Friday, November 1, 2013

A Thankful November

In honor of the fact that Thanksgiving is later this month, I am going to keep a "thankful" blogpost going, and I will hopefully be back to update it each day with something for which I am thankful. I always think about the many blessings in my life around Thanksgiving, but I haven't taken the time each day to pick something and really consider my gratitude, so this post will be my attempt to do that. Check back now and then if you are curious . . . you never know, you might show up on the list!

1. I am thankful for my Grandpa. Today is my grandparents’ wedding anniversary and I am so thankful that Grandma is still here on earth with my family (and I hope she sticks around for a long while more!). Grandpa passed away a little more than eight years ago and he was one of the best people that I have ever known. I prayed that my Grandpa would pray for me on my own journey to find a spouse, and what do you know, God sent me a man who is so much like Grandpa it is almost scary. I wish Drew could have met him. Thank you, Grandpa, for being an example to me of a loving, family-oriented, faith-focused gentleman.
Grandpa St. George, being goofy, as usual.
2. I am thankful for and that the Holy Spirit instilled in me the courage to create a profile on February 20, 2011. Five days later, a wonderful man contacted me and I very quickly grew to love him. I have now been married to him for nearly five months and I look forward to every day of the rest of our lives.

3. I am thankful for good, respectful, considerate drivers. In the last few years, with the rise of cell phone usage by drivers, it has become very easy to become frustrated and angry behind the wheel. I would have so much more faith in humanity if I didn't have to spend time on the road. Drew and I have taken several 4 hour driving trips in the last few months, making me realize that for every terrible, rude, dangerously distracted driver, there ARE considerate, aware, and competent drivers on the road. I am thankful that like me, they care for the safety and well-being of the lives of others around them.

4. I am thankful for books. This weekend Drew and I went to Houston to see his sisters perform in Little Women, the musical version of the story. The main character, Jo, loves to write. Writing is so much part of her that if she couldn't tell her stories, she would cease to exist as Jo March. I have loved reading for as long as I can remember. Books and the stories they contain are so special - can you imagine life without them? If I was stranded on a desert island and I could only have one book with me, I would cheat and bring my Nook (with a solar powered charger) so that I could have an entire library with me.

5. I am thankful for my students. I calculated that in the three years I was at Citrus High School, I taught 261 students! That number blows my mind. Although there were some students after whom I will be naming my gray hairs, I loved them all and I probably learned more from them than they did from me. If we were talking about current crazy events in the news I would sometimes rant, "I just don't like people. Someday I am going to live in a cave far away from all of them." After seeing the offended looks on their faces I would clarify, "Okay, I don't like grown-ups. I like YOU guys. You are still growing and you aren't permanently broken yet. You are salvageable. That is why I like teaching you." Some students in this country have done terrible, violent, hateful things to their teachers, classmates, and communities (but that is an issue for another post), but the majority of students want to learn, whether they admit or not, and they want to grow up to be great adults. They made my life insanely stressful at times, but they also brought tears of laughter to my eyes, and that is why I loved them so much. If you need an example of the beauty and goodness of students, watch this video about a middle school football team. Grab a tissue before you watch it.

6. I am thankful for my faith. For as long as I have been making memories, God has been a central part of my life. Born and raised Catholic, the traditions, history, and teachings of the Catholic Church have formed and shaped me into who I am today (and I think who I am is pretty decent). I don't know who I would be now without the love, mercy, forgiveness, blessings, and grace bestowed upon me on a daily basis by my Creator. Faith does not always come easily and at times it is put through difficult trials. I am lucky that I have always chosen to hold onto God, even through the toughest times; without Him, I have nothing for which to be thankful!

7. I am thankful for those rare moments when I am in the car and a Wilson Philips song comes on the radio. This probably sounds ridiculous to some of you, but Mama used to turn up the volume on those songs and my sister and I would sing along with her at the top of our lungs. Aside from Wilson Phillips just being awesome, it is the memories attached to their songs that make me smile most. Drew and I were driving to Houston last weekend and while trying to find a decent radio station, we came across, "Someday somebody's gonna make you want to turn around and say goodbye . . ." Turn it up and sing along!!

8. I am thankful for the people who taught me to solve my own problems. First of all, my parents, who were always willing to help me, but never offered to do my work or solve my problems for me. They were a wonderful support system, fostering my independence while letting me know I was loved and cared for. Thanks, Mama and Daddy!

The next person I think of is Ms. Sumner, who was my Software Applications teacher in high school. Anyone who has dealt with Word, PowerPoint, Excel, or Access knows that sometimes the programs have a mind of their own. Ms. Sumner wouldn’t answer our questions until we had asked multiple classmates, and consulted the “paper clip” dude who represented the Help Wizard. Even then, she would ask us questions to help us fix our issue and she taught us to teach our classmates when they asked for help, rather than grabbing the mouse and doing things for them.

I didn’t think about this much until I became a teacher and realized that most of my students hadn’t received the same do-it-yourself-with-support education. In an age of Siri and Google and trophies for all, they expect someone else to fix it for them.

An experience yesterday really drove this whole thing home for me. I was at Walmart, waiting in one of many long check out lines, when a WalMart hero walked past and said, “I can help you on 9, ma’am.” Isn’t that the best when it happens? It is like an angel was sent to save you from frustrated ponderings of how WalMart never has a sufficient number of checkout lanes open. Well, the angel, appropriately named Gabe, probably doesn’t work the cash registers often. I assumed this much because he was wearing a dress shirt and looked a little uncomfortable as he scanned each item, and I had to remind him to scan some of them (brownie points to me for being honest!). Finally, I was waiting for him to authorize my debit payment and he just kept pushing random buttons. He turned to his associate and said, “I am trying to remember which one is the debit key, because these are unmarked.” The newly formed duo kept pushing buttons. I turned around, looked at the register behind me, pointed, and said, “It’s that one.” It literally took me five seconds to figure it out and everyone acted like I was a genius. Use your resources, people. Oy ve.

Anyway. This made me appreciate all the more my parents and teachers who strengthened my mind and gave me the confidence and with-it-ness to be able to tackle the challenges that I face in my life.

9. I am thankful for the food that I eat everyday. Not everyone is able to feed themselves well each day, and I am so grateful that I am able to purchase groceries to prepare healthy meals for Drew and I. With two mouths to feed and one income, I have had to learn more about budgeting and planning menus ahead of time, which is a totally new concept for the girl who used to hit up the grocery store nearly everyday after work once she had decided what she wanted to eat. I enjoy the challenge, but I am grateful that for me it is just that - a challenge - rather than desperation or malnutrition that I face when I go to the store. I pray for the homeless and the hungry and the unemployed, that they are able to find resources to help them make ends meet, and that people who are able to give to the less fortunate feel it in their hearts to do so.

10. I am thankful for three day weekends. Who isn't, though? Having an extra day to spend with Drew is such a blessing! Long weekends were extra special when we were dating, because it gave extra time together when we lived nearly 300 miles apart. Three day weekends give us the freedom to have a guilt free lazy Sunday - going to a later Mass, eating lunch and watching Mary Poppins while in awe that the movie is still as good as it was when we were kids, chilling out in the living room free from pressure to get stuff done - because we have Monday to be productive! Woohoo!

11. I am thankful for all of the veterans in the several hundred years of American history. Not much of my family has served that I know of (we only got here a few generations ago), but I did have a great-great-Uncle who died in the Philippines during World War II, and several of my husband's family members have served in the military as well. My Grandpa was in the Merchant Marine and the presentation of a flag to my Grandma at his funeral was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. We also have family and friends who are currently serving in all branches, and when I take time to really think about the sacrifices they make on a daily basis, no matter how great or small, I realize that I am so blessed that there are friends and strangers willing to protect my freedom. I think it is quite appropriate that Veteran's Day is only weeks before Thanksgiving, reminding us just how much for which we have to be grateful each year.

12. I am thankful for sunshine! Yesterday Drew and I went on a 5.5 mile walk on a tree-lined path with the sun streaming through the branches; I love the feeling of moving between shadow and sunlight and the noticeable temperature difference. The sun feels good on your skin and all the way into your soul and can drastically impact your mood. It seems that cloudy days come in pairs or triplets here in Arlington, making the sunny days that much more wonderful!

13. I am thankful for central heating. We had our first freeze of the cold season here last night, and though 32 degrees isn't the coldest weather in the world, it IS cold. I am so grateful for the roof over my head and the heat that flows out of the vents in our apartment. I pray for the homeless and those who can't afford to pay for heat on cold nights.

14. I am thankful for cute animals, laughing babies, comedians, and blooper reels, and the fact that all of them can be found on YouTube. When I am having a tough day or a frustrating moment (like I was last night), a quick YouTube search can be enough to brighten my mood. Laughter really is a great "medicine," so here are some items to make you smile:

15. I am thankful for Ibuprofen. It doesn't always make me feel better, but when it does, it is like a small miracle. *I should add that I am also grateful for the combined effect that caffeine has when added to the ibuprofen miracle.

16.  I am thankful for having a handy husband. I am clumsy and I break things fairly frequently (it is why I shouldn't be trusted with nice things and why I could never be a waitress.) First of all, my husband never makes me feel bad about breaking things, even though I get upset with myself. Secondly, half the time he is able to fix whatever I have done! Last night he fixed the kitchen timer after I dropped it and it stopped working. He is so good with computers and technology that I feel so lucky to have snagged him before any other lady could! Now if only he could fix all that stoneware I have broken . . .

17. I am thankful for all of my nieces and nephews, present and future. I married into a large, growing family, and I was Aunt Angie before I even said, "I do," to Drew. It is amazing to me how quickly these tiny people accepted me as one of their own. Every moment spent with my precious nieces and nephews easily becomes the cutest moment EVER and serves to remind me just how miraculous a gift they are and that all human life needs to be cherished, loved, and respected.

18. I am thankful for music. Has anyone ever asked you, "If you had to live the rest of your life without one of your senses, which would you choose to give up?" It seems like an impossible choice, but I don't think I could be able to live without hearing. Well, of course I COULD, but I couldn't choose to. I began reading and playing music when I was in third grade! I love listening to almost all genres of music, hearing the layers unfold each time I hear a song. The sense of smell is one of our strongest, because our olfactory sensors are linked directly to our brains, but for me, so many songs are linked to particular memories in my life that I can't imagine not having music in my life.

19. I am thankful for crafts. Paint, wood, felt, fabric, thread, paper, yarn - I love it all and I love getting to take raw materials and create something new from them. I am especially grateful that, at least for right now, I have the time to indulge myself in learning new crafts. I feel particularly spoiled, because every day I get to do the things that I used to do for fun and always wished I had more time for. I am blessed!

20. I am thankful for my brilliant and curious husband. Drew and I were driving home from San Antonio on Sunday evening when we drove past a sign that said it was 32 degrees outside. There was no way that was possible, so Drew and I launched into a discussion of whether or not there was a temperature scale in which 32 degrees would make sense. We didn't talk about it again until this morning, when Drew was browsing the inter-webs and reading to me about the various temperature measurements and how their creators established their scales. It made me feel smart and blessed to be having such a discussion before 8 am! (I guess I should enjoy it now before we start having babies.) Drew thinks out loud, and sometimes my brain gets overwhelmed by his genius, but I love trying to imagine how his thoughts work their way through his head. A friend of mine told me that I was never truly happy in my past relationships because I hadn't ever dated anyone who was as smart/smarter than me, and I think he might have been right. I have met my match and I thank God everyday!

21. I am thankful for Citrus High School and the three years I was a teacher there. The first time I attended a faculty meeting I had to pinch myself - Is this all real? Am I really a teacher? I thought the same things every time I unlocked my classroom door. I was so lucky to land my first teaching job in Inverness, Florida, where I got to work with a staff full of some of the kindest, funniest, most awesome people I have ever met. CHS is as pretty close to a family as you can get. It is the kind of place where your boss and coworkers show up in the ER waiting room to make sure you are okay, and it is the kind of place where I heard, "I am so happy to hear about your engagement, but he isn't taking you away from us, is he?" Some days were really stressful, but there was always someone to listen to me and to offer advice. I grew so much in my confidence and personality as a teacher in a supportive environment. I loved my job, but mostly I loved the teachers and students who enriched my life on a daily basis. I miss them terribly but I am so grateful for the blessing of their place in my life.

22. I am thankful for marching band. When I auditioned for the Quince Orchard High School marching band, I prayed that I wouldn't make it. However, the band director was impressed by me and at the encouragement of a friend, I decided to join, not really knowing what I was getting into. I spent 8 years marching in high school and college, where I made life-long friends, traveled the country, and even ventured into Canada. Marching band pushed me outside my comfort zone, developed me as a leader, gave me something to do to keep me busy, turned me into a Gator fan, kept me in shape, and gave me a way to relate to my students when I became a teacher. Honestly, one of the most fun moments of my life was dancing to Thriller in front of 90,000 people. How many people get to do that? And it is something I never would have done by myself, but being with my 300+ band peeps made it an experience to remember and one I hope to share with at least one of my future children. :)
Watch this and see if you can spy yours truly:

23. I am thankful for friends old and new, near and far, and for all the joy they bring to my life!

24. I am thankful for my new family. Getting married to Drew was the best decision I ever made, and along with him I have been blessed with his wonderful family. They are a big, loud, passionate, loving, fun, Italian family and I wouldn't have it any other way!

25.  I am thankful for sunshiny winters. It has been cold and rainy here since Friday, which isn't terrible - it's actually kind of nice to have wintery weather - but one thing I really appreciated about living in Florida is that even during the winter, most days were sunny. :)

26. I am thankful for video chat. It was essential to my dating relationship with Drew, and because of it we probably spent more time "together" than we would have if we had lived in the same town. Now that we are married, we are still able to keep in touch with family and friends via chatoic Google Hangouts. I even got to play a game over Face Time with my family who are in North Carolina visiting friends. It's even better than a phone call for people who are far apart.

27. I am thankful for car trips free from traffic. A long journey can be made much more aggravating when accidents and construction projects lead to miles of back-ups. But when you arrive at your destination after 8 hours of smooth sailing, your mood is much happier! After growing up in the D.C. area, I appreciate favorable traffic conditions more than a lot of people can fathom.

28. I am thankful for family. This was the first year that I did not spend Thanksgiving with my family, but I did get to celebrate the day with my sister and her husband's family and it was still wonderful. As long as you are with people you love and who love each other, you can't really go wrong. :)

29. I a thankful for my family. This is kind of like yesterday's post, but more specifically, I love my parents and siblings so very much. They have made my life so blessed and rich and full of laughter and joy. They have supported me without question and without fail through all the ups and downs that I have faced and I don't know what life would be like if I didn't have them to bust my chops and build me up.

30. I am thankful that our apartment building has a boiler that has yet to ever run out of hot water for us!

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