A Year of Thanks

1 post a day for 365 days showing gratitude

dancing and singing her way to stardom! April 30, 2010

Filed under: kids — courtsbrogno @ 9:46 pm

Well, maybe the title to this post is a bit exaggerated, but tonight, Maddie danced and sang all across a stage, and she was so good!

Let’s back this story up. In January, I decided that Maddie wasn’t going to take a dance class like she usually does because I couldn’t find one that fit my schedule or her babysitter’s schedule. Every year, since Maddie was 5, she has done soccer in the fall and dance in the spring. Before she started soccer, she danced year round. So I felt really guilty that I couldn’t work this out. Maddie did, however, handle the situation really well and didn’t complain at all.

This is why, a few months ago, when I heard her school was putting on a musical, I begged Maddie to do it. At first she didn’t want to at all, but after all my pestering, she decided to give it a try.

She went to the first meeting and came home enthused and happy to be part of the show–Give our Regards to Broadway, a compilation of Broadway songs. But then Maddie hit me with a shocker: being in the play cost $250.

This was not good news; Maddie goes to private school, and I had just paid registration fees for next year, so funds were a little low. But I caved. I had pushed her to do this, so I dipped into my savings (I HATE doing this!) and paid the fee.

Once a week for 6 weeks, and every day this week, Maddie has gone to practice. I had heard from other parents that the show was a mess, that the little kids didn’t learn their lines, and that they–in general–didn’t allot themselves enough time.

To be honest, I was kind of pissed. Since I paid $250, I really expected to see something pretty good.

And then tonight, I did!

Of course, it wasn’t perfect and the little kids did look confused most of the time (which, to be honest, was quite charming), but overall, the show was a success.

Even more of a success, though, was Maddie. She really had stage presence! Though she didn’t have a solo, she  lit up the stage with her dancing and singing. I was so proud. Mostly, I was proud of her confidence–she really knew her stuff and it showed! And when I asked her afterward if she had been nervous, she emphatically answered, “NO!”

So, she’s not like me at all, then.  And this, I believe, is a good thing! Now she wants to do more plays and musicals, and I think that’s great.

So tonight, I’m thankful I reached into my savings account to pay for this performance. I’m thankful that I got a chance to see Maddie SHINE!

I am also thankful that Luke, who came with me, was quiet and focused the whole time. He barely made a peep! For being just 2, he did a good job. Everyone around us complimented me on his great behavior. Even during the last 10 minutes, when he really got antsy, all he did was lie on the ground in front of me, getting a different perspective of the show:

Finally, I’m thankful that my sister, her son, and my friends, Mike, Tasha, Christine, and Derek all took time out of their busy Friday nights to come out as well and watch the performance. We had a fantastic night.


10 minutes April 29, 2010

Filed under: books and reading,noticing sweetness — courtsbrogno @ 8:54 pm

Today was a busy day. Really busy. In addition to teaching at both schools and doing all the normal prep along with my normal house duties, I had to bake cookies and brownies for Maddie’s play performance tomorrow night (for the snack bar), which meant I also had to go to the store. Thinking about all this and how late I’d be up tonight made me feel like an explosive ball of stress.

But I had a small 10 minute reprieve today. It was heaven.

The babysitter arrived 15 minutes early, so as I left the house, I decided to run to the coffee shop to get a coffee before class. I really needed the energy and knew I could squeeze this in. But once I got to the coffee shop, I changed my mind and ordered a soy latte. Then 3 other customers came in. I started to stress out as I realized the barista was taking everyone’s order and that my latte wouldn’t be made and finished for a while.

I couldn’t change my order to just a simple and quick coffee to go, so I just sat down and started reading the paper.

10 minutes later and my coffee was made, I was out the door, and still made it to class on time, though I was breathless from running (with feet hurting, I might add, as I decided to wear heels today! Why? I have no idea, but it was a bad decision–my feet are still killing me).

Seriously, though, those 10 minutes were divine. I sat and read and became totally involved in the news stories, and completely forgot all about what I had to do today. It was like my mind just blanked and I dissolved into the paper. I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated 10 minutes like that before in my life.

10 minutes and I recharged. 10 minutes and I forgot about the chaos of my day. 10 minutes and I experienced silence and complete self-involvement for the first time in a long time. 10 minutes to be thankful for.


painted love April 28, 2010

Filed under: family fun — courtsbrogno @ 9:07 pm

Since today is my day of only teaching one class, I thought about all the fun things I could do with Luke. We went to the park, went to music class, played at home, played at my sister’s, went to the movie store (maybe not so much fun for him), and then made dinner. It was a good day, though a busy day.

But of all those things, I am thankful for some other things today.

First, letting Luke play with my super cheap sunglasses. He had so much fun.

Second, after Luke went to bed, I sat down to watch a movie my brother recommended (Tenure. Not every good.) and decided to paint my toenails. This doesn’t seem like much, I know, but it really is. I refuse to pay for pedicures and I rarely have time to paint my toenails. But when I do, it feels so good–like I’m ready to put on the sexiest shoes I have and go out. Well, that didn’t happen and I stayed sitting on my couch, but it definitely lifted my spirits.

Finally, this evening Maddie received a phone call from a boy in her class. This boy has been calling rather frequently this school year, often asking for homework answers and such. But tonight he called to ask IF MADDIE LIKED HIM!!!!

So exciting! She said, “I like you as a friend.”

He said, “O.K. geeezzzzz.” And then he hung up.

I’m not one of those moms who pushes her kid to have crushes. You know, those moms who talk to their friends about how their kids will be dating in high school and how they can’t wait. Nope, I don’t do that. In fact, I’d be really, seriously happy if Maddie didn’t have her first date until college!

But it was the first time this had happened and it was so cute. I remember having these conversations with boys when I was young, and although I, like Maddie, didn’t like the boys or the conversations, it was a nice ego boost. And I’m sure Maddie felt rather flattered. Furthermore, I really liked how she handled it! I’m proud she told him she liked him as a friend. She handled it well–without any help from me!!!

But then I had to kinda ruin it when I posed the question this question to Maddie:

“How are you going to handle seeing him tomorrow? I mean, he sits right next to you.”

You should have seen the look on her face. Priceless.


trader joe’s April 27, 2010

Filed under: food — courtsbrogno @ 8:40 pm

I know, I know…this may seem like a weak day. I am thankful for Trader Joe’s today? Come on!

Well, it was a weak day in terms of thankfulness. I felt like a rushed around all day and I am feeling really stressed about all the work I have coming up. I don’t think I paid good enough attention today.

But, seriously, the one break I had today was taking Luke to Trader Joe’s. We needed some serious food. Since tomorrow is Wednesday and I’m going to make a good dinner, I needed ingredients. We also needed lunch stuff: bread, ham, cheese, granola bars, juice boxes, etc. Finally, we needed snacks…badly. Luke had been snacking on carrots and bland crackers for a few days. Luke crushing the crackers into the floor was him signaling to me that we needed some other alternatives.

When Luke and I arrived at Trader Joe’s, we got a cart and just started strolling up and down the aisles. We shopped slowly and didn’t rush. I opened a bag of popcorn for Luke to eat, I had some of their sample coffee, and I even ran into a friend I haven’t seen in a while. We also looked and found Sammy the Seal (did you know they hide Sammy the Seal in a new place everyday and if your kids find it, they get a treat?). At the check out, I chatted with the checker, helped bag our groceries, and then Luke got a balloon as we left.

As I drove home, I began to think about how much I like this store. Everyone that works there is so nice and helpful, it’s reasonably priced, it has unique food options, and they give free balloons to kids! Who does that these days?

While it may seem like a stretch to be thankful for Trader Joe’s, I really, really, really am. Perhaps it is just the fact that it’s a great grocery store, but perhaps I’m so enamored by Trader Joe’s today because going there was the only time all day I got to relax, hang with Luke, and not feel rushed or stressed out.

It’s probably a combination of the two, but today I’m thankful for Trader Joe’s.


enlightening? April 26, 2010

Filed under: books and reading — courtsbrogno @ 11:32 pm

Tonight, I am once again thankful for my reader’s group (no longer a book club; it was decided that reader’s group sounds much more sophisticated. I did not make this decision, by the way).

I know, I know…I’ve been thankful for my reader’s group before. But this time I am thankful because it really was an enlightening meeting.

You see, tonight we read The Hour of the Star by Brazilian writer, Clarice Lispector. This was not an easy read. While only being 86 pages long, it was a deep and confusing narrative.

For example, from page 25:

“She wasn’t even aware that she was unhappy. The one thing she had was faith. In what? In you? It isn’t necessary to have faith in anyone or anything–it is enough to have faith. This often endowed her with a state of grace. For she had never lost faith.

(The girl worries me so much that I feel drained. She has drained me empty. And the less she demands, the more she worries me. I feel frustrated and annoyed.)”

Let me break this down. See if you can follow.

This is a novel written by Clarice Lispector narrated by a man, Rodrigo S.M. who is telling the story of a woman, Macabea, who is the thinness character I’ve ever read, a character who literally doesn’t have any depth, though maybe she does. The narrator, Rodrigo, also tells, throughout the novel, of how difficult it is for him to write the story of Macabea. In the meantime, the novel is also a philosophical treatise on: the state of poverty in Brazil, life and death, existentialism, and what it means to create art.

Confused? Yeah, I was too. So I was extremely excited to see what everyone else thought of the novel. How they interpreted it. Because, to be honest, I could not figure out the overall point of this novel. While there were definitely beautiful moments (I happened to love the character of Olimpico), the whole novel seemed really lofty and disconnected.

And so my reader’s group helped me understand. This is some of what was discussed:

post-post modernism



narrator vs. character: who is more real?


Listen, I’m a non-fiction writer. This is what I do; this is what I teach. I am not knowledgeable about the craft of fiction writing. So I practically need a dictionary to keep up with our conversations and I have to reach into the depths of my memory from graduate school to remember what post-modernism even is, let alone post post-modernism.  And while, at times, I was lost in my own meta-narrative, I did understand much more of the novel after our meeting.

The consensus? No one really liked it. THANK GOD! So even after a lively discussion–even a discussion that pointed out some really beautiful parts–we all agreed that it was a novel that perhaps tried too hard. But we did all appreciate the effort.

So tonight while I’m thankful for my reader’s group, I’m thankful even more for our enlightening conversation. I felt much more intelligent after our discussion.


maddie’s home! April 25, 2010

Filed under: kids — courtsbrogno @ 8:24 pm

Maddie returned home tonight after being gone since Thursday morning. My sister, her husband, and her kids all went to Legoland and they took Maddie with them.

Because I work so much, I never get a chance to take Maddie anywhere during the school year, so it’s awesome that she got a chance to go with them and have some fun.

But Luke and I missed Maddie so much. The house was so quiet without her. No singing, dancing, or terrible music playing from upstairs.

But today she came home. Luke was thrilled and I was even more happy. She had so much fun and even bought Luke a pair of Elmo socks as a gift. There is terrible music playing from upstairs right now, and I’m not even upset about it (yet).

So tonight I am thankful that Maddie is home, but I’m even more thankful that my sister included her in their family fun!


wpe April 24, 2010

Filed under: work — courtsbrogno @ 8:36 pm

At then university where I teach, all students must pass a writing exam to graduate, called the Writing Proficiency Exam (or WPE). Students can take it two ways: they can take it in an upper division literature class where the instructor dictates how the exam will occur OR they can pay $35 and take the exam on a Saturday. The Saturday exam consists of reading an article and then responding to a prompt.

A few weeks after students take the exams, professors from across campus come together and grade these essays. Each essay is scored two times, unless there is a discrepancy between grades and then the essay is graded a third time.

Today, I graded the WPE’s. There were 1100 essays to grade, and I read from about 8:30 until 2:30. My eyes wanted to fall out.

But, it’s always nice when the majority of essays I graded passed. Students who passed can now continue with their education and graduate. I am thankful that these students have jumped over one of the last hurdles to graduation.

I am also thankful that the university believes that writing is important enough to require a writing exit exam. Writing is such an incredibly valuable tool (and I mean that, it’s a tool) that far too few people know how to do well (or even half-way well). Requiring students to take an exam on writing before they graduate helps show them that writing is important.

But mostly, I’m thankful that I don’t have to read another batch of WPE’s until November!