Saturday, December 31, 2016
We are ringing in the New Year in Kentucky with Matt's mom and sister Sarah and her family. Matt and I went on a lunch date and now we're home, watching football with a pot of chili simmering on the stove. Sarah and Dan are out on date now. Baby Joseph is sleeping while the bigger kids play. There's a lot to be thankful for in this particular moment. I suppose that's been the lesson of writing each day this year about gratitude. There's almost always something tucked away in the course of a day that's worthy of gratitude. Even on our hardest days.
Matt and I have talked about how we'd like to carry the twelvethirtyfour Project forward. We will continue to set our daily alarms and try to take a moment to be mindful of what we are thankful for. We will not write here daily, but we are talking about teaming up to post regularly in this space. We'll share more as we know more.
Until then, wishing you and yours a New Year full of love and light. Thank you for reading this.
Friday, December 30, 2016
Thursday, December 29, 2016
Today, you turn 40 years old. We met when we were both 18 years old, so today marks your 22nd birthday we’ve celebrated together. I have spent more than half your life (our lives) loving you. We are also nearing the end of a calendar year during which we have written about our daily gratitudes. Today, and every day, I am thankful for you.
I’m grateful for your help. Most recently, we hosted my family for Christmas, and you were up early every day to make breakfast. You washed and folded countless loads of laundry, making sure everyone had clean linens and our kids' new Christmas clothes were ready to wear on our next road trip. While I have come to expect and rely on you to be right beside me, helping with whatever we’ve got going on, I never take it for granted; I appreciate it tremendously.
I’m thankful for your authenticity. Our first decade together felt like smooth sailing. We finished college, got married, found jobs we enjoyed, moved to Durham, got me through law school, and welcomed our precious first child. All along the way, we made a multitude of life-long friends together. Our second, most recent decade has felt much more difficult. While we added two more beautiful, healthy kiddos and managed for me to stay home with them full time, these years have also been punctuated by the loss of your father, my cancer diagnosis, and the financial stress that accompanies being a one-income family while also enduring a major medical crisis. Through it all, you’ve been steady and reassuring. But you’ve also been very honest about your own sadness, anger, and fear. I suppose that’s something we’ll spend the rest of our lives figuring out: how to navigate life’s sorrows--which we can’t help but experience individually and differently--together.
I appreciate your kindness. I often joke that you are just naturally a nicer person than me, but I never want to make light of how truly gracious you are with people--how you put them at ease. How you see and bring out the best in them. I’ve seen this most poignantly in your care and concern for struggling students over your nearly 17 years teaching. No matter how life or society has marginalized these kids, you have done your best to consistently reach out and connect.
Closer to home, I’m grateful for how you honor each of our kids individually: talking books and sports with Tobin, singing and dancing with Evan, and swapping endless knock-knock jokes with Lauren. My favorite view is from the kitchen sink, where I watch you play in the backyard with the kids. Lately, that’s been football with the boys. You come in laughing, giving me a detailed rundown of each boy’s highlights: how Tobin threw a pass with perfect touch and how Evan managed a spectacular catch while being well-defended by his big brother.
Sports has been part of our lives from the beginning. In the fall of our freshman year in college, we watched every game of the World Series together, when my Atlanta Braves won. A few months later, you would initiate me into the fandom of Kentucky basketball, as we followed their championship run together. These days, we still watch SportsCenter most mornings, with our coffee, in the quiet before the kids awaken and make their mad dash out the door for school. I’m thankful that we’ve passed on our love of sports to our kids--that we’re cheering them on from the stands and sidelines at their own games now.
I am thankful for your love. More than anyone in my life--family or friend--you have made me feel most at ease in my own skin. You have made me feel adored, even when I have felt least lovable. That has been especially true in recent years when I’ve felt quite broken in body and spirit. You’ve always had tremendous faith in me--whether starting a new job, navigating motherhood, or facing illness. Your confidence in me has been my lifeline.
In a very blessed life, I count as my greatest gift that we met each other when we did and that we’ve spent so much time together already. I’m grateful for the decades behind us and hopeful for the ones to come. Thank you for being you. Happy birthday!
Wednesday, December 28, 2016
Today on our road trip, we listened to two different versions of "Microphone Fiend." At different points today, since making it to my mom's house, I've heard all three kids saying to themselves "A smooth operator operating correctly. . ."
I'm thankful for kids who accept and love all kinds of music, and I'm thankful for Eric B. & Rakim.
Tuesday, December 27, 2016
My sister Ashley and her husband Donnie have been on a years-long journey to start a family. They have most recently been trying to adopt, and through a serious of unexpected and fortunate events, they welcomed a daughter, Tamrah, into their home earlier this month. You can read more of their story here. We enjoyed a brief visit with Tamrah in our home, playing with her cousins, over the last couple days. Tamrah, Ashley, and Donnie epitomize courageous love, and I'm thankful for each of them and the chance to spend some time together.
Today we are doing laundry and packing, preparing to travel tomorrow to visit Matt's family in Kentucky, where will meet our new nephew Joseph, born to Matt's sister Sarah and her husband Dan, the day before Thanksgiving. I'm grateful for my kids' excited anticipation of meeting their baby cousin.
I'm grateful for an abundance of love in our extended family this holiday season.
Monday, December 26, 2016
Sunday, December 25, 2016
Saturday, December 24, 2016
Friday, December 23, 2016
Thursday, December 22, 2016
Wednesday, December 21, 2016
Tuesday, December 20, 2016
our brilliant, sometimes-maddening, hilarious, contentious, loving, pugnacious, gracious, tough, funny 5-yr-old has taken to leaving little guerilla notes like this (this particular note left minutes after being banished from her brothers' room for "rubbing her bottom on my blanket! her REAL bottom!")A photo posted by Matt Smith (@heymattsmith) on
It was a good reminder that she's exploring and expressing and pushing, but that's what she's supposed to do. I tried to right my attitude after, and we had a sweet bedtime story and end to our evening. I'm thankful for tangible reminders of the full scope of her spirit.
Monday, December 19, 2016
Sunday, December 18, 2016
Saturday, December 17, 2016
Friday, December 16, 2016
Thursday, December 15, 2016
Wednesday, December 14, 2016
I was genuinely angry for a brief time today. It was exhausting, and made me feel on edge for a while. It was also a good reminder of how infrequently I feel like that. I'm thankful that anger is largely an alien emotion in my life right now.
Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Monday, December 12, 2016
Sunday, December 11, 2016
Saturday, December 10, 2016
Friday, December 09, 2016
Back in September, Tobin was paired up with Margaret, a Duke freshman, as part of a months-long service-learning project--a collaboration developed by Tobin's teacher and Margaret's professors. The student pairs met weekly to work on a project of their choosing. Margaret and Tobin, both avid readers, decided to consider what makes a great book.
Tonight, Tobin, Margaret, and all the other college-elementary student pairs presented their projects to Tobin's classmates and their families. We started with a potluck dinner, featuring everything from homemade tamales to roast lamb. Then we all wandered the halls of the third floor of T's school to view the project presentations. The projects covered, among other things: cooking, geodes, rockets, Anime, and warrior history.
At the end of the evening, we all gathered in a classroom to view two stop-motion films created by student pairs. (Bonus: you can view Tobin's best friend Oskar's film produced with his friend Allie here.) Then the students exchanged gifts and hugs, and Tobin's teacher Mr. Rogers (seen above) facilitated the students sharing what they were grateful for. Tobin said, "I'm grateful for almost everything, but especially Margaret."
I'm thankful Tobin has opportunities like these in his public school. We are immeasurably grateful for Tobin's classroom teacher, who in this project and many others--including production of a Shakespeare play in the spring--builds community among his students. Matt observed that this project is a testament to the power of relationships in education. I'm grateful for the beautiful diversity in culture and interest on display in our potluck dinner and the project presentations. And I'm also thankful for Margaret, who put my somewhat shy kid at ease and helped him confidently explore his love of reading.
Thursday, December 08, 2016
Wednesday, December 07, 2016
Tuesday, December 06, 2016
I ain't tryna waste thisEvan, being the empathetic soul that he is, asked whether Dave's mom and dad were really dead. I told him they were, as far as I knew. We listened to the song a little more, then he smiled a big smile and said "I just can't believe someone can make the truth sound so beautiful."
Took a long time cryin', cryin' ain't a crime.
I got my mom, she passed away, my daddy ain't alive
Before they murdered Fudge, I prayed for more time
Had y'all on my mind all week--I missed the last
I've thought a lot about what it might mean to make the truth beautiful. I guess it's a struggle sometimes to see beauty the way things are. That's also what makes it special when it pops up. I'm thankful for Evan especially today, but also for beautiful truths and those who note, sing, and celebrate them.
Monday, December 05, 2016
Sunday, December 04, 2016
Saturday, December 03, 2016
Friday, December 02, 2016
Thursday, December 01, 2016
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Monday, November 28, 2016
Today I received a really nice note from a student I've known for a couple of years. The note came during a part of the day during which I was extremely aware of what I WASN'T doing well. It was a good reminder that while lesson plans are important, treating people well is at least as important in my job. I'm thankful for reminders about priorities, and the reminder that even when I'm not on top of things professionally, I can always be kind.
Sunday, November 27, 2016
Saturday, November 26, 2016
Friday, November 25, 2016
Thursday, November 24, 2016
Today I got to spend a lot of time with Allison, helping prepare Thanksgiving dinner. The kids helped make cookies, and we all shared a special meal around the table. I got to talk to family who are far away, and I thought a lot about my dad. I am humbled by the abundance in my life, and hope I can always be as aware as I have been today of all I've been given.
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
Monday, November 21, 2016
Sunday, November 20, 2016
I'm thankful for my family and the family I married into. I've been feeling a little down about Thanksgiving lately, but I'm fortunate to know that it's in part because of the blessing my family has been--I'll miss them, which isn't something everyone can say. I'm looking forward to a Thanksgiving at home, while I'm aware there are more people and places to be thankful for.
Saturday, November 19, 2016
Friday, November 18, 2016
I've had at least three specific interactions with people--adults and current students--this week that reinforce my belief in public schools as crucial civic institutions. I'm thankful to be a product of public schools, to work in and for public schools, and to send my children to public schools. When communities and individuals invest themselves, schools can be awe-inspiring institutions.
Thursday, November 17, 2016
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Monday, November 14, 2016
Sunday, November 13, 2016
Saturday, November 12, 2016
I've found myself thinking about George Wallace this week. And I've thought about John Lewis's remarks about him. I'm thankful to live in this country, and I'm thankful that contrition, forgiveness, and redemption are available to everyone who seeks them.
Friday, November 11, 2016
Thursday, November 10, 2016
I get to spend 9:00 - 10:30 every morning with a sophomore English class of special needs students, immigrant students, Muslim students, Christian students, atheist students, black students, white students, and gay students. I am thankful for them, and for the chance to work with and know them (and be annoyed by them at times, too).
Wednesday, November 09, 2016
Any gratitude I feel is in knowing that I am not alone. My husband, my kids, my friends, and even a stranger in a coffee shop shared their sadness and anxiety. It's a good reminder we're all in this together, even if voters just elected a person who would have us believe that's not true. I still believe that, shaken as I am.
Tuesday, November 08, 2016
Allison came home with great reports from the kids' parent-teacher conferences, and we all ate her homemade chili together. It was a beautiful day that I am thankful to have spent with the people I love most.
Monday, November 07, 2016
Sunday, November 06, 2016
Saturday, November 05, 2016
Friday, November 04, 2016
Thursday, November 03, 2016
Wednesday, November 02, 2016
I'm not the baseball fan I used to be, but I've enjoyed this year's World Series. Tobin tried to stay up for Game 7, but just made it through 4 before heading off to bed.
It's especially fun to follow the series with Allison because our early friendship was sparked in part by baseball and other sports. I'm thankful for baseball and its place in all the different parts of my life.
Tuesday, November 01, 2016
Halloween is one of my favorite nights of the year. I love how my kids get so excited about their costumes. I love spending the evening with our neighbors. I'm thankful for the memories my family is making and the opportunity to really appreciate these moments as they're happening.
Monday, October 31, 2016
Sunday, October 30, 2016
Saturday, October 29, 2016
Friday, October 28, 2016
Thursday, October 27, 2016
A student whom I like and appreciate a lot had a family member complete a long, successful, rehabilitative prison sentence this week. I'm thankful for a family reunited, and hopeful that our justice system might better bend toward mending and away from retribution.
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
The kids' school playground is a wonderful place. Since Tobin's first year at the school, I've watched my kids play on this playground for the better part of five years--really, I've watched them grow up on it. The recent, months-long renovation was a tremendous community effort, led primarily by a small group of parent volunteers who did everything from grant writing to project management.
As I watched the kids play today, I couldn't help but think of who wasn't there: Tobin's friend Leo, who would have been a fifth grader also. Leo died tragically in an accident over the holiday break in December 2013. In the worst moment of their lives, Leo's parents graciously requested memorial donations be made to the school's PTA. Those memorial donations started a fund that would eventually, two and a half years later, grow large enough to underwrite a major renovation of Leo's favorite play area. You can read more about the project here. I'm grateful to be part of a school community like this and thankful for a beautiful day like today, when my kids can run and play in the sunshine with their friends in a place that feels like home.
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Monday, October 24, 2016
Sunday, October 23, 2016
Nine years ago today, my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I think of him a lot, and thought of him for almost all of church this morning and most of my run home after.
I'm thankful for my dad, and miss him a lot. Especially at church, which is often a sad place for me, because so much of music and worship are melded to memories I have of him.
I wish my kids could have known him beyond the stories and memories I can share, but I'm thankful to have happy memories to share.
Saturday, October 22, 2016
Friday, October 21, 2016
Thursday, October 20, 2016
Then Evan says, sincerely and quietly, "Wow, Tobin, your drawing is so good. You should show it to [our art teacher] Ms. Purple; she'll think it's amazing." And my heart swells with gratitude that, even in my tired, listless state, I was witness to such a tender, kind moment.
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Monday, October 17, 2016
I wasn't well-motivated at school in the morning, then after lunch I got a notification from my Facebook app that I "shared a memory" with Allison today. That happens a lot, and honestly, I flirt with deleting Facebook from my phone pretty frequently because it seems to steal more time than it's worth.
But the reminder was that three years ago today was Allison's final radiation treatment, finishing the third and final phase of her treatments. In the intervening three years, we've grown to love a new house, seen the kids grow to love a wonderful school, made fast friends with new neighbors, and thankfully navigated three years of positive checkups for Allison post-treatment. We have had difficulty and sadness in that intervening time, but none of it has been as all-consuming or terrifying for me as the prospect of Allison's illness.
So today, I am thankful for the normal (sometimes annoying) minutiae of life, and for a slate of minor annoyances that clutter up my mind. And I'm thankful for reminders like today's, that my temporary annoyance is a luxury facilitated by being secure in the bedrock aspects of my family's life.
Sunday, October 16, 2016
Saturday, October 15, 2016
Friday, October 14, 2016
Thursday, October 13, 2016
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Tuesday, October 11, 2016
A situation at work has been causing me some stress. Since I'm a contact point between teachers in my department and the administration at school, I'm often the recipient of complaints.
Today I wanted to complain myself that people brought their emotion-fed frustrations and concerns to me. I had a moment where I felt weary and powerless and pessimistic about the efficacy of anyone telling me anything about anything, since I have little more than a seat at a decision-making table.
But on my way home, I thought of the people in my life with whom I am comfortable being emotionally honest and vulnerable, and I realized that I have an opportunity to reciprocate and be a good listener and sounding board for other teachers. And really, teachers "teach" content, but are more engaged in full-time human behavior management and encouragement. That's bound to be a tangled road, even in the best of circumstances. And sometimes that road necessitates having an ally and advocate, even if that advocate had limited means to "fix" things.
So today (somewhat reluctantly) I'm thankful to have the trust of many of the people with whom I work. And I'm thankful for the generous hearts and ears in my life to whom I can ask advice, share frustrations, and receive guidance.
Monday, October 10, 2016
Sunday, October 09, 2016
Saturday, October 08, 2016
Friday, October 07, 2016
Thursday, October 06, 2016
Wednesday, October 05, 2016
Tuesday, October 04, 2016
Monday, October 03, 2016
I have some frustrating stories about public education that I could tell today, but the success was a visit from two young men I taught over a decade ago. They stopped by at the end of my work day, and we reminisced, and I got to hear about the lives that they've made for themselves in the intervening years. I'm thankful for the memories we share, and thankful too for the opportunities schools create for people to connect and support each other.
Sunday, October 02, 2016
Saturday, October 01, 2016
My instinct was to call out to her to chill and "play nice," but then I found myself thinking about how I would address the same behavior from the boys. And I realized that I would most likely praise their behavior and willingness to play hard. In fact, I've taught them explicitly how to use their hips in soccer and football to keep other players off the ball. I think my instinct to change Lauren's style is because she's a girl.
I'm glad I didn't say anything about it. I did mention later something like "Hey La, I noticed a few elbows being thrown at the game today, did you?"
She smiled and said "Yeah, and it was fun."
As a kid and a young man, I thought embarrassingly little about what it's like to be a girl or a woman. Having a daughter has really challenged me to try to recognize double-standards or assumptions that I and other people have because of a person's gender.
Twitter isn't good for much most of the time, but a couple of years ago, as a result of broader discussions of sexism, the hashtag discussion #YesAllWomen trended. I spent a morning reading it, and I was struck by how little I knew. For instance, after reading about it, I asked some of my women friends if they too always called or texted friends when they got home after an evening out. To a person, they answered "yes," because of the constant threat of violence against women. Realistically, if I called or texted a male friend to say I made it home safely after a concert or something, I would expect to be made fun of. That was only one anecdote among many that revealed to me how unaware I was of women's normal experiences.
I find that I'm especially fretful about Lauren and the world she is boldly navigating. I cringe when people call her dramatic or emotional. I'll bristle if someone calls her "bossy" when she asserts herself. I try not to make the focus of my compliments to her about how "cute" or "pretty" she is, and I try to praise how smart and tough and funny she is. And man is she smart. And tough. And funny.
I'm thankful to have been given a daughter like Lauren, who encourages me to broaden my own ideas about the world. I'm thankful we attend a church with a female head pastor, whom Lauren loves to give flying hugs. I'm thankful that Lauren is growing up in a world where Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice and Serena Williams are the norm. And I'm especially thankful that her most important role model is her mom, who exemplifies the strength and love and principles that I hope and pray Lauren realizes for herself as she grows up.
Friday, September 30, 2016
Thursday, September 29, 2016
Last year, a group of students asked me to be the sponsor for a club focused on support for Syrian refugees. I agreed, and watched as the group created presentations to discuss the history of Syria. They did a better job of discussing the issues than most news outlets.
As an extension of their information work, they held two successful bake sales, with all proceeds going to the American Refugee Committee. The group had their first meeting of the new school year this week, and has plans to expand its work and fundraising.
I'm thankful for the inspiration of young people. And I'm hopeful that their spirit of community, local and international, spreads among more and more people.
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Monday, September 26, 2016
Sunday, September 25, 2016
Yesterday, I got to join Tobin on a Saturday field trip of architecture downtown. Two of his teachers organized it for 5 students identified to participate in in a special math program.
We finished the trip by being treated to ice cream by Tobin's teacher. I'm pretty sure I never attended a Saturday field trip with my teacher, but I'm sure my 5th grade teacher (whom I loved) never treated me and my friends to ice cream. I'm thankful for our children's teachers and the key influence they wield on our kids' lives.
Saturday, September 24, 2016
I had no idea what to expect and was already going through a mental list of our kid-free friends who might be able to take a Smith kid to a soccer game (all games are at 9am and 10am, so not the most appealing volunteer schedule for a Saturday morning), but the league pleasantly surprised me by responding quickly. They switched Lauren's game to the earlier slot for this morning. And they're working on the other two dates. I responded with gratitude-laden emails.
This experience made me thankful for lessons I've learned and tried to put into practice, especially in the past year: assume everyone is doing their best; there's no harm in asking for what you need; and kindness is always the best place to start. While it's also true that I don't always live up to these ideals and that things don't always fall into place as neatly as I like, I can be grateful for pleasant surprises. I'm also musing over Lauren playing "up" on Evan's team next season to ease some of our logistical concerns.
Friday, September 23, 2016
Thursday, September 22, 2016
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Evan stayed home from school today. I got a text from Allison that, before leaving for the doctor's office, Evan was playing the piano and singing loudly. I remember learning to play on the same piano, and I remember my dad and grandmother playing it, too.
I'm thankful for the timelessness of music, and Evan's independent musical enthusiasm. I'm also grateful to have such a tangible link to people no longer with us, but still with us.
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Monday, September 19, 2016
Sunday, September 18, 2016
Saturday, September 17, 2016
I'm thankful for my Lala, and the independent, awesome girl she is and continues to become.
Friday, September 16, 2016
Thursday, September 15, 2016
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Monday, September 12, 2016
Sunday, September 11, 2016
I'm thankful for our first flag football game of the season tonight. The kids--ours and the neighbors--are getting better and playing well together.
It reminds me of the rotating seasons of sports I played in the back yard when I was a kid.
Saturday, September 10, 2016
I'm grateful for soccer. When I was in the third grade, I played my first season of soccer. Since then, I've loved the sport. Though my playing days ended in high school, it's been especially fun to watch my kids learn and love the sport. Today was the first day of their second, fourth, and seventh seasons. They each scored goals (Tobin had two!) in their games and, most importantly, demonstrated a lot of joy playing,
Friday, September 09, 2016
Thursday, September 08, 2016
Wednesday, September 07, 2016
Tuesday, September 06, 2016
Monday, September 05, 2016
- God said it. I believe it. That settles it.
- If you complain about farmers, don't talk with your mouth full.
- Right to Work is a Rip-Off
My best friend's grandfather was also a career laborer and union member, and he always advocated strongly for the people who could feel the work they did.
I'm thankful for Labor Day as a day off to spend with my family and friends, but I'm also trying to be mindful of the millions who literally give their sweat for progress and betterment of us all.
Sunday, September 04, 2016
I don't like how school starts so late in August (which means it ends in early June, instead of late May), but I do love the usual timing of Labor Day weekend falling after the first week. We had a great first week, but I think we're all kind of exhausted. The extra day allows us just a little more rest and a little more togetherness. I'm grateful for that moment at the end of a Southern summer when you walk out in the evening and realize you don't feel the air. It's neither hot nor cold. It's perfect, and the light is just right. And I have the best view.
Saturday, September 03, 2016
Friday, September 02, 2016
Thursday, September 01, 2016
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Lauren's day started later than everyone else's. She didn't have school today, because her school does a staggered start for pre-K and kindergarten. I let her sleep in. Getting up around 6:30 to get to school at the new, earlier start time has been a little hard on my late sleeper. I was thankful for the grace of a leisurely morning with just her. (Matt took the boys to school.) And then a day of running errands and lunch with Matt, ending with more girl time playing a board game while the boys were at soccer practice.
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Monday, August 29, 2016
Sunday, August 28, 2016
I'm thankful that our children look forward to going to school. My own three favorite years in elementary school were Kindergarten, 2nd Grade, and 5th Grade. I have remembered the kindness of those teachers for my whole life. Now that my own children are entering Kindergarten, 2nd, and 5th, I'm especially thankful for the teachers they have.
Saturday, August 27, 2016
Friday, August 26, 2016
Today at 12:34 I was cleaning up lunch at home. Today is our last Friday of 2016 before classes begin. I'm grateful for my family and the time that we get to share together as a group. I'm thankful that we've been able to make family the focus of our summers.
Thursday, August 25, 2016
I'm grateful for the six days my mom spent with us, which ended today. Lala was particularly sad to see her go. Parting is such sweet sorrow, but I'm also thankful for the obvious bond the kids have with their Mimi. We eagerly anticipate our next time together.
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Monday, August 22, 2016
Sunday, August 21, 2016
Saturday, August 20, 2016
Friday, August 19, 2016
Thursday, August 18, 2016
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Monday, August 15, 2016
Sunday, August 14, 2016
Saturday, August 13, 2016
Friday, August 12, 2016
Thursday, August 11, 2016
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
They've been a great point of reference for many conversations today. We've shared awe (and some disgust) at them, but generally wondered at something none of us had ever encountered before.
Today, I'm thankful for curiosity, family, nature, and--yes--leopard slugs.
Tuesday, August 09, 2016
Monday, August 08, 2016
Sunday, August 07, 2016
Saturday, August 06, 2016
I think my favorite part of the afternoon was how easily our kids all got along. Sharing the afternoon with our kids and our spouses felt like a natural extension of our friendships that started over 20 years ago.
Friday, August 05, 2016
Thursday, August 04, 2016
Wednesday, August 03, 2016
The kids adore their two-year-old cousin Sam. He knows all our names, and likes snuggling and wrestling and throwing balls, and everyone is having a lot of fun. We're grateful for this sweet cousin time, made a lot easier this year since Sarah, Dan and Sam moved to a town less than two hours from Grandma's house. I'm grateful for this sweet time together.
Tuesday, August 02, 2016
Monday, August 01, 2016
Once we finally made it home, I needed something to motivate me. I knew picking a long distance or pace goal would feel too daunting, so I decided on just doing three miles, running or walking, every single day. I have discovered that it's more important for me to exercise because of the way it makes me feel--as opposed to how it might make me look. My pattern over the last few weeks has been to do some running (always mixed with a little walking as I build my stamina back up) on one day and then just walking the next.
Today tested my resolve, because there was a light rain coming down when I started to walk. I hesitated but realized I would feel worse if I skipped a day than if I got soaked from the rain. So I grabbed an umbrella and logged nearly three-and-a-half miles. I'm grateful for how exercise makes me feel and thankful to be in a mindset in which I can see clearly how much I need it. I'm looking forward to seeing how long I can keep this streak going.
Sunday, July 31, 2016
Saturday, July 30, 2016
We arrived in Louisville last night. Today I am enjoying all the things I love about being here: sleeping in, having waffles for breakfast, chatting with my mother-in-law over coffee, running pretty routes with Matt and planning a date night for later. I'm thankful for the promise in the week ahead: relaxing family time.
Friday, July 29, 2016
Thursday, July 28, 2016
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
We're enjoying a low-key day after an awesome trip to the zoo yesterday. I got to run under cloudy skies this morning, which made July running much more pleasant. I need to start working on work again soon, but I'm thankful for free-form days like today while I have them.
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Back in April, I won the bid on a year-long membership to the NC Zoo at a silent auction fundraiser for the kids' school. I was thrilled to get the membership at a good price, while supporting our PTA. The zoo is an hour-and-a-half drive from us, so planning a trip means we need to block off the whole day. We talked casually with the kids about going to the zoo this summer, and Lauren latched on to the idea very enthusiastically. In fact, nearly every day we were away in Georgia and Louisiana, she would predict, "When we go back home to North Carolina, we're going to the ZOO!"
When we did get home, we needed a week or so to unpack, relax and regroup. Nearly every morning, Lauren would suggest, "Today would be a great day to go to the zoo!" This week rolled around and we thought it would be a great time to take a day trip, but the heat got really bad. We decided to brave it anyway, remembering that the zoo had lots of natural shade and plenty of indoor exhibits. We headed out this morning with about 2 gallons of water and a cooler full of food for a picnic lunch. It had been a couple years since we'd been, so Matt and I even took the time to map out our route through the exhibits, so that we could hopefully see everything but also not double-back and increase our walking distance.
It all went really well. We are now at a point in our family life that we can pack pretty lightly: no stroller and just one backpack with our water. I haven't been to a lot of zoos, but the NC Zoo is probably my favorite. It's really nice: great shaded walking trails and really pretty exhibits. We saw nearly everything, covered about six miles in the process, and even got away with not spending a dime because our membership got us in free and we ate sandwiches back at our van for lunch. The kids really only complained a little, and were characteristically delighted and delightful, enjoying all the animals.
I'm grateful for very special day with my family.
Monday, July 25, 2016
Sunday, July 24, 2016
Saturday, July 23, 2016
Friday, July 22, 2016
Thursday, July 21, 2016
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
After being away for a few weeks, it almost feels like we're vacationing at home. It's so nice to be back in my own kitchen, own bed, own neighborhood. We're back to our usual routines of playing outside after dinner. The boys have been playing a lot of driveway tennis, which they more or less taught themselves after watching Wimbledon on TV and with some guidance from Matt. I'm grateful for my home and for my kids' love of sports.
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
I'm thankful for my kids' chatter at the dining room table at lunchtime. Today's topics: lemurs, beetles, the geographic history of Africa and Madagascar (and the ensuing development of monkeys on one and lemurs the other), how to pronounce grapes & apples, and the steepest street in the world.
Monday, July 18, 2016
Sunday, July 17, 2016
Saturday, July 16, 2016
This morning when Evan woke up we asked what the Tooth Fairy had given him, because he had put FOUR teeth under his pillow. His reason for keeping the teeth, some dating back to early May, was varied. At first, he was sentimental: "But I love that tooth. It's the only one of those teeth I've ever had." Later, as they accumulated, he mused, "Maybe I'll just save all the teeth I lose from now on, and then I'll get a lot of money at once. It'll be like my birthday!" But last night, when his fourth top tooth was added to this bag, he declared he was ready. He worried that the Tooth Fairy wouldn't accept them all at once: "Maybe if she doesn't take them, we will separate them tomorrow night."
Well this morning, he said he hadn't checked under his pillow because he wanted the whole family to watch him do it. When he discovered the five-dollar bill, he was surprised because the usual reward is a dollar per tooth. We suggested that maybe the Tooth Fairy was so impressed with four teeth at once that she gave him a bonus. He wondered, "Maybe she miscounted in the dark . . . because there were so many teeth?"
I'm grateful for my sweet, hilarious middle child and everyday moments like these that make for fun family memories.
Friday, July 15, 2016
At 12:34 today, I had soaked a shirt with sweat from cleaning the gutters, trimming trees, chopping up a limb that had fallen over the fence, and removing a wild blackberry patch from the back yard. I am thankful to be able to work in my yard, and thankful for our home.
Thursday, July 14, 2016
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
For those of you wondering about our location, we are still in Louisiana. I am struggling with some impatience and feelings of frustration that we are totally at the mercy of a Honda dealership in Alexandria, that appears to not have any sense of urgency regarding our van's repair.
Our extended stay has afforded us some extra time with my brother Al and sister-in-law Melinda. We only get to see them about once a year, when we are able to make it to Lake Charles. Uncle Al has been stopping by to have lunch with us on his midday break and sharing most dinners with us. Melinda has treated the kids to a movie on Saturday and painted Lauren's nails. Al has been taking the kids on walks around the block to find Pokémons. We love spending time with them and I'm thankful for the memories we're making on this particular visit.
Monday, July 11, 2016
Sunday, July 10, 2016
Saturday, July 09, 2016
Friday, July 08, 2016
I'm really thankful for my parents. This is our last day with them for a while, so we're trying to make the most of it. They're generous and fun--a great, supportive combo for Matt and me as we parent our kiddos. As you can see above, Mimi and Granpa are always up to for a game, even Mimi who is recovering from an ACL injury she suffered while playing with the kids back in April. I'm also grateful she's obviously healing well.
Thursday, July 07, 2016
Wednesday, July 06, 2016
Tuesday, July 05, 2016
Monday, July 04, 2016
Sunday, July 03, 2016
Saturday, July 02, 2016
Friday, July 01, 2016
Thursday, June 30, 2016
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
I'm thankful for this guy. We're having fun celebrating Evan's birthday: presents (among other things, Pokémon toys and a Lionel Messi FC Barcelona jersey), doughnuts for breakfast, swimming and, later, pizza and cake. I'm especially grateful to be doing so with our extended family here in Louisiana.
When you were born, seven years ago today, we called you "Baby Evan from Heaven." Tobin was just three years old then, and he liked the rhyme. And we all adored you--you might as well have been an angel. Well, today your age rhymes with your name and you like saying "Evan is seven."
I don't mean to hang too heavy a halo on your head, but any one who's ever spent any time with you quickly catches on to what a truly sweet spirit you have. Your heart is tender and your joy comes easy.
This has always been true of you. You are shy with adults but make quick, strong connections with other kids. I remember taking you to playgrounds when you were a toddler, and you'd almost always pair off with another kid, a total stranger, and the two of you would be best of friends for that hour or so of play.
This year at school, you moved up to a first through third grade class. This was a big transition because you changed teachers after two years with the same one in your pre-K/kindergarten class. You were hoping to follow in Tobin's footsteps and be in Mr. Zopfi's class. But you were assigned to his wife's class, right across the hall. I felt comfortable with this, because I knew she was very nice, but you were unsure. Then I found out some fun news: your friend Ruby was in Mrs. Zopfi's class.
Ruby has been in your class since the first day of pre-K and the two of you have a really sweet friendship. You enjoy each other's company and are both really nice to everyone. That seemed to calm your first-day jitters and you really loved your first year in Mrs. Zopfi's class. Mrs. Zopfi, Dad and I were very proud of how hard you worked. You made great strides in reading. Writing was especially difficult for you at the beginning of the year. As part of your nightly homework, you had to write one sentence in response to the short book you read. For the first two months of the school year, getting through this one sentence often involved tears and a lot of patient encouragement from Dad and me. Even though it was hard, you stuck with it. Then at the start of the second semester, your assignment increased to writing two sentences. You complained about the extra work, but adjusted more quickly because writing had become easier. When I was visiting your class on one of the last days of schools, Mrs. Zopfi told me, "I'm so proud of Evan. He struggled so much with writing at the beginning of the year, but now he's such an enthusiastic little author."
Mrs. Zopfi also paid you a high compliment when she told me how everyone in class seems to like you. You get along well with friends in your multi-age class, no matter their grade. Mrs. Zopfi explained, "It's just because he's so nice to everyone." I'm thankful you are well-liked, but I'm thrilled and proud to hear about your kindness. I'm also grateful that you're in a school where you can make friends with kids who come from a variety of backgrounds, some seeming very different from yours. But what I see you learning is that we're really not all that different, and we're all in this together.
Your kindness is in full effect in the sports you play. You loved your third fall of soccer, but your second spring of baseball was really special. We lucked out when you got drafted by your coach from last year. We love Coach Matt. He's kind, caring and fun. You were thrilled to be an Oriole again. You got to play a lot of third base, as well as first and pitcher. Even when you played left field, you would come up firing, trying to get a force at second or third. We loved seeing your skill continue to develop and watching the effort and joy with which you played. You were one of the best players on your team, but what you seemed most concerned with whether or not you were the tallest. At the end of the season, your coach honored you with your team's sportsmanship award. That made us prouder than anything you did on the field, or even your team's awesome second-place regular-season finish.
As has been the case for most of your birthdays, we are currently away from from home on our summer travels. We spent a couple days in the car, making our way to Louisiana for our annual family reunion. Your dad likes to play music for us. He made a few mixes and we've enjoyed the Avett Brothers' new album. From my view in the front passenger seat, I catch your dad smiling and sometimes patting his heart. He explains that he can watch you in the rear view mirror, listening, moving and singing along with the music. And it makes his heart swell.
Ev, my hope and prayer for you this year, and always, is that your heart will remain tender. It's what makes you, you. Sometimes I want to shield you from the things that will make your heart hurt. But I'm learning from you that a tender heart is an open heart. The love you give is returned right back to you. You remind me that even in my more complicated grown-up life that kindness is the best place to start, everyday life is full of joy, and hard work (and play) are their own rewards. So today we proclaim: "Evan is seven!" And shower you with the love and joy you have given each of us.
Monday, June 27, 2016
[A note from Allison: This post was originally published here on the website of my friend Elizabeth Sherwood. Liz was the counselor for a young women's support group I started meeting with, very early in my chemo regimen. That group remains an important part of my life, more than three years out. Liz is a wise, inspiring person who has said some of the most important things to me as I made my way through the rigors of treatment and the difficult aftermath. She has since left Chapel Hill to pursue a new venture, still supporting those living with cancer. If you or someone you love is living with cancer, I hope you'll explore Liz's website and services. Xoxo.]
I’ve written and thought a lot about my heart, especially over the three-plus years since my breast cancer diagnosis at the age of 36. I’ve been in tune with each and every ache--even the happy ones like watching my kids grow. When I was diagnosed, they were ages six, three and one. Now they are ten, almost seven and five. I feel like I am watching their childhood slip away. All the while, I’m so incredibly grateful to be here, for them and for me, sharing in the ups and downs of life. I find myself understanding that heartache can coexist with--even spring from--joy.
With my cancer diagnosis, I experienced a great sense of loss. Cancer broke my heart. I remember pinpointing this feeling in the months following my seven months of treatment. I had survived the most difficult seven months of my life, facing chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. Many who loved me congratulated and commended me for “fighting the good fight” and some, for “beating cancer.” But I felt far from triumphant. I felt exhausted and scared and sad. I felt broken. As my focus shifted from the physical, bodily effects of cancer treatment, I faced the daunting challenge of turning inward and taking inventory of how my mind and heart had changed. I spent many months thinking of my heart as broken and closed. I hid myself and my heart, hunkered down in a protective, wound-licking mode. I pushed back from all things spiritual because they were too murky, too elusive--and often troubling.
I can’t say exactly when my thinking started to change. It feels recent. When a new way of thinking and feeling comes, it can feel sudden. But I know it was gradual, the result of a lot of hard work--steps forward and backward--as I tried to integrate my cancer experience into my life. I realized my heart is not fragmented, but open. It’s hurt but at least it’s not hard; it’s soft. In discussing people who have experienced great loss, author and educator Parker Palmer says, that after their deep grief, “[T]hey slowly awaken to the fact that not in spite of their loss, but because of it, they’ve become bigger, more compassionate people, with more capacity of heart to take in other people’s sorrows and joys. These are broken-hearted people, but their hearts have been broken open, rather than broken apart.”
This resonated with me as I found myself looking on the world with a much softer lens. I am much less convinced that I am right and others are wrong. That doesn’t mean I don’t get angry or judgmental, but I usually find my way back to a place of acceptance. My spiritual practice emphasizes belonging and gratitude, not righteousness. I accept that life is uncertain, but life is still full of hope--precisely because we don’t know what will happen.
Cancer forced a bit of what researcher and writer Brené Brown terms “wholehearted living” upon me. I live especially mindful of my mortality. I am taking care of myself physically by exercising and eating mindfully. I find there is a particularly strong connection between exercise and my mental health. Running regularly keeps my mood more even and just helps me feel more clear-headed. I am also nurturing my mind and spirit through attending a monthly support group, reading and writing. My husband and I have collaborated on a daily gratitude project, in which we take turns writing about what we are thankful for each day. Self-care is something I have to recommit to every single day. Some days and weeks I’m better at it than others. Of course, I’m also taking care of my family and find myself especially grateful for my time as a stay-at-home mom. This is a particularly sweet phase in my life that will change and end as my kids get older and I eventually return to work outside the home. I am loving this house and this neighborhood where I live. I am connecting with friends, especially families at my kids’ school.
There is a peace that comes with widening my perspective--of accepting life’s uncertainty along with its joys and sorrows. However, I don’t want to paint a picture of myself wearing rose-colored glasses. I still live with a measure of fear and resentment related to my cancer. I feel this most pointedly when I have my semi-annual check-ups and scans. But what I have learned to do is to allow that discomfort to come in, unjudged. I sit with it. I’m extra careful with myself and my feelings. I cut myself some slack when I’m a nervous wreck the days before a mammogram. And when my mammogram comes back normal, I experience an exquisite, exhausting sense of relief and gratitude. I treasure and sit with that moment too.
But what if, one day, my mammogram isn’t clear? Or what if I have a pain in my side that turns out to be metastatic disease? These are hard questions and possibilities that I live with. Some days they weigh on me more than others. When these anxieties well up, my response is to do whatever I can--read, pray, exercise, laugh--to get myself back to where I am right now. I try to return to the present, where my life is--even in its imperfection--full of love and joy. I live with these fears, but I don’t necessarily have to live in them.
In her book Rising Strong, Brené Brown writes: “If we’re going to put ourselves out there and love with our whole hearts, we’re going to experience heartbreak.” My thought upon reading that was, “Sometimes, I feel like I can’t handle any more heartbreak.” But lately, I’ve started to think I really can’t control or limit my heartbreak. My heart is broken. Is it fragmented? Or is it open? Is it both?
More and more I find my heart open to whatever is out there for it to receive. One of my favorite writers, Glennon Doyle Melton, introduced me to the idea that I can use my heartache as a compass--let the compassion in my heart lead me to serve. She asks, “What if the voice of compassion is our internal compass? What if all we have to do to get what we need down here is run towards the very things and people and places that break our hearts?” So what does this mean in my post-cancer life? For me, it’s a very specific step towards getting more involved in my kids’ school as a parent leader. This step allows me to witness the very good, difficult work that is done every day by teachers and staff. It has also allowed me to work with other parents as we seek to address challenges that exist for our school community, particularly an achievement gap.
I don’t know where I will end up, but I feel encouraged that I have a direction to follow. Cancer has taken many things from my family and me. But one thing I’ve gained from it is a very concrete sense of shared suffering. We all suffer pain and loss. I’ve also experienced the transformational power of love, extended to my family and me in our time of need. And I hope that my open heart will lead me to the next loving step in my journey.