are days when that happens, but I’ve found that BY FAR the customers are much nicer, more polite, and less materialistic than the customers that showed up at the book store I worked that went out of business. And for some reason, the clothing store people can read a lot better than the book store people. Go figure.

I’m also thankful, that over the years and the many jobs, I’ve worked with some really awesome people. People who became friends and remain friends. People who care about me as a person and not just a worker. Management who wants my well being for myself and not just to make them money. I feel blessed that, even though I’m not where I want to be career wise, I’m right where I want to be people wise.

30 Days of Thankful: Evenings at the Park

Yesterday as the sun still shone in the west, right before it was about to set, and dinner was still a decision and not in the making, I headed to the nearby park with my fiance, my sister, my brother-in-law married to my other sister, and all of my nieces.

We spent time playing sailors and sharks until the three year old’s imagination became too vivid and she was nearly crying that she didn’t wan’t to play that game anymore. The other two were shrieking in laughter as my sister “chomped” at their feet with her hands.

Then we all took turns showing off our gymnastic stunts. To the surprise of my brother-in-law my sister and I could still do cartwheels and rounds offs and I even worked on my back walk over and front handspring, the soft muddy grass giving some and working as the perfect gymnastics mat. I explained that muscle memory is the only way I’m able to still “perform” such acts, that getting kids into dance class or gymnastics is really a great thing because then they can do party tricks years later and impress random people at house warming parties.

My fiance tried a cartwheel for the first time, based on his observations of my sister and I. Somehow he put a front handspring, round off, and cartwheel together and I was afraid he would hurt himself, but there is no way I’m spotting a 6’3″ man as he’s running around flinging himself at the ground with his sneakers still on. (Thankfully, he managed to land somewhat on his feet.) The next morning my sister woke up complaining that she was too old for such stunts and had twisted her knee. I’m allowed to deign from feeling pity for her because I’m 18 months older, I did more tricks than she, and I’m not even a bit sore today.

Yoga people. Gymnastics when you are young. Party tricks in your twenties. And then yoga.

But by far my favorite thing we did yesterday at the park was swinging. I sat there watching my feet touch the clouds and I remembered how my aunt taught me how to swing when I was about three years old. We were at the old park near my grandmother’s house in her one stop light village (it didn’t even rate as a town) where the teeter totters were made of wood and painted green. The same green as everyone’s trim on that street and I always just assumed it was left over from when the neighborhood paint person went down the street with a paint brush and unified the block. My aunt has colon cancer now, stage four, so my thoughts of her are bitter sweet, because she can’t swing anymore. I sat there swinging for her, just a little bit longer.

Chris and I swinging

30 Days of Thankful: My Sister Megan

I’m thankful for the indomitable spirit of my sister Megan. My move to Texas would not have been possible without her. She has housed me, fed me, and most importantly made me laugh when I wanted to cry. She has been the voice of reason, the voice of maniacal laughter, and the voice of insanity.

Megan has called dozens of apartment people pretending to be me and asking questions I didn’t know to ask. She amazes me with her ability to be a full time mother while going back to school and working 30 hours a week. Some times I look at her and I’m exhausted by all she’s done and she’s just standing there smirking because of the temporary tattoo of a mustache on her finger that she holds up to her lip while saying, “Hmmm?”

megan with mustache

30 Days of Thankful: Macaroni and Cheese

Today was kind of a mess. The allergens here in Texas are different from Chicago, and I’ve been reacting differently. Actually, I thought I was coming down with something yesterday when I was seeing blurry, had a headache, and my throat was sore. 

I slept fitfully and woke up feeling not much better. After downing a bowl of cereal my fiance and I left to run some errand which went for so long that I didn’t get lunch. I finally got off of work at 6:30 pm and more errands were run and no food consumed. I got cranky. 

Which I will admit isn’t pretty. I was whining and not wanting to run any more errands. But my man leaves at 5 tomorrow morning and I wont get home until 9:30 at night. Which means in spite of my hunger I didn’t want to go back to the house before him. That’s when I remembered a granola bar in my purse and while searching around for it found an apple that was left in there. It was kind of like Meg Ryan’s purse on One Fine Day, only I forgot what was in there and she looked cute in a boy’s dinosaur shirt. 

When we finally got home I went straight to the pantry and cooked up a box of Annie’s Mac & Cheese. 

Today, I’m thankful for Mac & Cheese.