Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Reflections

I've always had a lot to be thankful for, but this year...this year I have more than usual.  And in a blog devoted to growth and happiness, I would be much remiss if I did not write something of my great thanks for the amazing things in my life right now.  While our everyday actions are the true measure of our gratitude, this is a week for reflecting and putting that gratitude into words as well.

1. I am thankful for improved health.  This time last year I was battling both physical and mental ills brought on by stress, and in the last year I have made great strides in improving my health in pretty much every way.  I've lost some weight (not everything I need to lose, but still a great improvement!), I eat healthier, I don't have any stress induced acid reflux disorders anymore, I am not constantly stressed and negative, I am no longer completely fixated on my job to the exclusion of all else.

2.  I am thankful for a better job.  This goes hand in hand with the first one.  My new job is much less stressful, and if it is still time consuming, it is not nearly AS consuming as the last one.  I have more fun, I appreciate my bosses more and they appreciate me more.  I miss some of my colleagues from my last campus, but on the whole I am very happy where I am.  I hope to stay in my current assignments for awhile.

3.  I am thankful for my husband.  He isn't perfect by any means, but he is an amazing man.  When times are really tough, I know I can always count on him to help.  When times are great, I know I can count on him to lead the way in enjoying it to the fullest.  He is full of love and devotion to his family and friends, and I have never known anyone with a greater sense of loyalty, except in a book, and that doesn't really count.  He has a heart of gold, and I couldn't have asked for anyone better to share my life with.  He drives me crazy too - but that is to be expected!

4.  I am thankful for my parents and my sister.  They are the best.  They are full of fun, creativity, and wisdom, and my only wish with them is that I wish we all got to spend more time together.  I don't know what we would do without phones!  So I guess I am thankful for cell phones too, because with them I am able to talk to my far flung family as much as our schedules allow.  My morning talks with Mom as we drive to our respective workplaces are often inspirational.  My mom may have never stood before a class of 20-35 children and taught, but she understands much about people and relationships, and at the heart of things - this is the wisdom most necessary for effective teaching.  And I'd like to think that she did a pretty good job (along with Dad and Nana) teaching me and my sister how to be good citizens and lifelong learners.  My communication and inspiration from Dad and my sister are less frequent, but equally powerful.  They are both immensely creative and brilliant problem solvers, and my sister and I have found a shared passion for fine arts education, and education in general.  We approach it through completely different channels of influence, but we work towards similar goals, and share a common philosophy.  When I have breakthroughs in my thoughts about curriculum, she is generally the first person I want to talk to.  Lately she's been pretty busy, and sadly I haven't had the chance to really bounce my latest ideas off of her.  It is one reason why I am eager for Christmas, because I know we can talk at least a little bit then.  In this section I will also mention that I am thankful for all of my extended families also, simply for being amazing and supportive people in my life.  I can always count on them for prayers and support when I need it, and generally even when I don't feel like I need it.

5.  I am thankful for my in-laws, and thankful that they live nearby.  From the very beginning they have treated me as one of their own, and they are all amazing.  I am blessed beyond imagining that not only is my husband so great for me, but that his family is so great for me too.  I have an amazing mentor in the form of my mother in law, who is my "mom away from Mom", and a retired teacher who really understands what I experience in my work in ways that no one else in either family can.  My father in law may seem a bit gruff at first glance, but he is as devoted a family man as I have ever had the privilege to meet, and has a great sense of humor if you are sharp enough to catch it.  He is also the soul of generosity if ever I have seen such a thing.  My sister in law is one of my closest friends, and an all around amazing person.  She is intelligent, fun, and funny.  She is also strong in the face of adversity and has more courage than most anyone else I know.  She holds firm to her beliefs in the world, and foremost among those a strong sense of justice - and she'll fight for the underdog pretty much every time.  Both she and her husband honestly want nothing more than to be real life superheroes, and in their own way, they are.  And the extended families are pretty awesome too.

6.  I am thankful for my husband's (new) job.  He is also happier and less stressed than before, and even has a better schedule and makes just a little more.  I am also thankful that after being laid off, that he was able to find a better job than before so quickly in this economy.  There was considerable work and skill on his part to make that happen, but also a bit of luck.  I'm glad for all of it.

7.  I am thankful for our house.  Given that we both switched job assignments less than a year after buying it and moving in, I am also thankful to still be IN our house.  It is our first house, and it's lovely, and in a nice neighborhood.  It has lots of windows on the south side that let in vast amounts of sunshine, and plenty of space.

8.  I am thankful for my nieces, both the two already here and the one on the way.  They are adorable and healthy.

9.  I am thankful for my cats.  They are soft and cuddly, and keep my and my husband amused.  They also keep me company in good times and bad.  There are few things more comforting (if you like cats, anyway) than having a cat sleep on you when you feel lousy.

10.  I am thankful for my friends.  First, that I am blessed with many of them.  Second, that they are awesome in countless individual ways.  Some of their contributions to my life are small, while others are very influential...but in them all, there is a little bit of greatness that no one else can claim.  It would take me ages to list all of those greatnesses here, so forgive my vagueness on this account.  Let's just say I'm lucky to have crossed paths with them all.  Each friend teaches me something new, and sometimes they aren't even aware of it.

11.  I am thankful for my faith.  I am not the sort that frequently yells from the mountaintops about my relationship with is generally my hope that those who know me will see it in me without me having to crow about it.  If my actions are not speaking loudly enough, then obviously I ought to change my actions.  Nevertheless, as I am listing things I am thankful for, I will mention it in passing now - I am thankful for my Christian faith.  I am thankful for the better parts of myself that are cultivated by it...from my faith I find patience, endurance, grace and mercy for the shortcomings of myself and others, kindness, generosity, and love.  And while I am not perfect in any of those things, I know that those aspects of myself are greater than they would be otherwise, and I am happy for it.  And while intellectually I understand that it all could very well be a grand delusion on my part...if that is the case, then at least it is one that makes me a better, happier person.  Heaven forbid, but if the atheists (and certain other religions) are right, then at least my one existence and life will have been more joyous for having been wrong.  However, I honestly don't believe I'm wrong about God existing and having great love for me, and for all people.  I have witnessed and personally experienced too much grace in my short life to believe anything less.

12.  I am thankful for my teachers, past and present.  They are an inspiration, and have done much to help guide and shape me over the years.  From the beginning, I have had an amazing string of teachers in my life, and I continue to have amazing teachers and mentors.  A partial listing...Ms. Spacey, Ms. Joy, Mrs. McWhorter, Mrs. Duncan, Mrs. Bogle, Mrs. Coffey, Mrs. Burkes, Ms. Bailey, Mr. Parker, Mrs. Linda Williams, Mr. Clawsen, Mr. Ferrucci, Mr. Maxwell, Mr. Pogue, Mr. Polk, Mr. White, Mr. Carroll, Mr. Tramel, Mrs. Maulsby, Mrs. Shewmake, Sandi Breashears Wellman, Pam and Tom Burchill, Dr. Gillespie, Dr. John Scott, Mr. Fisher, Mr. Corporon, Andy Trachsel, Deb Fabian, Daryl Coad, Dr. Emmanuel, Dr. Taylor (both the one in the College of Music and the one in the English Department) Gary Rosenblatt, Al Sturchio, Litzie Chapa, Ann Burbridge, Janice Whitehead, Kim Ash, pretty much the entire faculty at Poe MS, the Rogers family, and MANY MANY OTHERS.  There are a few notable names I'm sure I've forgotten in that litany.  Those are just the names that spring to mind immediately.  If any of my former teachers read this blog, then you should know - I continue to learn from you, and my respect for all of you only grows with time.  We are often not given to know the impact of our actions for our students in the long term, to know how we may have shaped the course of another's life.   I am thankful to say that you have all changed my life for the better.  And by the way, most of what I learned from you in the long term wasn't whatever subject we were covering in class.  However, you'd be pleased to know that I do remember a surprising amount of the things you meant to teach me too.

Today, those are my top twelve, perhaps not in that order of importance, but in that order they came to mind.  May everyone have a wonderful week, and even if it isn't officially Thanksgiving tomorrow where you are, remember to carry a little bit of gratitude in your heart - it makes any day better, and any burden a little lighter.

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