Thursday, November 14, 2013

An Overdue Thankful List - The complete list is done

Seems the (wonderful, beautiful, sweet, motivating) new trend pre-holidays is to start a

"Thankful List". I did one last year and it made me happier each day to both think about and share the things in my life big and small that make me smile.

Tradition (and by that I mean like the past couple years) has the list created day by day throughout the course of the month of November. Most of my friends have been really committed to their lists and reading their daily thank yous is a wonderful way to start my day. I, however, have been way wrapped up in both politics and project searches to get started. So today, I'll play some catch up. Here goes: (NOTE - I've added the updated days' posts to the bottom of this one as they are published to eventually create a full list on this page).

1. I am grateful for my mother. She is a tough but loving woman that taught me how to do everything for myself so that when I did chose a mate, it would be a commitment of love and not of dependency. She also taught me to approach motherhood with both a sense of duty and a humor, an understanding that the only constant in parenting is guilt, the drive to get over it and the strength to stick with it. She also introduced a passion for cooking that makes the drudgery of domesticity a labor of love and not a burden of parenting. The woman I am is the product of the woman who taught me.

2. I am grateful for my father, the most empathetic, committed man I know. He stands up for the earth, the animals, the people and will work tirelessly on a campaign or a science project because he loves the process of educating others and the satisfaction of a job well done. He taught me what it means to "walk the walk". Also, I am thankful that he coached every sport, even in adulthood and that he still runs me ragged on the tennis court. That's where he teaches me humility.

3. I am grateful for my job. I write about food and yoga and fashion and theater and the environment and fun family stuff. I spend my days immersed in research and analytics and see real returns for my clients because I do work that I love and it shows in my promotions.

4. I am grateful for exercise. I'm one of those people who loves to work out. Whether in the woods, on my mat or at my heavy bag, every moments I'm riding an endorphin high is a moment that I am truly grateful to be alive.

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5. I am grateful for my husband, Ryan. He is 100% my partner and my best friend. A great dad, a helpful mate and a fellow sci fi, outside, food, family and travel enthusiast, he is always up for a museum trip, a all-hands-on-deck school project or an overhaul of a room in need of paint and projects. I got lucky.

6. I am grateful for food. The hearth is the heart of the home and I truly believe that the breaking of bread with people you care about is the ultimate expression of love and community. Since the earliest days of humanity, gathering by the fire meant warmth, security and connectivity. Oral tradition is the earliest form of historical knowledge and stories were shared over meals. Just as sitting at the dinner table is where our sense of family is cultivated and our bonds are strengthened now, so was the kinship of our most ancient ancestors built around a good, hot meal.

7. I am grateful for music. My father and grandfather shared with us girls a love of music and it has filled every moment of my life with a soundtrack. From Gene Pitney to Jerry Garcia, Maceo Parker to Billy Holiday, Dave Grisman to Lauryn Hill, Prince to Rage Against the Machine and all the way to Adele and 311, my life and home has always been filled with music.

8. I'm grateful for my beautiful, talented, artistic, witty, bright, helpful little girl. Being the mother to a daughter, I learned from my own mom, is having a best friend for life. The sound of her singing, the sight of her reading, the joy I witness when bringing her to a mountain top or to a museum or just hearing about what she's learning at school fills my heart in a way that I could never have imagined before her birth. I count my blessings every day.

9. I am grateful for my sisters and for being raised by a coven of sisters. The bond of women in a clan is the most powerful relationship on earth. We speak without words, we know when each other need a call or a hand, we fight like cats and dogs and we laugh till we have belly aches. And God bless the fool that messes with either one of 'em. Because if she doesn't getcha, one of us will.

10. I am grateful for literature. I read something like three or four books a month, always have. I used to try to bring books to parties in high school but my older sister threatened my life for making her look uncool dragging the bookworm along. I come from a family of readers, live in a house of readers, studied towards my masters in literature, and think that the written word is the coolest, most accessible form of travel going. And vampire stories are often less scary than real life.
11. I am grateful for the outdoors. Getting out in the woods with my dog, climbing a mountain with my family or wasting lazy summer days building sandcastles and riding waves is my kind of church. Mostly, I am like a trapped rat if I'm inside too long and so we own all levels of cold weather gear, snow shoes, beach stuff to carry us three 3 square a day and several pairs of hiking and boating shoes.

12. I am grateful for the arts. What better way to experience the history and culture of the times past and present than to see it through the eyes of an artist, an author, or a composer? It is in this way that I investigate the story around the history through the eyes of the people witnessing the events that make up humanity.

13. I am grateful for the ability to do things for myself. I can't build anything, but I can sew, paint, repair, troubleshoot, recondition and reconfigure most things in my home. Being able to make curtains, refinish a yard sale treasure, insulate a window, and make a duvet makes home ownership a pleasure most of the time and it makes me happy to be at home, especially when funds and spirits are low.

14. I am grateful for honesty and integrity. I do not want anything that isn't mine. I wouldn't keep anything I got that meant taking it from other people and I don't keep people who do in my life. I can put my head on my pillow at night knowing I live honestly and hurt no-one intentionally.

15. I am grateful for my sense of humor, it is often the buoy that keeps me afloat. As a person bound to stay happy and to keep other people happy, a good belly laugh is pretty much my reset button when the grime and sludge of drama and misfortune are weighing me down. I have a wicked ability to lmfao when the you know what hits the ole fan. I think that is a major gift.

Plus, that's what makes my writing funny. Mostly I am laughing at myself. I like to think it endearing and authentic.And necessary for the continuation of me and the avoidance of the loony bin.  Because how many people do you know that are reversed magnetized in such a way that THINGS FLY OFF SHELVES when they walk into a nick knack shop? The sound of stuff for sale crashing to the ground is my family's beacon for my whereabouts when we are shopping. If this was your reality, you, too would learn to jump into a simulated acrobatics pose and yell, "TADA" when the shopkeeper raced over to access the expensive and no longer revenue-generating pile of glass surrounding your feet. It's funny, in a tragicomedy kinda way theater folks can appreciate. It lightens the mood because how do you respond to that shit without laughing?

16. I am grateful for coffee. I love coffee. I love the smell of coffee. I love the taste of coffee. I love the sound of coffee. I love the process of making a French press full of coffee. I love talking over  coffee. I love cookies with my coffee. I love reading over coffee. I love the places where coffee is grown. And I think coffee loves me because when I fill my giant "Sunday mug" full of coffee and sip the deliciousness curled up with my book I feel like I'm ingesting magic, and that's got to be some kind of love.

17. I am grateful for travel. Seeing the world, planning a trip, brushing up on my language skills, studying the culture of a place, these are the things that get me through those New England winter blues. I start thinking warm the first time I have to push that button on the thermostat, I plan through out the holidays, with the fam, who are typically my voyage mates and I scramble to get my taxes done as close to the beginning of February as possible because I AM COUNTING ON UNCLE SAM to reciprocate from being gauged all year long in the form of a ticket to St Somewhere. I overpay faithfully, and hopefully, because taxes are my Christmas club for the gift of sand and sun and probably keep me from becoming the Grinch himself in the endless months of WICKED FRIGGIN COLD weather here on the North Shore where "ocean effect" equals - "sleety mess". Don't you be messin' with my palm tree. I'm clinging to it's phantom branches all winter long...

18. I am grateful for my community. This is a beautiful, warm, giving, nice, helpful, supportive, progressive, cultured, cool, beautiful, outdoorsy, open spaced, historical gem of a suburb we live in and although I RAN FAR AND WIDE when I was a TEENAGER WHO KNOWS EVERYTHING I came back here for a spell, met a boy I'd always known and I MARRIED HIM. And then we bolted again, but only for a spell because WE HAD A BABY and I wigged out to get home. Now we beach comb and hike and play tennis and have dinner with the fam and go to Art Haven and Sawyer Free Library and the Cape Ann YMCA and Ravenswood and 100000 other awesome-town places we would TOTALLY MISS if we didn't submit to the magnet that draws us all back here eventually. And now, I"M NEVER LEAVING. (excuse the shouting. I feel very strongly about all this. PS I went to a Rotary Club meeting today, so I feel even more strongly about HOW AWESOME IT IS HERE).

19. I am grateful for puppies. We adopted Maggie Mae this fall after losing our 13 year old Rottweiler Lab Mix, Hunter in June. I cried for a solid 3 months. I cry often still. He was my little dude and his death sucked. A lot. And it hurt. A lot. But Maggie is a bugger of a little smarty pants Lab Border Collie genius who is so different from him (um, she's smart, he was sweet but to quote my dad, "never going to save Timmy from the well"), and she is a wicked snuggle bug and a lady. And she lays in my lap while I write and post and fold laundry which is terribly inconvenient but so very nice.

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20.  I am grateful that I expect so much from myself. The words, "good enough" have never passed from my lips, not in reference to school or work or parenting or cooking or being a good person or being a good community member. In the words of my yoga teacher, Hayley, "there's always somewhere to go". I live life this way - always looking for the next step, the next challenge, the way to do better. It keeps me humble and hungry and happy because I never just settle.

21. I am thankful for fringe benefits. My job and this blog result in free tickets to shows and tours, VIP invites to the openings of stores and restaurants, and lots of free sample clothing, skincare, gourmet food stuffs and spirits. And I get to WRITE about them. What's cooler is that my husband's job which has him traveling the nation results in TONS of hotel points (because Marriott Rewards is the BEST loyalty program ever) and so we stay and play for free, often. I have sipped cocktails with the crew of Hot Tuna with the marketing and film crews from National Geographic and Wicked Tuna, watched Cavalia from the VIP seats and eaten dinner with Chef Jose Duarte of Taranta and his family. I've toured Fenway Park as a guest of F.W. Webb, been invited to the openings of Opus in Salem and O in Cambridge and  John Varvatos's Boston boutique ribbon cutting, toured land and sea with Sweet Shots Secret Spots and seen every show that the North Shore Music Theater since it reopened five years ago. There is nothing more exciting than getting an invite to review an event or a restaurant, and checking in to a free platinum level hotel room to prep for a night of elbow rubbing. This is my favorite, favorite, favorite thing to do ever (PS here are links to a few articles on some of my fun review escapades here):

Tap Dancing Drag Queens and Lessons on Love - La Cage Aux Folles at NSMT

Boats and Bevies and Film Crews Oh My!

I Hung Out with Chef Jose Duarte By Accident

A Bathroom Tale - My Fenway Family Tour By Way of Toilet

Touring With Violet - My FAM Tour with Sweet Shots Secret Spots

22. I am thankful for the four seasons. Living in New England, this could be a one day deal with icy winds in the predawn turning quickly into sunny lunch-hours spent unencumbered by a coat or mittens only to give way to autumn light and breezy evenings and possible snow flakes at dinnertime. I admit I prefer my seasons to take their time, stretching languidly across the calendar year, but the existence of change in the air, the experience of shifting light and blooming trees, of winter sunsets and fall colors keep me loving where I live and always anxious to get outside, with my camera.

be grateful, behavior, outside, family,  fun stuff,trustees, ravenswood, thanksgiving,23. I am grateful for the smell of fresh baked bread. Living in the west end of Gloucester, surrounded by Italian neighbors and Italian bakers, my sense of place includes a heavy aromatic dose of semolina and scali bread in ovens throughout the neighborhood. Semolina and asiago with fresh tomato and basil is the most delicious meal ever, always, any time of the day. Simple, salty, nutty, chewy, sweet and acidic perfection.

24. I am grateful for my girlfriends. My gaggle of girls mean the world to me. Smart, strong,and successful they are my support system when Ryan is on the road, which is about 1/3 of the year. Whether we are sharing a potluck during the kids' basketball practice, a laugh over a drink, a work war story on a rough day or a kvetch sess over somebody's newest failed romance, I need and love these ladies and I am so thankful for the paths that led us all together. All from different parts of my life - childhood, college, kid activities we shared as parental onlookers and cheerleaders, past jobs and past clubs, the women in my life that aren't the ones I was born with are like a second set of sisters and I believe each one was meant to find me and to stay here for a lifetime.

25. I am grateful for the spam filter on my inbox. I get 1000000000 job leads from AFLAC (my husband works for Liberty Mutual), or worse, from China Steel Corporation (which also requests money laundering). I also get requests to join Black Christian singles (I'm a married, white pagan/Christian/Shinto gal) and lots of chances to win, inherit or help fraudulent entities. Thank goodness my spam box is smarter than their keyword search programs.

26. I am grateful for Camp Spindrift and all the North Shore YMCA's youth programming. My "only" lives in a house that is full of support and art and music and learning and that is totally lacking in those essential skill-building battles and scuffles, the moments of collaboration and compromise that you get when you have to share a room, a remote or a bathroom with a sibling. Our neighborhood is quiet and full of old family homes and old family elders which means the vibe is great for parents and lonely for kiddos. Spindrift and the rest of the kids' programs through our Y allow Julz the chance to be part of a community of her peers, absent the pressures of who has what and who lives where. Kids at Spindrift come equipped with towels and swimsuits and lunches and NOTHING ELSE. They participate in arts and sports and boating and group council and weekly themes as a unified group of unique little people who are free to be who they are, whoever they are. My nephews were Y teen leaders, the younger of the two went to New Orleans on a Y service mission and my hope is that Julz will do all that and more. I thank Rick Doucette and his staff daily for helping Julz to become the confident, capable, community-centered, tolerant, helpful child she is. This should actually be closer to #1 if I'd worked in order of most gratefulness.

27. I am grateful for my kick ass hair. Shallow? Not really. I am terrible about primping, both because I'd rather work on my body and mind than my face or hair and because I spend so much time alone at the computer that I rarely bother to do "all that stuff". For this reason, I feel like I should be grateful for the crazy mop of curls I was blessed with (and also for Joey at En Vogue Salon who makes it fabulous even though I don't deserve it) because it mostly just looks pretty rad even though it only gets brushed once in awhile.

28. I am thankful for ribbon and fabric. I love to make things pretty. I'm feeling especially grateful for ribbon because I just decorated for Christmas and I bought new ribbon to make giant, shiny, sparkly bows to match with the new living room color and they are AWESOME. Also, I am grateful that someone (my aunt, I think) taught me how to make giant bows with ribbon and where to get great ribbon cheap. Here's a picture of my tree, so you can see what I mean.

29. I am grateful for holiday traditions. Cutting down our tree, watching The Grinch and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, driving around to look at the lights, making cookies like we are feeding an army, decorating pine cone ornaments, these are the traditions of my childhood and of my child's and I am pleased to pieces when we share them.

30. I am grateful for this project and for the blog readers who have followed along as I saw it through in it's own staccato kind of way. Sorry for the ill fitting chunks of prose worked around my "life". But that's part of the beauty of it, I think. It's the committing to it and returning to it and finishing it that has been the pleasure of the thing. Thanks for YOU, my readers, for helping me to stay the course and for giving me the extra motivation to get this done. It was awesome.

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