welcome ... enjoy yourself

Friday, November 30, 2012

project gratitude recap

Today I'm grateful that I made it through this challenge.  Woo hoo!!!  I feel so accomplished in my gratitude.    

While I consider myself an averagely grateful person, I had some difficulty coming up with things that I could write full blog posts about.  Most of things I feel gratitude for on a daily basis don't feel important enough for a full blog post, which isn't actually a terrible thing.  Feeling thankful for small things has made my life feel very special and full and meaningful.    

At the end of this challenge, I don't feel my levels of gratitude radically changed, but I did experience a few really nice moments that wouldn't have happened if it hadn't been for project gratitude.  It helped resolve a minor conflict with my sister, led to a nice phone conversation with my brother, and helped me feel very supported with my grandpa being sick.  I'm really happy that I had the opportunity to put into words how I feel about people and things in my life that mean a lot to me.  One thing I realized is that I don't always take the time to thank people or tell them how much they mean to me.  A few heart felt thoughts can go a long way.    

My gratitude posts: YAY!!  
Public Transit ... Audio Books ... Being home ... making it to 100 posts ... Voting ... Grandpa ... Puppies ...St. Francis church ... Inherited skillz ... Coworkers ... the Salvadoran Jesuit martyrs ... A new job ... Library card ... Thanksgiving ... Old pictures ... My sister ... My parents ... My brothers ... My dog ... My husband ...Milwaukee friends ... My in-laws 

And now....get ready for an explosion of holiday cheer!!  I am super excited that it is almost December!!  How about you?  How nice is it that a month dedicated to thanksgiving leads right into a month to celebrate with and give to people you care about?!  Somebody planned that right

Thursday, November 29, 2012

gratitude: jesuit martyrs part 2

I had a request to post the rest of the Salvadoran Jesuit martyr paintings I shared here.  Hope you enjoy.  

This shy priest was born in Spain August 29, 1933.  Fr.  Juan Ramón taught many subjects at both the high school and university level including biology, history, civics, math, English, and geography.  One of his major contributions to the UCA was his work in the library updating the cataloging system and the archives.  These two elements inspire the background of the painting which is composed of abstract books.  Fr. Juan Ramón was also given the honor and responsibility of being a novice master, the priest who guides new Jesuits in their first years of formation.  When he preached about liberation theology and evangelization at retreats and in front of various audiences, he was said to catch fire.  For this reason, Fr. Juan Ramón is painted in orange.   

“It will be beneficial to have a faithful and competent person to instruct and teach the novices how to conduct themselves inwardly and outwardly, to encourage them to this, to remind them of it, and to give them loving admonition; a person whom all those who are in probation may love and to whom they may have recourse in their temptations and open themselves with confidence, hoping to receive from him in our Lord counsel and aid in everything.”  --Jesuit Spiritual Exercises

Fr. Amando López, S.J., was born in Spain on February 6, 1936.  A teacher of theology at the UCA, Fr. Amando was a great source of comfort to those in need of guidance and counsel.  Fr. Amando was described by fellow Jesuit Fr. Sobrino as “the one who knew best how to live” out of the Jesuits who lived in his community.  For this reason, the background of this painting is made of red flowers symbolizing his ability to help people grow and his own ability to continue to live life in a compromising situation.  Fr. Amando is painted in green to show his vitality.  

“We sometimes talk of leaving also.  But our hope is not in leaving, it is here.  If I leave, the crisis will stay.  Here I may be able to effect change.” –Fr. Amando López S.J. 

Born in Spain on May 15, 1933, Fr. Segundo Montes worked at the UCA as the head of the Sociology department and as the director of the Human Rights Institute.  His fiery personality in addition to his intense appearance earned him the nickname “Zeus.”  A former professor of Physics, he decided he could best serve Salvadorans as a social analyst and thus focused his work on studying and writing about issues such as land reform, social class, refugees, and immigration.  Understanding the dangers associated with his work and after having his room bombed, Fr. Segundo still decided to remain in El Salvador stating simply, “what am I going to do?—if they kill me, they kill me.”  To capture the passion and fierceness of his personality, the dominant color of this painting is red.  

“How can we be really free if our brothers and sisters are not free?  This is my country and these people are my people.  We here are not just teachers and social scientists.  We are also parish priests, and the people need to have the church stay with them in these terrible times—the rich as well as the poor.  The rich need to hear from us, just as do the poor.  God’s grace does not leave, so neither can we.” --Fr. Segundo Montes, S.J. 

Born in Spain on November 7, 1942, Fr. Martin Baró was the youngest of the UCA Jesuit martyrs.  Making large contributions to the field of social psychology, Fr. Martin Baró used his intellectual and academic abilities to study the psychological effects of war on the Salvadoran people and often used these studies practically to help people he came into contact with.  While he worked extremely diligently, he was also very considerate and came to life in his weekend work in the parish of Jayaque.  Due to his love of guitar playing and the extremes of his personality, Fr. Martin Baró is painted in purple.  

“There is an aspect of war that is of great importance and should be analyzed by social psychology: its way of defining all that is social….  But this same absorbing quality of the war can lead to ignoring the different ways in which it affects groups and individuals: what represents ruin for some becomes big business for others, and what places some close to death opens for others the possibility of new life.”—Fr. Martin-Baró, S.J. 

Born in Spain on November 9, 1930, this priest was a person who challenged ideas, pushed limits, and enjoyed making people think by voicing his sometimes controversial opinions.  Fr. Ellacuría, president and rector of the UCA, courageously brought light to various injustices in El Salvador by writing articles and giving talks which made him a target of negative right-wing attention.  Like the Jesuits of the community, Fr. Ellacuría understood the dangers of dedicating his life to trying to realize the goals of liberation theology in El Salvador and of voicing the truth about Salvadoran political, social, and economic structures.  Ellacuría and his Jesuit brothers stayed and remained a light to the country inspiring the yellow color of this painting.  

“So telling the truth becomes an unmasking of lies, and that is not forgiven.”

“Telling the truth, communicating it in a way appropriate to a university…has always been dangerous because the idols seek to hide their true face.”—Fr. Jon Sobrino, S.J.

“The Spirit breathes in many ways, and supreme among them is the disposition to give one’s life for others, whether by tireless daily commitment or by the sacrifice of a violent death.”
 –Fr. Ignacio Ellacuría, S.J. 

gratitude: my in-laws

I can't believe I'm old enough to have in-laws.  I feared gaining in-laws because of all the jokes, eye rolls and complaints at their expense in TV shows I watched growing up.  Gaining a new family may have felt a little strange at first, but I feel very grateful for how willingly Paul's family accepted me and made me feel at home.  I remember the first family dinner at Paul's aunt and uncle's house eating a delicious vegetarian meal.  Paul's grandpa shaking my hand for the first time said "cold hands, warm heart."  Since then I've made especially close connections with Paul's sister, dad, grandma, and aunt and uncle.  They are all such wonderful people with warm, generous hearts.  It feels really special to be an automatic beneficiary of all the love they have for Paul - just expanded to include me as well now.  I've gotten to know Paul in a deeper way by getting to know the people he loves and understanding better where he comes from (also from all the embarrassing stories they're willing to share about him).  It turns out in-laws aren't so bad after all.

gratitude: milwaukee friends

When Paul and I moved to Milwaukee, we knew two people.  Two (2).  We had moved away from all of our family and close friends to start a new adventure.  That first year in Milwaukee had some challenging, lonely moments, but we survived thanks in large part to the good friends we made.  We met Greg and Mary through the Former Jesuit Volunteer Corps listserve (thanks technology!).  They had both just moved to Milwaukee too, were also engaged and planning their wedding, and even attended the same schools.  It was eerily similar and awesome.  They've been great friends to us over the past two years, and I don't know what we would have done without them.

We met our friend Mari through church, and she has also been a lifesaver over the past two years.  She's driven us to the airport, dog-sitted Pedro, made us lots of delicious dinners and mixed us lots of tasty drinks, hosted us for sleep-overs, counseled us when we've lost loved ones, supported us through tough times, and taught me about the best lipstick in the world.  

We've met lots of friends since that first year, and our Milwaukee family continues to grow.  We wouldn't have enjoyed our time here nearly as much without the friends who have made Milwaukee home. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

gratitude: my husband Paul

My husband Paul makes me feel so loved.  I feel really loved by lots of people, but Paul is the first and only boy (or girl) to love me like he does.  I remember being on a retreat a couple of years ago deciding where I saw our relationship going.  During one meditation, I reflected on what love felt like, and I thought of how it felt when Paul looked at me.  It felt like total and complete love, and I knew I didn't want to give that up.  
Even when we were engaged, I had no idea how nice married life would be.  I love developing and growing with Paul and making a life together.  There's such comfort in waking up and going to sleep together, knowing that we'll be doing it for years to come.  I love the thought that we'll continue to grow in love for one another over the decades to come.  If the past four years together are any sign, things will just continue to get better with time. 

I am still so thankful that Paul moved across the country from his home in Oregon so we could be together.  I'm thankful for his passion for his nursing profession.  I'm thankful for the little things he does like taking Pedro for walks on the weekend when I don't want to get out of bed.  Or making me a cup of tea when I'm feeling cold.  Giving me a kiss every morning and telling me I'm beautiful.  Supporting me in my work.  Reminding me to believe in myself.  Never passing up an opportunity to eat poutine (see above).  

I'm thankful that he was crazy enough to start an intentional community with me.  I'm grateful to be with someone who shares my passion for simple living, social justice, community, and spirituality.  I love so many things about him that it would have disgusted my cold-hearted teenage self to see how smitten I am now.  From Paul's particularness about things, to his willingness to cook and clean, to his generosity to others: I am so grateful for my husband and so happy we get to be together.  When we met it felt like our hearts just got each other (soooo cheesy I know), and it feels so comforting to have that soul-mate type person around all the time.    

And now for the sake of everyone's gag reflex - which is probably in full effect right now - I will wrap this post up.  I'll end by saying I'm so grateful to have such a loving partner to spend my life with.  (Didn't think I'd let you go without one more cheesy thing did you?)

Photo by Christine LeGrand

gratitude: my dog Pedro

Every time I make a blog post about my dog Pedro I feel like I have to apologize or justify it.  It all stems from me never having been a dog person until Paul and I adopted Pedro last year.  Until then, I mostly just tolerated my family pets.  Owning Pedro has turned me into one of those dog lover people.  I admit it, I am in love with my dog.  I blame it on Paul's love for Pedro being contagious and being a married couple without kids.  It's not our fault we're spoiling our dog!  It's just our now-that-we're-married-we-must-nurture-something instincts kicking in!  We cannot be blamed for our actions or any cheesy voices we slip into while talking to our dog. 

With that being said, I am very thankful for Pedro.  Having Pedro makes Paul and I feel more like a family instead of just a couple.  He's brought smiles to mine and Paul's faces on days when nothing else would quite do the trick.  He's been a great road trip companion on long drives to St. Louis.  He's such a loving, low-key dog (anxiety attacks aside), it's really hard not to care about him.  He even gives me an excuse to stay active with walks outside when the temperature has dropped below freezing (this is usually a good thing).  

He's shown me that I actually do have maternal extincts buried somewhere inside me and that I have what it takes to keep a living things alive for an extended period of time.  Thanks Pedro.  I'm sure our future children will thank you someday too. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

gratitude: my brothers

Photo by Christine LeGrand
I couldn't have asked for two better, dorkier brothers.  I love them even though I know that if they're reading this, they're probably already mentally groaning or distracted because they're preparing a witty insult. 

Brothers are funny creatures.  While they'll be the first to make fun of me (and do so almost any chance they get), I also know they would do anything for me.  In the same breath, they'll call me "big orange" or "Raggedy Ann" and then finish by giving me a hug and telling me they love me.  (Can you guess what those latest nicknames are based on?)

It's been an awesomely weird experience to literally watch them grow up.  I remember when they used to be so much shorter and nerdier (and if anyone asks, I still think they're huge nerds), and it makes me feel very proud to see the men they're growing up to be.  They're louder and stronger, but in my eyes they'll always be my little brothers.  

I can depend on my brothers to remind me not to take myself too seriously and to have fun in the process.  I can depend on them to be good dance partners at any family wedding.  I can always depend on them for a good laugh.  I can also now depend on Mike for a good beer or mixed drink.  If I feel the sudden urge to play in a pick up basketball or soccer game, I know who to call.  And I know someday I'll be able to depend on them to be great uncles to my kids.  

If you're still reading this Mike and Pat (assuming you know that I have a blog), I love you both so much and am so grateful to have you in my life - even though you're the biggest losers I know.

gratitude: my parents

The more life experience I gain, the more I realize there is so much about my parents I take for granted.  Even all the gratitude I feel for them would leave something out that they've done for me.  As a child and adolescent I assumed everything they did for me was obligatory, that they had to cook dinner for me, provide for me, take me to school, go to my sports games, care for me, etc.  As I get older I realize that they didn't have to do any of that, but they did because of how much they love me.    

I feel grateful for having parents that I respect and look up to.  A lot of people my age fear having children because they think their lives will come to a halt if they do, that their personal development will never continue.  I have seen both my parents develop in their careers and in their personal lives, especially in the past decade.  My dad decided to become a deacon, and my mom went back to school to work on a spirituality degree.  I wouldn't be surprised if ten years from now they both tell me they have a new career or personal change planned.  They are examples that a person never has to stop changing or improving.  

My parents have also been a great example to me in their marriage.  When I was a teenager, my parents went through a very difficult time and almost separated.  They had the opportunity to walk away, (and as a naive teenager I sometimes thought they should) but they stayed committed to each other.  I learned that while it is very important to start a marriage with a strong foundation of love, trust, and shared values, it is just as important to support one another and stay committed in day to day life when things get messy and difficult.  

My parents live out their values and have taught my siblings and I the importance of dedicating your life to others.  They're two of the most generous, caring people I know.  Their support made joining JVC, pursuing a Masters degree in social justice, and choosing a low paying job in the non-profit sector much easier.  Their passion for helping others set me on the path to be "ruined for life."  

I love my parents in all their imperfections.  I couldn't be prouder of them.  So thankful for them both. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

gratitude: my sister

Where to even start with how grateful I am for my sister Libby?  I could probably write a book about how much she means to me, but for the sake of your attention spans, I will keep this more concise. 

My sister and I get along as well as you could expect of two extremely strong-willed sisters.  Libby has been a rock to me for the past twenty-four years.  When life is crappy, I know I can always depend on my sister to be there for me.  We understand each other without needing to be exactly the same.  I can laugh harder and easier with her than almost anyone else.  We've worked our way through jealousies, arguments, times of limited communication, and being hormonal teenagers.   

I admire so much in my sister Libby.  I respect her passion for her work and her zest for life.  I am so inspired by her generosity with her time, skills, and resources.  I love her eye for style and design.  I appreciate our shared love of cheesy music and movies.  I couldn't live without her honesty, her compassion, her sassiness, or her dog Dory.

My sister also has the unique talent for giving me much needed wake up calls from time to time.  I remember one particularly difficult phone conversation when she asked me what had happened to her strong sister.  She's also been one of my biggest fans and supporters.  This weekend, she told me how proud she was of me and how she admired me for pursuing my passions and living out my values. It reminds me of one of my favorite sections of How to Be a Woman:  

The people around you are mirrors...You see yourself reflected in their eyes.  If the mirror is true, and smooth, you see your true self.  That's how you learn who you are.  And you might be a different person to different people, but it's all feedback that you need, in order to know yourself.  

She is a true mirror, I think.  I should look into her more often.  I can see myself there.  I can see my good points and my bad points -- but I recognize that face.  -- How to Be a Woman (150,153)

I couldn't have asked for a better sister in Libby.  I'm so grateful for our relationship and our renewed dedication to keeping up our relationship.  

gratitude: old pictures

Every time I visit home my mom tries to get me to clean out more of my old stuff.  I have a serious sentimental hoarding problem when it comes to saving memorabilia, and I literally have boxes of things of stuff I've accumulated over the years.  This weekend I went through some old "save-it" boxes and managed to consolidate a bit.  I let go of a letter from my second grade teacher and pen pal letters from a girl I met on vacation when I was seven.  I kept copies of the newspaper I ran in fourth grade.  Still, progress.  

Saving things ties in naturally with my love of history.  I love old stories, artifacts, and anything that helps connect me with the people and events of the past.  Working in my college archives for one of my history classes solidified my passion for saving everything.  But as I need to keep reminding myself: colleges, cities, and big organizations need archives, individuals do not.  That fact hit home again this weekend while going through some of my grandparents' old things.  Keeping a personal archive just makes it more difficult for other people to clear out your things.    

And this is why I love old pictures.  I never met my Grandma Rita as she died when my mom was still a teenager.  But pictures of her can help me learn who she was and what I inherited from her.  Wasn't she lovely?  I believe this is a picture of her from her sister's wedding.  There's a good chance she made the dress herself.  This picture of her helps her memory live on (without taking up a lot of room in a save-it box).  

Pictures: the cure for sentimental memorabilia hoarders. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I am so thankful to just be, so grateful to be alive enjoying this wonderful day.  I'm thankful for waking up with a loving husband.  Thankful for our adorable dog.  Thankful for my amazing family and friends.  Thankful for spending the morning with my family eating breakfast watching the Macy's Day parade.  Thankful for time to laugh together and enjoy each other's company.  Thankful for my health and my ability to spend this holiday pain free. Thankful for preparing mashed potatoes and stuffing with my mom.  Thankful for a few more visits with my grandpa.  Thankful for having a nice camera to capture good memories.  So thankful for this day!  

Happy Thanksgiving!!  Hope you find lots to be thankful for today!

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.
                                                                                         Melody Beattie

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

gratitude: library card

I am a total and complete book nerd.  My family will confirm that growing up I brought at least one book with me wherever I went.  I remember bringing them to the grocery store and to (my) sports games.  I usually slept with a stack of books in my bed, to read after it was supposed to be lights out.  I freaked out excitedly every summer for the summer reading program and made most of the reading challenges.  Book.  Nerd.  

My book love has only strengthened with age.  Luckily I have access to an endless amount of free books through the Milwaukee public library.  One of the first errands I completed after our move to Milwaukee was getting a library card.  

I request books all the time through the online request system and pick up new books with the thrill of a kid on Christmas morning.  I am just barely overexagerating that.  There's been many times that the highlight of my day was picking up whatever new book was waiting for me on the library hold shelf.  I actually just got a notice that I have a book waiting for me now ... will just have to wait until I go back.  Agh ... the agony.  

I get such a thrill out of reading and love that all of it is. for. free.  Love it.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

gratitude: a new job!!!

After four months of searching, lots of job applications, and several interviews, I have accepted a job offer!!!  Yeehaw!  I could not be happier with the new organization I will be working for; it makes the whole situation easier knowing I'll be transitioning to an organization I really believe in and will be working with people I will really respect (much like my current position).   

It still feels bittersweet and sad to be leaving my current position.  I love the people I work with, I love the flexibility my position offers, I love working close to home, I love our benefits, I love my work environment.  I will have a very difficult time saying goodbye to coworkers who have become great friends.  

This morning I reread the finding joy in job loss post I wrote when I found out I would be losing my job in July:    

A phrase I really like has been coming to mind: "we wait in joyful hope."  Right now, I see my forced job change as an opportunity to move out of my comfort zone and to tackle a new challenge.  I'm waiting in joyful hope that I will find another job that will be a good fit and will feel like home the way my current job has.  The joy in my job loss is the hope that a new adventure awaits me.

What I was hoping for then has actually come to pass!  I can't believe I got exactly what I was asking for.  It's so important for future times of uncertainty to remember how previous unsettling times were resolved.   

Now I ask that any positive job finding vibes you were sending my way now be sent to my coworkers who are still looking for work.  It would be perfect if we could all have good things lined up by the time our lay off is effective in December.  Positive vibes!  Positive vibes! 

Monday, November 19, 2012

gratitude: jesuit martyrs

This weekend marked the 23rd anniversary of the deaths of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter.  Every anniversary brings nostalgia and gratitude for me.  Nostalgia for events that connected me to the martyrs' legacy and gratitude for their example.  

On November 16, 1989, six Jesuit priests and two women were killed by Salvadoran soldiers, many of whom were trained at the Fort Benning, Georgia based School of the Americas.  They were killed primarily for their work on behalf of poor during the Salvadoran civil war.  They serve as an example to thousands around the world, especially those connected with Jesuit institutions. 

I first learned about the Jesuit martyrs at the School of the Americas protest, held each year in Georgia on the anniversary of the Jesuits' deaths.  The protest itself models a solemn funeral procession in commemoration of the thousands killed by graduates of the School of the Americas (now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation).  Until a few years ago, the Ignatian Solidarity Network also organized the Ignatian Family Teach-In, a weekend long event hosting various social justice speakers and concluding with a powerful mass that hundreds attended each year.  

It was at the Ignatian Family Teach-In that I first learned about many social justice issues and where my passion for social justice first became connected to my faith.  I also learned about the Jesuit Volunteer Corps here and decided to join after I graduated college.  It was also at the Ignatian Family Teach-In that I began preparation for my college honors thesis in which I painted eight biographical portraits of the Jesuit martyrs and the two women killed with the Jesuits.  My thesis project culminated with an art show on my college campus and has given me the opportunity to teach various groups about the Jesuit martyrs.  

Today I'm sharing two of the eight paintings along with background information on the individuals and information about the paintings themselves.  

Pictured above is Fr. Joaquín López y López, born August 16, 1918, the only native Salvadoran among the six Jesuits killed at the University of Central America.  Fr. López y López, or “Lolo,” although quiet and timid, worked passionately for the people of El Salvador.  Recognizing problems with the Salvadoran education system, Fr. Lolo founded the Fe y Alegria (“Faith and Joy”) organization to strengthen community based education.  Though battling cancer, Fr. Lolo remained loyal to his work at the Fe y Alegria till the end of his life.  Pictures of current Fe y Alegria participants appear in Lolo’s hairline symbolizing the impact of his work for his organization and the people of El Salvador.  To symbolize Fr. Lolo’s calm, unassuming presence, the portrait is painted in blue.  

“If your projects are for 5 years, sow wheat; if they are for 10, plant a tree; but if they are for 100 years, educate a town.” –Fr. Joaquim López y López, S.J. 

Elba and Celina are usually described as the two female companions of the Jesuits or the Jesuits' housekeepers.  In fact, Elba Ramos, born in El Salvador March 5, 1947, worked as the Jesuits' cook and housekeeper and her daughter Celina Ramos, born February 27, 1973, was a high school student.  Elba's husband and Celina's father Obdulio worked at the University of Central America as a guard.  Due to heavy bombing close to their home on the university’s campus, the family asked the Jesuits if Elba and Celina could spend the night with the Jesuit community.  It was due to this request that the women were present at the residence on November 16th and were killed as witnesses to the Jesuits’ murders.  This painting focuses on the innocence of the two women and their shared martyrdom with the Jesuits.  Elba and Celina were among more than 70,000 people killed during the Salvadoran Civil War.  

The Jesuits helped to awaken my passion for painting and taught me what it means to have complete dedication to the cause of the poor.  Just like the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, I feel that the legacy of the Jesuit martyrs ruined me for life. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

gratitude: coworkers

I was completely unaware of the importance of good coworkers when I began my search for my first "real" job.  In college I had the opportunity to practice interviewing but never received any advice about detecting a good work environment.  Fortunately for me, I completely lucked out with my current coworkers.  As evidence, see the above photos from our summer bocce ball tournament.  I can honestly say I enjoy all my coworkers, and they are what I will miss most about my job when I leave it soon.  I'll miss our potlucks.  I'll miss all the non-exclusive clubs we created (lunch movie club and salad club are among my favorites).  I'll miss having daily support with my work and with general life stuff.  I'll miss the people who helped me feel so welcomed and so at home in Milwaukee.  It's such a gift to have good people to share work with. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

gratitude: inherited skillz

My mom and dad have got some mad skillz.  For those not hip to my trendy lingo, that means I think that my mom and dad are very talented.  

Some of these skills I've inherited or learned easily from my parents and some I'm still working on.  Baking and knitting are two of my favorites I've learned from my mom.  There's a reason the wedding gift I was most looking forward to receiving was a kitchen aid mixer.  The ladies in my family have some serious sweet teeth.  We also tend to bake and consume treats as a form of relaxation and comfort.  They may not be extremely healthy, but they sure are extremely delicious. 

I picked up knitting from my mom a few years ago, but I haven't come anywhere close to matching her mastery of the hobby.  The pictures in this post are of a few of her recent projects.  I'm in awe of her completed work, especially her use of color.  Maybe this winter I'll try to learn a few more things from her.  

My dad is also very creative.  If he could ever sit still long enough, he would probably be a great painter and artist.  But movement and socializing come easiest to my dad, and he happens to be one of the best story tellers and entertainers I know.  My dad comes from a long line of story tellers (some might say bull-shitters), and my brothers have probably inherited this skill best.  I love listening to stories, and I would love learn to share (and embellish) my experiences better.  I'll have to ask my dad what his secret is.  

My parents also have mad skillz when it comes to working with people.  My dad can read people well, and people have said before that he could sell anything to anybody.  My mom is a nurse by trade and has worked with moms and babies in a lot of different capacities.  They both seem to have a natural knack for ministry, and it's been very cool to see them grow into these roles over the years.  Hope to keep emulating these people skills as I get older.  

I like taking the time to think about the positive things I've inherited from my parents, beyond my good looks of course.  Family history, traditions, and legacies are fascinating to me, and I love reflecting on the special things that connect me to my family - especially the things I'd like to pass on to my own kids someday. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

gratitude: st. francis

I felt at home the first time I went to mass here.  Upon moving to Milwaukee, Paul and I began church shopping, looking for a church that clicked with our spiritualities.  Luckily, we didn't have to search long before finding St. Francis. 

The folks at St. Francis make hospitality a habit, and I felt welcomed from our first visit.  The St. Francis community is also just that - a community.  I've appreciated how authentic it feels, especially considering how racially, culturally, and economically diverse the church is.  Diversity is great in a church community, but it takes a special place to use diversity as a unifying strength and not allow it to completely divide people into separate groups.  

I feel so lucky to have a place I can go each week that I feel welcomed and at home, a place where my absence is noticed when I don't show up.  I especially appreciate the meals after mass where I can catch up with friends and meet new people.  St. Francis has become our Milwaukee family and for that I am so grateful.

Friday, November 9, 2012

and the winner is...

Today is the day the winner of the giveaway will have all her wildest dreams come true.  I drew the names out of an awesome blue dish I recently inherited from my grandma.  

Unfortunately Pedro had no interest in actually choosing a name this time, so Paul had to lend a helping hand.  And he chose.... 

Anne!!!  Your fabulous prize, a copy of The Happiness Project, will be shipped directly to your home.  Be prepared to have your life turned upside down.   

Thanks to all who entered!  I really enjoyed celebrating this milestone in my blog.  Thanks so much to all of you for your support and for continuing to read all my little musings!  Happy Friday! 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

gratitude: puppies

I never thought I would be a person who would take pictures of my animals, let alone a person who posted about my animals on my blog.  But it has happened.  And I am completely okay with it. 

Pedro accompanied me to St. Louis this past weekend, and I was actually really grateful for his company.  Again, never would have thought I'd be a person who could appreciate something like that.  The weekend was a perfect storm of circumstances that led to me completely delighting in our family's dogs.  My stomach has finally been feeling better, I've felt less anxious and more present in general, and I needed a distraction from my grandpa being sick.  

The dogs delivered.  Dory, the white fur ball of fluff, could bring a smile to anyone's face.  She has the cutest little face and loves to bound around like a tiny, low hanging puppy cloud.  She really enjoys chewing and jumping on Pedro and Pele (my family's black lab).  They generally treat her like an annoying baby sister - gently pushing her out of the way until the pestering becomes too much and they either pin her down or start wrestling with her. Pedro loved running around in circles in the back yard, and Pele took it all in like a wise old grandpa.  

The giggling and laughing that resulted from the puppies totally made my weekend.  Very grateful for the little four legged members of our family.  

P.S. Have you entered this week's giveaway yet?  I'm celebrating 100 posts and giving away a copy of one of my favorite books.  Today is the last day to enter so leave a comment here ASAP!  Winner announced tomorrow. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

gratitude: my grandpa

I'm preparing to say goodbye to one of the people I love most. 

My grandpa is in kidney and heart failure and has been moved to hospice.  Over the weekend, I visited him with my the rest of my family, and we spent a few really nice hours together.  Grandpa slept for a good portion of the visit since his body is slowing down, but I know he found comfort in having us with him.     

I've been doing my best to sit with all my feelings: the anger, the denial, the sadness, the emptiness, the happy memories.  Having said goodbye to several close family members over the past couple of years, I am very appreciate that I've been able to spend as much time as I have with my grandpa.   I'm also so grateful that he's not in a lot of pain.  I know he's uncomfortable and scared and confused, but his marine nature helps him deal with his physical struggles.   

It's strange and sad to see him decline.  Grandpa has been such a strong force in my life.  Physically, he has had a very commanding presence.  I always felt proud during grandparents' day in grade school because my grandpa was the tallest grandparent in the whole place, which obviously made him the coolest grandparent.  He also had dozens of medals from all of the Senior Olympics he participated in, which also made him awesome.  Emotionally, I knew I could always depend on him for support.  I also knew I could always depend on him for cheeze-its and Keebler cookies.  But, now he just seems to be shrinking away.  

Even in the midst of my disbelief and sadness, I also understand that this is part of life.  Seeing a person I love decline is difficult, but it also reminds me of the nature of the world.  Time passes.  We say goodbye to people we love, we say hello to new people we love.  Someday Paul and I will have children and grandchildren, and someday they will have to say goodbye to us too.  It's what makes life so wonderful, and sad, and beautiful.  

Mentally understanding this doesn't make it any easier to say goodbye to Grandpa.  But it is a gift to know we've had such a great relationship.  I have so many great memories of my grandpa.  It's also a gift knowing my grandpa lived a good, full, happy life.  It's a gift knowing that my grandpa has people who love him surrounding him as his life comes to an end.  It's a gift to know how much we all love each other.   

It's so hard to say goodbye, but I'm so grateful I've had such a great man as my grandfather. 

If you have not entered this week's giveaway, you can do so by leaving a comment here by Thursday.