Saturday, December 31, 2016

12:34 December 31

Oldest & youngest Smith cousins.

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

12:34 December 30

I'm still enjoying the glow from an awesome birthday yesterday. I'm thankful for and humbled by all the birthday wishes and blessings.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

12:34 December 29 - Happy 40th, Matt!

Window seat #durm #thefed #datenight

Dear Matt,

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!

Love,
Allison

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

12:34 December 28

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

12:34 December 27

Today our Walsh family left, heading to Georgia to spend a couple extra days with my sister and her family. In this Season in which we celebrate the arrival of God as Child, it is so very poignant that we welcome two new children into our family.

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

12:34 December 25

I'm grateful for a Christmas at home--with lots of love, laughter, food, football, and family.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

12:34 December 24

I'm thankful for gumbo, cookies, family in town, and the first Christmas Eve I've spent in North Carolina in about 20 years living here.

Friday, December 23, 2016

12:34 December 23

It's Christmas Eve Eve. The boys are sleeping on a pallet on our floor. Our small house is overflowing with guests. I finished my holiday shopping and baking just today. I'm not so good at doing Christmas. But tonight, I've adjusted to the crowd in the house, watched my children spend all day playing and basking in the adoration of family other than us, and even managed a dinner date night out with Matt. I'm grateful for this holiday, in all its staying-home-and-hosting peculiarity.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

12:34 December 22

The boys used to sleep in the same bed on these sheets at our old house. Tonight, they're sleeping in them again as we begin to welcome family into town for Christmas. I'm thankful for family and memories, old and new.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

12:34 December 21

I'm thankful that the holiday break has finally rolled around.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

12:34 December 20

I was getting annoyed with Lala at dinner tonight. She was relentless, and I had a moment where I wondered the last time either Allison or I finished a sentence. She continued in that mode for a while, then dropped this note.


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

12:34 December 19

I survived today. By "survived," I mean all I have left to do is bake cookies, address Christmas cards, and watch football. I'm thankful to be at this point in the day.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

12:34 December 18

I got to watch our kids interact with other kids and adults at church and at a party for the staff at school today. I'm thankful for their confidence and comfort being themselves around others.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

12:34 December 17

At the end of a long week, that included a lot of work for me, I was thankful for the chance to sleep in and spend time with my family and our neighbors.

Friday, December 16, 2016

12:34 December 16

I'm thankful for a great long-term substitute at work who has helped me tremendously over the last few weeks.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

12:34 December 15

On a cold night, after a very busy day for all of us, I'm grateful to share a meal of chili and some post-dinner music.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

12:34 December 14

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

12:34 December 11

I'm grateful for a restful almost-winter day of church, football, pizza, and a cozy fire.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

12:34 December 10

Allison wrote nicely about Tobin's class's celebration last night. I took this picture while he was presenting his work and fielding questions from his mom. I'm thankful for how much of his personality is conveyed in this snapshot: his sense of joy, sense of humor, confidence in his work, and love for his mom.

Friday, December 09, 2016

12:34 December 9

Tobin and his friend Margaret, who is a Duke freshman. Together, they worked on a month's-long project, meeting at least once a week. It's a wonderful program organized by T's teacher and Margaret's professors.

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.

Tobin & Margaret (not pictured) presented their Great Books project last night to all Tobin's classmates & their families.

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.

t and margaret at the duke buddies' celebration.

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

12:34 December 8

I'm thankful each of the kids was reading a book right before bedtime tonight.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

12:34 December 7

Today, I was very mindful of the many connections to people in my life, past and present. I'm thankful for those--for the memories they evoke and the possibilities they offer.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

12:34 December 6

Evan said something this morning that I've thought about all day. I've had the De La Soul song "Here In After" stuck in my head for a few days. It opens with a few lines about having lost loved ones:
I ain't tryna waste this
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
Evan, 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."

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

12:34 December 5

I'm thankful for butternut squash soup. Tonight was the first time I've made it since last winter/early spring.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

12:34 December 4

I'm thankful for De La Soul. I listened to their most recent album while running home from church today. Their first record was the first CD I ever bought, and I feel like we've grown up together.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

12:34 December 3

We are expecting to not be away from home much over the holidays, so we got a real Christmas tree for the first time. The kids are fascinated by its size and smell and curious that we have to water it. Lala hugged the tree before she went to bed. I'm thankful to be in the midst of making fun memories.

Friday, December 02, 2016

12:34 December 2

I'm thankful for friends who check in on me at work and offer their assistance. This was a long week made better by good teamwork.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

12:34 December 1

I'm thankful for a Thursday night out, followed by a Friday off.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

12:34 November 29

I'm grateful for the rain that fell here today. Praying for more rain, especially west of us in NC and TN.

Monday, November 28, 2016

12:34 November 28

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

12:34 November 27

This morning at church our family lit the candle of hope for the first Sunday of Advent. We are rarely home on this Sunday each year, so I am thankful to be home and at our church, with the opportunity to be mindful of Advent from its very beginning.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Friday, November 25, 2016

12:34 November 25

It's an Eno kind of afternoon.

Today we hiked along the Eno River. The kids threw countless rocks in the water. I'm thankful for a place like this so close to home where our kids can explore and make memories.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

12:34 November 24

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

12:34 November 23

Today was the first day of our Thanksgiving break. For the first time I can remember, we are spending Thanksgiving with just the five of us. While we especially miss Matt's family, who we usually join in Kentucky, I am thankful to avoid the stress of travel and to be able to cook in my own kitchen. I will savor the restfulness of this travel-free break.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

12:34 November 22

I'm thankful for Fred Rogers. I try to show this video to my students around this time every year: https://youtu.be/Upm9LnuCBUM.

Monday, November 21, 2016

12:34 November 21

Today was full. I was busy pretty much every single second until about an hour ago. Facing a busy day is daunting at the outset, but at its end I'm grateful for what I've learned and accomplished.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

12:34 November 20

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

12:34 November 19

Today included so many aspects of our present life that I am thankful for: neighbors who my kids can play with, a locale where a 70-degree autumn day is possible, a big yard for our kids to run around in while we rake and tend to our garden, a church that hosts a parents' night out, and a date night at a cozy Ninth Street restaurant where we can enjoy drinks, good conversation, and college football games on the TV. I'm feeling especially grateful for Durham, this community where we're raising our kids.

Friday, November 18, 2016

12:34 November 18

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

12:34 November 17

Today we hosted three lovely Muslim women, who Matt has gotten to know through teaching, for a brief visit. It was an honor to witness their grace, honesty, and pain right here in my living room. I'm grateful for the people who enrich our lives and the lessons they can each teach us.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

12:34 November 15

I'm grateful for cozy, easy meals like vegetable soup with grilled cheese sandwiches.

Monday, November 14, 2016

12:34 November 14

I'm thankful for a good start with a new principal at work.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

12:34 November 13

I'm thankful for my church, which felt like a comforting place to be for my family and me today. I'm grateful for connections made in difficult conversations.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

12:34 November 12

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

12:34 November 11

We are home, together. Resting and playing. I'm thankful for this at the end of a hard week.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

12:34 November 10

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

12:34 November 9

I am disappointed and heartbroken that Hillary Clinton lost the election. There's no "but" with a silver-lining. I need some time to process--to feel--this.

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

12:34 November 8

This morning, I woke up early to buy donuts for the kids. I took them to vote with me, then took them to my school for a while, where I had a teacher workday. We came home to have lunch, then spent the afternoon raking leaves, popping popcorn, playing football outside, and enjoying a perfect afternoon.

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

12:34 November 7

Today I had to take the younger two for their annual check-ups, so I picked them up from school early. I decided to let Tobin stay at school and ride the bus home. He played at our neighbors' until I got home. At the doctor, Ev and Lala were charming with the doctor and brave getting their flu shots. I'm grateful for many things: health insurance, kind nurses and doctors, vaccines, public school transportation, awesome neighbors, and healthy children.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

12:34 November 6

We finished soccer season today with 7 games among the three kids over two days. All three of the kids had positive, supportive coaches this season, and I'm thankful for each of them and the time they dedicated to our kids.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

12:34 November 5

On this night before the end of Daylight Saving Time, I'm thankful my kids are old enough to understand this: "If you wake up and Mom and Dad are still asleep, BE QUIET and LET US SLEEP."

We'll see how it goes.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Thursday, November 03, 2016

12:34 November 3

I've been feeling a little overwhelmed and behind on things, but I've been grateful to have a couple productive, peaceful days this week to try to get back to where I need to be. I'm lucky to have a little job that I enjoy. I'm also thankful that Fridays off are still part of my routine.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

12:34 November 2

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

12:34 November 1

Happy Halloween! πŸŽƒ

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

12:34 October 31

I'm thankful for our 3rd Halloween in this house, a fun neighborhood, and great neighbors to share it with.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

12:34 October 30

I'm grateful for a restful Sunday with the added bonus of a day off school tomorrow.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

12:34 October 29

I am thankful for Allison, with whom I navigate this beautiful, hilarious life.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

12:34 October 27

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

12:34 October 26

I spent the whole day with Mom, because I didn't have to work. We picked the Evan and Lauren up from school and let them spend the next hour and a half playing on their newly renovated, re-opened school playground while we waited for Tobin's after-school activity to let out.

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

12:34 October 25

When I got home from work today, the kids were playing in the yard with Mimi, friends from school, and our neighbors. I'm thankful to come home to the sounds of kids enjoying a beautiful day.

Monday, October 24, 2016

12:34 October 24

Today, I'm grateful for parents at the kids' school, who generously volunteer their time and resources.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

12:34 October 23

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

12:34 October 22

I thankful for a full, fall Saturday with Mom here: pancakes, soccer, shopping, and football.

Friday, October 21, 2016

12:34 October 21

I'm thankful for a family trip to the Fair, and the chance to celebrate T's art on display there.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

12:34 October 20

I am sitting here at the end of a long, full day, feeling pretty exhausted, because I didn't sleep much last night. Mom arrived earlier today, and she's reading to Lala back in her bedroom. The boys are sitting here near me on the couch, chatting while Tobin draws. I am numbly scrolling through Facebook on my phone, just kinda waiting for everyone to be ready to be tucked in, so I can watch a little baseball or football, then go to bed early.

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

12:34 October 19

The leaves are starting to change and fall. I'm thankful for autumn.

Monday, October 17, 2016

12:34 October 17

I started the week today by feeling annoyed. I felt like my weekend slipped away without enough productivity. Our family calendar looked fuller going forward than I felt like I wanted it to be. The Panthers are playing poorly. I stayed up to watch the Cubs (whom I've decided to root for in honor of my best friend's grandfather) lose, making me go to bed late and cranky on Sunday night.

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

12:34 October 15

I'm thankful for a full moon, a cool evening with neighbors, and a backyard fire.

Friday, October 14, 2016

12:34 October 14

Today has been productive and restful, which feels like the best kind of day.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

12:34 October 13

Tobin has studied the Civil War in literature and history the last two years. He was talking with Allison and me last night when I asked him what he thought of the Civil War's justification. He noted that slavery had to be stopped, but then added "I guess, like all wars, it was indescribably sad."

I've thought a lot about that statement today. It's the kind of simple, profound truth that I find myself struggling to express at times. Today, I am thankful for the spirit of Tobin's heart, and hopeful he continues to see the world from such an empathetic perspective.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

12:34 October 12

Unlike Monday, today has been low-key for me: no work, a morning walk and talk with a friend, catching up on emails, and even watching something on my DVR. I'm thankful for a bit of a break in the middle of the week.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

12:34 October 11

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

12:34 October 10

I'm thankful I started this busy day with an early morning run.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

12:34 October 9

I'm thankful for Allison's homemade pizza, backyard football, and a day mostly free of obligations.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

12:34 October 8

I'm grateful for a rainy Saturday that allowed us to sleep in, because our soccer games were canceled. We were spared power outages and the flood and wind damage many just south and east of us experienced.

Friday, October 07, 2016

12:34 October 7

At 12:34 today, even though I was at work, I was able to be with Allison. She brought Chinese food and ate lunch at school with us. I'm thankful for extra time with Allison during a work day at the end of a long week.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

12:34 October 6

This afternoon, rain is threatening, so I drove the van to the bus stop, which is about a three-minute walk from our house. It wasn't raining when the bus arrived, so the boys opted to walk home while Lauren climbed into the van with me. As I drove past the boys walking down our quiet street, both had their books out and were reading as they walked. Lala, meanwhile, found a bag of library books (I keep meaning to return) in the van and pulled out a book. She stayed in the van reading the book a few minutes after I parked in the car port. I'm grateful for books and our family's love of them.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

12:34 October 5

I'm thankful for time to kick a soccer ball and throw a football with T while watching Ev enjoy a soccer practice on the field next to us.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

12:34 October 4

Today felt like I didn't stop from the moment I woke at 5:30 until just now, when I'm sitting down to write this post. This morning, after a bad night's sleep, I felt worried about the day ahead. There was a low point when the kids got home from school: Lauren was yelling because Evan was singing too loud, Evan was crying because Lauren was singing, Evan didn't want to do his homework, Lauren's earbuds kept falling out...and I was trying to make dinner quickly so I could leave for an evening meeting. But I got dinner on the table, Ev and Lala regained their composure, and I made it to my meeting, spending a couple hours with a group of amazing women. I'm thankful for all the parts of a very full day.

Monday, October 03, 2016

12:34 October 3

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

12:34 October 2

Today, I'm grateful for blueberry muffins, a morning walk, church, football, and leftovers.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

12:34 October 1

This morning, Lauren played soccer. She scored four solo goals and was in the mix for a couple more. In a word, she was awesome.

At one point, I noticed that she was elbowing her way to the ball when there was a crowd. Later in the game, she and a boy from the other team were hip-checking each other and elbowing one another in the chest away from the ball (almost Charles-Barkley-style). I didn't see who "started it," but they were both going at it.

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

12:34 September 30

Our fall has included a lot of new things. Today included most of those, and I realized in the middle of it, that I like it. I'm thankful to be happy in this new rhythm to our family life. Matt took the kids to school, because their elementary school starts earlier than his high school. I stayed home, cleaned up breakfast, ran a few miles, and sent a few PTA-related emails. Then I went to my part-time job. After work, I stopped by the grocery store and got home in plenty of time to meet the kids at the bus stop. Life feels different, but it still feels like ours--and I'm grateful for that.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

12:34 September 29

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

12:34 September 28

On the ride home from school...

Lala: "Ruby is Evan's GIRLFRIEND."
Ev: "What's a girlfriend, Mom?"
Me: "Um, a girl who's your friend who you like more than anyone else? You usually don't have girlfriends until you're older."
[...]
Me: "Lala, who told you Ruby was Evan's girlfriend?"
Lala: "EVAN TOLD ME HIMSELF!"
Me: "Ev?"
Ev: "Hey Mom, listen to this sound I can make if I put my hand in my armpit and do THIS!"

I'm grateful that things are just as they should be.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Monday, September 26, 2016

12:34 September 26

Today, I had my six-month check-up with my medical oncology team. I found out that the surveillance breast MRI that I had last week was totally normal. I'm otherwise in good health. It's a reprieve that lasts six months. I'm grateful for today.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

12:34 September 25

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

12:34 September 24

Since moving to northern Durham, we've played with a certain rec soccer league for three fall seasons. This is our second year playing all three kids. Apparently, we are unusual because we have three kids playing in three different age groups. The league was a little delayed in getting the boys' full schedules out, so when they did earlier this week and I plugged the games into our calendar, I saw three Saturdays when all three kids had simultaneous games at three different locations. Discouraged, I wrote an email to the league coordinators explaining that it was impossible for us to be three places at one time--on three different occasions, no less. In writing my email, I tried my best to be reasonable and respectful of the difficult job they had coordinating with limited time and space.

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

12:34 September 23

I'm thankful for people who seek justice and show mercy, even at the ends of weeks when it feels like we struggle as a people to do either with meaningful consistency.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

12:34 September 22

Evan is back at school today after staying home with an earache yesterday. I'm thankful for antibiotics and Ibuprofen and my silly, sweet boy feeling better again.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

12:34 September 21

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

12:34 September 20

I am thankful for an encouraging email, a phone call from my sister and sweet texts from Matt on an otherwise stressful day.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Sunday, September 18, 2016

12:34 September 18

We are riding home from church, the kids are laughing, and we're headed home to watch the Panthers' home opener. Life feels very good at the moment.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

12:34 September 17

This morning, Lauren had a fantastic soccer game. She scored a goal, dribbled all over the field, and played defense that prevented about 3 goals. Along the way, she also did a couple of classic Lauren things. 

1: She hugged her friend (and opponent) Elliot twice during the game (while the ball was in play). And 2: After she fell on a teammate, she stayed behind and corralled the other kids on the team to make sure he was ok. The other team scored an uncontested goal, but she said about it later "A goal isn't as important as making sure your teammate is ok."

Then she capped of her day by putting up this drawing on her door.


I'm thankful for my Lala, and the independent, awesome girl she is and continues to become.

Friday, September 16, 2016

12:34 September 16

I feel grateful for this Friday. For the summer months, weekends didn't have as much meaning. But today ended the third week of school. It felt like an especially long week. Tonight, we ended it by having our neighbors over. The adults played spades while the kids played hide and seek under a full moon. TGIF.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

12:34 September 15

I'm thankful sunset and sunrise work as reset buttons sometimes.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

12:34 September 14

Early release --> snoballs!

Today I'm grateful for a few extra hours with my kids this afternoon, because their school let out early. I'm also thankful for neighbors to share that time with.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

12:34 September 13

I'm thankful for enthusiastic students who ask good questions.

Monday, September 12, 2016

12:34 September 12

I appreciate my kids' school. It's been taking a lot of my time and attention lately, but I'm grateful to be engaged.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

12:34 September 11

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

12:34 September 10

Three wins, four goals! Great start to the Smiths' soccer season. I love watching them play!

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

12:34 September 9

Today I was struck by how many of my friends work in fields in which the primary goal is to improve the lives of others. I'm thankful to know such a large community of love and concern.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

12:34 September 8

I'm grateful to meet kind people and for new opportunities.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

12:34 September 7

Yesterday was my parents' 41st anniversary. I'm thankful for the example of their marriage.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

12:34 September 6

I am spending a lot of time today on volunteer activities for the kids' school. This time will include an evening PTA board meeting. I'm grateful for our school and the many parent volunteers who help support its staff.

Monday, September 05, 2016

12:34 September 5

Labor Day always makes me think of my Papa, who worked highway construction for decades, was politically conservative, and a proud union member. Papa had three bumper stickers on his truck. They read:
  • 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
He taught me the difference between right-to-work and organized labor, and did so through anecdotes of people he knew whose bodies and livelihoods were treated more like ledger expenses than fellow human beings.

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

12:34 September 4

There's 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. #favoriteview #nofilter

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

12:34 September 2

There's nothing quite like that Friday feeling--especially after the first week of school. I'm thankful for a mostly good week, but I'm even more grateful for a long weekend to regroup.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

12:34 September 1

I am thankful to love and to be loved, and I'm humbled by how much of both I experience.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

12:34 August 31

Breakfast w/my girl. 😍

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

12:34 August 30

I'm thankful for a positive first two days of school, for me and the kids.

Monday, August 29, 2016

12:34 August 29

First day of 5th, 2nd & K! 17th year for Matt! πŸ˜πŸ™ŒπŸ™ Matt started his seventeenth year teaching today. Our school district recently changed the start times for high schools and elementary schools, so now the kids start their school day before Matt. That gave us the happy opportunity to take the kids to their first days of fifth, second and kindergarten together. I'm thankful for the kids' school, Matt's job and the promise of a new year.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

12:34 August 28

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

12:34 August 27

I'm thankful for our nightly routines. I always sing Lauren a lullaby, kiss her goodnight and then pause at the door so she can say, "See ya later alligator!" I respond, "After while crocodile!" And then, lately, her riff on blowing me a kiss is: "Hey Mom, I've gotta a big heart-shaped ball and I'm throwin' it at ya. Oh, I missed! Haha, no I didn't, I gotcha! With a curveball! I love you!"

Friday, August 26, 2016

12:34 August 26

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

12:34 August 25

In Hideaway Woods with Mimi.

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

12:34 August 24

I was feeling stressed out today by teaching a couple of classes I haven't taught for a while. I'm not feeling confident about my plans, and time is feeling a little short.

I finally reached a point at which I just needed to do something else. Thankfully, there are miles of trails right behind school. A good trail run cleared my mind and fatigued my muscles. I'm thankful for a good run, and a nice place to do it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

12:34 August 23

Today the kids and I took my mom to the zoo. I'm grateful for our membership and the opportunity to share one of our favorite places with her.

Monday, August 22, 2016

12:34 August 22

I'm thankful for teachers. Every year I'm more and more in awe of the ones I had who made safe, educational, fun classrooms feel effortless when I was growing up.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

12:34 August 21

After church this morning, we went to a school friend's birthday party. It was a lovely reminder of the interesting, kind people we have met through the kids' school. I am gratefully looking forward to the new school year next week.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

12:34 August 20

I'm thankful for an almost-hour-long run with Allison this morning.

Friday, August 19, 2016

12:34 August 19

My mom arrived at noon today. The boys were inspired to play ball in the backyard while it rained, Mom and the kids played several rounds of hide-and-seek and now they're playing Legos in the boys' room. I'm grateful for the special energy she brings to our home and my kids' lives.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

12:34 August 18

Today is my last day of summer. I report for the first workday of my 17th year of teaching tomorrow morning. Part of my back-to-school routine is making sure my work bag is packed. Though I've had 5 or 6 bags in my time teaching, I always have one item in particular. I started teaching in August 2000, a month after Allison and I got married. Every day of my teaching career, I've carried this Polaroid picture that I took right after we got married. I carry this picture with me wherever my work bag goes--a welcome reminder of the most important relationship in my life.



This week, I've felt a little reluctant to leave the comfort of my summer--being full-time Dad is pretty sweet--but I've had two encounters in two days with former students that have been welcome reminders that young people are important, and that the importance of my job extends well beyond the curriculum and the classroom. I'm thankful for my teachers, for my students, for my friends, for my family, and for the relationships in my life that have molded me and supported me for my whole life.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

12:34 August 17

Matt took the kids to the natural history museum in Raleigh today. The kids sounded a little disappointed that I wouldn't be joining them. I've opted to stay home and clean bathrooms, sweep floors, send emails, pay bills and generally get caught up on some of the "work" I feel behind on. It's one of those tough decision-making moments when I decide between spending time with my family versus taking care of me. I need to stay home and make some head-way on things stressing me out today. Next week, when Matt is back at work and my mom is here, I'll feel more free to play with the kids and soak up their last week of summer break. I suppose I'm grateful for a couple things: Matt's love of Dad-only adventures with the kids and my self-awareness regarding self-care.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

12:34 August 16

Lauren is old enough that she can play increasingly complicated games with us. As a family, we've played Ticket to Ride, Skip-Bo, Suspend, and Jenga lately. I have great memories playing card and board games with my parents and grandparents growing up, and I'm thankful to play with my own kids now.

Monday, August 15, 2016

12:34 August 15

School starts two weeks from today. I am starting to feel a little anxious because my parent volunteer activities are ramping up, I need to acquire school supplies and transitions are just always stressful. But what I'm trying hard to do right now is appreciate that there's still two weeks left and try to be as present as I can in each moment.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

12:34 August 14

I love the way my kids look out for each other (most of the time, at least).

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Friday, August 12, 2016

12:34 August 12

I'm thankful for my family's shared love of sports. Watching and following the Olympics as a family has been a lot of fun.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

12:34 August 11

I'm grateful for an ordinary summer day: walking with my neighbor, weeding our garden, shopping for groceries, watching the Olympics, cooking dinner and playing with the neighbors before bath and bed time.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

12:34 August 10

These are mating leopard slugs. Allison found them on the side of our house this morning, and invited Tobin and me to
see them. We took pictures and videos, then researched them online.


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

12:34 August 9

We are home. It's been a fun summer of travel, but it feels good to be back at our house, in our beds, in our kitchen and in our yard. I'm grateful for the memories we've made visiting friends and family. I'm also thankful for a few more weeks at home to rest and relax before the start of school.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Sunday, August 07, 2016

12:34 August 7

Today is our last day in Louisville. It's been a really fun, relaxing nine days. I'm grateful for the family I married into.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

12:34 August 6

Today we spent the afternoon with two good friends of mine from high school and their families. It was one of those days that made me abundantly aware of how thankful I am for the friendships i have and have had.

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

12:34 August 5

I just finished reading four books in a row to Lauren. I love how she snuggles up, laughs and gives a running hilarious commentary as we turn the pages. As I read the last book, her brothers came in from outside and joined us on the couch, quickly and quietly entranced. So there I was sitting with my whole heart right next to me. I'm thankful for these sweet moments tucked in the unstructured days of summer vacation.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

12:34 August 4

I'm thankful for summer vacation and the time it affords us to travel and spend time with family.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

12:34 August 3

Cousins watching the USWNT match. USA!

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

12:34 August 2

I'm thankful to raise my kids in a safer, better United States than I grew up in.

Monday, August 01, 2016

12:34 August 1

At midday, I was wrapping up a three-mile walk at the park near Matt's mom's house. Today marks 18 straight days of walking or running at least three miles a day. I started this streak the day after we returned from our three-week trip to Georgia and Louisiana. I ran a few times over those three weeks, but spent the last two weeks kind of despondent about our car situation and feeling "stranded." Plus, the heat and humidity in Louisiana is something awful.

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

12:34 July 31

I have a lot of memories at the Louisville Zoo. We went today with my mom and had a great time. I always think of my dad a lot when we're there, and today I tried to experience those bittersweet memories as a way of him being there with us. I'm thankful for the zoo, and my family, and for the gift of memory that binds together the different timelines of our lives.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

12:34 July 30

Lovely evening: boys throwing the football while I walk a few laps. (Lala stayed home w/Grandma.)

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.

Mowing w/Dad!

Friday, July 29, 2016

12:34 July 29

Today at 12:34, I was driving through the mountains, listening to a David Bazan song, traveling with my family to visit my mom. I'm thankful for our family tradition of road trips (even with the sting of our car trouble in Louisiana).

Thursday, July 28, 2016

12:34 July 28

Today I'm grateful for my garden. It's yielding lots of yummy tomatoes and basil.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

12:34 July 27

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

12:34 July 26

Very proud of my crew. We were careful in the heat--took breaks, drank lots of water--but they still trekked about 6 miles...w/only a little complaining.

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

12:34 July 25

I'm thankful for a house with air conditioning and clean water.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

12:34 July 24

I got to FaceTime with my parents this afternoon. I hadn't talked to them in a couple weeks since spending a week with them in Louisiana. They returned just yesterday from a four-day trip to the Bahamas. Their trip was gift from their church, celebrating Dad's ten-year anniversary serving on the church staff. We had fun talking about their trip and what we had been up to here at home in NC. I'm thankful for the opportunity to chat with my parents and the technology that also allows their grand-kids to see them while we chat.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

12:34 July 23

I'm thankful for pancakes, bacon, fresh fruit, coffee, and friends to share them with.

Friday, July 22, 2016

12:34 July 22

We've been home from our trip for a week now. I've gone for a walk or run every morning since our return. This is in stark contrast to our three weeks away, during which I ran maybe four times? I'm thankful for the opportunity and ability to exercise.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

12:34 July 21

At 12:34 today, I was playing the second of two challenging disc golf courses--one with a cemetery on it, even--with my neighbor. I've been playing on and off for 25 years, and am thankful to have a friend again who likes to play.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

12:34 July 20

Sometimes I think we watch too much TV, especially in the summer. But honestly, it's mostly sports. My boys, who have never played tennis, are out here yelling "Ace!" and "Break point!" And loving it. Thanks, Wimbledon.

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

12:34 July 19

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

12:34 July 18

The kids and I, along with our five-year-old neighbor Elliot, spent the morning and lunch at the pool. Now the kids are playing with their friends this afternoon. I'm just really enjoying being back at home, enjoying these very ordinary, relaxed summer days.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

12:34 July 17

I'm thankful for our family meal traditions: Saturday pancakes, Sunday quickbread or muffins, and pizza night with Phineas & Ferb.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

12:34 July 16

Ev's Tooth Fairy savings account.

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

12:34 July 15

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

12:34 July 14

I'm thankful that, a full week later than planned, we are home. Our neighbors, who checked our garden, collected our mail and even mowed our lawn without our having to ask, invited us over for a simple, impromptu hot dog cook-out tonight. It was the perfect way to be welcomed home.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

12:34 July 13

I'm thankful for safe travel through storms, family to welcome us, and kids who crack us up (and sometimes aggravate us) in the car.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

12:34 July 12

Cool sky + Pokemon hunting with Uncle Al. 😘

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 PokΓ©mons. We love spending time with them and I'm thankful for the memories we're making on this particular visit.

Monday, July 11, 2016

12:34 July 11

I've been stressed about our car trouble and by feeling like an imposition on family while waiting very slowly for the repair process to happen. However, I'm thankful that our trouble isn't medical and that Louise and Bethany have been so generous as hosts.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

12:34 July 10

I'm thankful for my aunts who are graciously hosting us for an unexpected, extended stay while we wait on our van repair. I know they love having us a few extra days, but it's no small thing to host a family of five for more than a week altogether at this point. I appreciate their patience playing with the kids and letting Lauren "take care" of their three dogs. I appreciate their generosity in feeding us and sharing their space.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

12:34 July 9

I'm thankful for health that allows me to exercise and be fairly active.

Friday, July 08, 2016

12:34 July 8

Ev goin' oppo at dusk.

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

12:34 July 6

This morning we left Toledo Bend. I can see a sadness in my kids' eyes. They've had an awesome week swimming and playing with their second cousins. It is hard to say good-bye and go our separate ways: some staying in Louisiana, most going to Texas and my cousin Stephanie and her family, all the way home to Chicago!

We Smiths were planning to start our two-day drive home to NC today but our van broke down on our trip between Lake Charles and Toledo Bend. It won't be ready for a few days, so we're headed back to Lake Charles with my parents to stay with my aunts again. I've struggled with feeling disappointed and stressed out this week because of the car. But I am indeed grateful to be stranded with our family. I'm especially grateful to my parents, sister and aunts, who've pitched in to help us with transportation, child care and expenses this week.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

12:34 July 5

I'm thankful to have so many people who care about and love me and my family.

Monday, July 04, 2016

12:34 July 4

I've probably spent half of the Fourths of July in my life right here at Toledo Bend. My family's been coming here since 1990. On a day like today, I'm grateful for bigger picture things like that I was born in and get to raise my own family in this particular country. In a smaller scale, I'm thankful for my extended family and that we get to share this specific spot together almost every year.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

12:34 July 3

Tobin & Evan got to play on the same kickball team tonight at Toledo Bend. They almost never get to team up. I'm thankful for sons who cheer for and celebrate each other.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

12:34 July 2

I'm grateful for the relatively mild weather we've experienced here in Louisiana. Sure, there are points in the day, usually the evening, when the heat and humidity combine to feel oppressive. But I've enjoyed long stretches of the day in the lake and sitting beside it, when the weather feels pretty pleasant.

Friday, July 01, 2016

12:34 July 1

Today, Allison and I have been married 16 years. I'm thankful for our friendship, marriage, and partnership. I've had my greatest joys and sadnesses with her, and could wish for no one better to have lived them with.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

12:34 June 30

Yesterday, we arrived at my annual family reunion at a state park in northwest Louisiana. I'm grateful to spend the week with my extended Lantrip family and especially for my kids to play with so many second cousins.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

12:34 June 28

Bday boy smiling underwater. 😍

I'm thankful for this guy. We're having fun celebrating Evan's birthday: presents (among other things, PokΓ©mon 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.

Evan is SEVEN.

Evan Reid, first grader.

Dear Evan,

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."

a kiss for you

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.

Love my Oriole. Alas, a great season with a fun team came to an end tonight. But there's lots of sweet memories made & a summer of backyard ball ahead. Go O's! ⚾️πŸ’ž<

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.

Field trippin' with Ev & friends in Chapel Hill.

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.

One last one from a special day: Ev so happy at his kindergarten graduation, wearing the outfit he insisted on when I suggested maybe he could wear a collared shirt? Nope, he'd rather be comfortable and ready to play, which is perfectly him actually. (Als

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."

Ev & friends. 😍

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.

Scoring a run! Go O's!

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.

Wow, what a wonderful season for these two. They both received the sportsmanship awards for their teams. Grateful for the coaches, teammates and families that made this season so sweet! πŸ’ž⚾️

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.

headphone ev

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.

Love,
Mama

Go Dubs!

Monday, June 27, 2016

12:34 June 27

I'm thankful for Allison's aunts. The kids love to be here (and to play with them and their cool gadgets).

Heart

Heart.

[A note from Allison: This post was originally published here on the website of my friend Elizabeth SherwoodLiz 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 BrenΓ© 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, BrenΓ© 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.