A Year of Thanks

1 post a day for 365 days showing gratitude

wednesday! March 31, 2010

Filed under: food,friends,work — courtsbrogno @ 8:58 pm

Wednesday is my new favorite day! With the new quarter starting and a new schedule, I now only teach one class on Wednesdays, from 12-1p.m.

This is amazing! I now have almost all day to play with Luke, help Maddie with her homework, and cook and clean without feeling like I’m under a time crunch.

Today, I did all of the above. Luke and I had the morning to ourselves; I cleaned the entire house (actually not the entire house; I didn’t venture into Maddie’s room); I helped Maddie with some homework (thank God it wasn’t math); and I cooked dinner for some friends.

I made another Martha Stewart dinner–zucchini lasagna; percorino cheese & lemon artichokes; a salad (made by Tasha); and a great loaf of bread. The lasagna was great, but I wasn’t too impressed with the artichokes. Regardless, it was so nice to see my friend Mike, who had a long day at work; my friend, Christine, who’s in town for the week; Christine’s boyfriend, Derek; Tasha; Jason, my neighbor; and of course, my kids.

Our dinner conversation revolved around syphilis & suicide, which is not a normal for us, nor is it normal conversation banter in general, no matter where you are. But trust me, it was interesting. And I don’t want to talk for everyone, but I’m pretty sure we all had a really nice time.

Then we had dessert: Christine and Derek brought over homemade brownies (made by Derek!). Soooooo good:

Christine and Derek stayed later and we all kept the conversation going (we did change subjects) and then watched Modern Family (for which Jason came to join us). If you’re not watching and loving Modern Family, then something is wrong with you. Seriously. We cannot be friends.

As you can see, today, Wednesday, was wonderful. I’m going to bed so satisfied and looking forward to next Wednesday. Today, I am thankful for…well, today: Wednesday.

It is also Cesar Chavez day in California, and I am incredibly thankful for all this Mexican American farm worker, labor leader, and civil right’s activist did. Growing up in California, I see how hard farm workers labor and how little they make. I also grew up in a union family and highly value to importance of unions. Today, I feel honored to celebrate Cesar Chavez:


sushi March 30, 2010

Filed under: family fun,food,friends — courtsbrogno @ 8:13 pm

Maddie and I used to go out to dinner every week, and we almost always went to our local and favorite sushi restaurant (seriously–Maddie’s favorite food since she was two!). However, after Luke was born, time and money became (almost) a thing of the past.

We rarely go out to dinner anymore.

But tonight, since Luke was at his dad’s house and I let my class out early, I surprised Maddie by taking her out to dinner–sushi! We invited my best friend, Tasha (also currently living on my couch as she finishes writing her Master’s thesis), and we all had a long and enjoyable sushi dinner. We ate well, caught upon each others’ lives, and had a really relaxing and fun time (no Luke throwing utensils across the table!).

Today, I am thankful for sushi and for a nice and relaxing time with my daughter and my friend.


an opportunity March 29, 2010

Filed under: work — courtsbrogno @ 8:05 pm

Last night, I slept rather fitfully, and this morning, I work up with anxiety, manifested in an upset stomach and a general feeling of unease.

Oh yes, it must be the first day of a new quarter. No matter how many times I have taught before, the first day of a new quarter/semester always has me a bundle of nerves. And it doesn’t matter how prepared I am or how confident I feel in the class I am teaching, I am still a mess that first day.

But I made it through my classes, knees knocking (I’m convinced podiums were invented to hide this) .

It was a great first day. I love looking at all the excited and nervous students. Granted, some student despise having to take a GE writing or argumentative writing course (the two classes I usually teach at the university), but I make it my personal mission to convince these students how incredibly important writing is not just in college, but in the “real” world as well.

There is such a sense of anticipation throughout the halls. It’s a new beginning for these new students. Perhaps they did poorly last quarter; now they have a chance to redeem themselves. Perhaps they have a particularity difficult course load; now is the time for them to prove themselves.  Whatever the case, there is an almost electric energy as I walk through the halls.

After I finish going through the syllabus, outlining what my course will entail, and answering any questions, the students leave the classroom. I usually take a moment to just stay in the room, as it is quiet and calm for a brief minute

I think of the opportunity I have to teach these students a valuable skill and to empower them with their own words and thoughts. I feel important–if only for a brief minute.

I am so thankful for the opportunity the first day of the quarter brings.  I  feel energized, enthusiastic, and  really believe–if only for 11 short weeks–that I can really make a difference in these students’ education. It’s an enlightening moment.


a healthy dinner March 28, 2010

Filed under: food — courtsbrogno @ 8:17 pm

I’ve been so busy lately that I’ve had no time to go to the grocery story, and therefore, had no real food in the house at all. So in between getting ready to teach tomorrow and catching up on housework, the kids and I took a trip to Trader Joes and Vons, where I spent $250 and stocked up.

And I actually planned ahead and went to the store with a list! I planned out healthy dinners and bought accordingly. I felt like such a good mother!

And then tonight, for the first time in about a week, I made dinner. And a really healthy dinner. A dinner from Martha Stewart’s magazine (I may not be crafty, but I can cook!).

Tonight we had roasted garlic and thyme chicken; a pea, asparagus, and micro-green salad with homemade dressing; and bread.

And while I am thankful that I made such a great and healthy dinner, I am most thankful for the fact that I had the time to do this. Lounging around the kitchen on a late Sunday afternoon, splitting peas and crushing garlic, is a GREAT way to end a week!


babysitter found! March 27, 2010

Filed under: kids,work — courtsbrogno @ 8:10 pm

Amidst all the chaos of my morning, revolving mostly around planning my next quarter at the university (starting on Monday), I came to a realization: I did not have a babysitter for some of the hours I’m gone teaching. While it may be a little late in the game for me to realize this, I was waiting on my former babysitter to get me her new work schedule. Though, I could have planned ahead better.

But, to be honest, I’m a late in the game kind of woman. I’d like to blame this on my hectic life, but I’ve been like this since I was a child–before I had anything important going on. As a matter of fact, when I was 10 I had a great idea to put my clothes on at night for the next day, thus allowing me to sleep in longer and avoid getting yelled at for not being ready to leave for school. Unfortunately, it only lasted two days before my mom vetoed my great idea. And this leads me up to today, where I’ve been meaning to change my cell phone plan to save me money for FOUR months and still have yet to do this.

Anyway, once I realized I had some empty hours, I scrambled calling babysitters. One got back to me. I’ve never met her, but she came recommended. We agreed to meet tonight. Fortunately, she was nice, came with letters of recommendation, and overall seemed like a genuinely nice and caring person. I hired her. And I let out a sigh of relief.

Disaster avoided. Babysitter found. Today I am thankful for my new babysitter.

Because–clearly–this was not going to cut it:


the barn March 26, 2010

Filed under: family fun — courtsbrogno @ 8:34 pm

Today marked the first day we went to the Barn, a local favorite, well, barn. The barn is closed during the winter months, and though it opened a few weeks ago, today was the first day I was able to take the kids. It’s a great place to take the kids for an hour or two. You can pick berries, pet the animals, shop for produce, and get a great ice cream cone.

We met my sister, her children, and my aunt who is in town visiting for a few days. It was a warm and a perfect day for the kids to run around. It was also–thankfully–not that busy.

The kids fed and pet the goats, ostrich, and even a duck:

I know these animals look sad, standing behind a fence and in a cage. But I actually think they have a pretty good life. Families come and talk to them, kids throw them food, and the owners feed them and care for all their medical expenses. Not too shabby.

We ended the outing with a trip to their old-fashioned ice cream shop. Luke enjoyed having his own ice cream cone and I appreciated the small size they offer–perfect for little hands:

It was a great afternoon, and I am thankful that the barn reopened and provided excitement for a few hours.


happy birthday ann! March 25, 2010

Filed under: family fun,kindness toward me,self-discovery — courtsbrogno @ 8:36 pm

Today, my Aunt Ann would have turned 53 years old. However, she died January 1st this year of a pulmonary embolism. This post cannot do justice to how wonderful of a woman and an aunt she was, nor can I do her justice, as I only knew her for a short while and only saw her four times during my life.

My parents divorced when I was 6 years old, and my biological father, John, returned to New York to be with his family. I didn’t see him again until I was 28. And while I am sure my Aunt Ann and I spent many days together when I was an infant and before my parents moved back to California, the first time I officially met Ann was when I was 19 and she came for a vacation to California with her family.

Ann, her family, my uncle, his family, and my Grandma on John’s side all came for a visit in 1995, right after I moved to the town I still live in. They decided to vacation in a small, coastal town about 25 minutes from where I live. Through various phone calls made by them and my mom, I drove out to meet my “family” one day in late August.  It was an awkward visit, and rightfully so: I had not really met any of these people before. But I noticed right away how vivacious and loving they were. We ate and they told stories of me as a baby. As the night wore on, there were tears streaming down all of our faces for the time lost. They apologized for not keeping in better contact.

I think it’s safe to say that any hard feelings I might have had before were erased after that night. The one thing that always stood out, though, was Ann and her incredible kindness, honesty, and laugh.

Fast forward about 4 years, and Rudy, Ann’s son, contacted me via email. He has his mother’s family spirit, and seeing how we are first cousins, he wanted to reconnect. We slowly got to know each other. He called more frequently than I did. I was incredibly grateful.

Fast forward 2 more years, and Maddie (only 5 at the time), my mom, and I took a short trip to New York City. While we had a great time going to dinner, museums, and seeing shows, Maddie and I escaped to visit Ann and her family for one day, having an even better time there than in the city. Rudy took Maddie fishing, Ann took us exploring around the local lake, and we spent a few hours talking and catching up. Ann was so excited to meet Maddie, and Maddie feel instantly into Ann’s lap, reassured and comforted by her deep laugh and strong arms.

Fast forward 1 more year, and I was 28 and ready to meet John for the first time since I was 6. I called Rudy and he helped me set up a meeting. I took three friends—Sofia, Denise, and Tyler—deciding to make a long weekend out of it. We flew to New York in early December 2005 on a red eye. We checked into a hip hotel and had the most fun I think I’ve ever had. We met up with Rudy and his girlfriend (now wife), we met other friends, we ate too much, drank too much, and generally had too much fun.

Finally the day came for me to meet John. Rudy drove Sofia, Denise, Tyler, and me to his mother’s house about an hour north of the city. This was only the third  time I had met Ann. She greeted all of us with hugs and kisses. Her and her husband, Rudy Sr., took us to lunch, and then entertained my friends while I went to go meet with John.

The visit, while emotionally draining, stays in my memory not necessarily because of John, but because of how wonderful Ann was. My friends loved her and truly wanted to join her family. She made sure everyone felt loved and appreciated and comfortable.

Finally, flash forward to this summer when my sister, I, and all our kids boarded another red eye to New York, but this time for three weeks. While the majority of that time was spent on the Jersey Shore, we went to stay with Ann for 5 days. Ann was nervous: this was the first time my sister would meet Ann and her family and it was the first time I would have spent more than just one day with Ann. There was nothing to worry about. This was the only time during our entire trip that we all felt so relaxed and comfortable. Ann runs a daycare so the kids could run wild and it was ENCOURAGED. Ann devoted all her energy to us during that trip: she took us to the lake and swam with the kids, she bought us ice cream from the ice cream truck every day, she made us dinner, and she talked to us about our family history, and everywhere we went, we had to stop and talk to everyone she knew, which I believe was almost the entire town!

During our trip, she imparted great lessons: have sex frequently with your husband, for that’s the secret to a happy marriage; take care of yourself even when you’re taking care of others (Ann took care of the whole family, making sure John was in the right home as his health began to decline and the same for her brother and mother); make sure to have a good time when you’re out (I bet no one vacationed as well as she did); take care of your body (Ann swam like a teenager and used to be a runner); love your body (you should have seen her boobs! Amazing!).

We left that trip enlightened about our family history and literally enamored with Ann. We planned our next trip with excitement. We couldn’t wait to see each other again. Sadly, that wouldn’t happen.

Her death was devastating news. She was so young, in seemingly such great health, and so full of life and love. Plus, we had just begun to get to know her (which I know is a selfish reason, but it’s still my reason—I wanted MORE of her). My sister and I couldn’t fly out for the funeral, but it comforted us to know that almost 500 people came to her funeral and wake. If that doesn’t show how much she touched the lives of all those around her, then I don’t know what would.

This has been a long post, but one worth writing. Because for all the above reasons, today, in celebration of Ann, I am thankful for the time I did get to spend with her. It wasn’t enough…no, not at all. But what it lacked in time was made up for in the depth of love and graciousness my Aunt Ann provided.