A Year of Thanks

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a small step forward August 31, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — courtsbrogno @ 9:52 pm

I have searched my entire adult life for something that I’m good at…some talent, like painting, photography, writing, etc.

So far, I’m not really talented at much.

Except for one thing, and this is a terrible talent.

I am really, really, really good at ignoring people I’m mad at.

Which actually is not a lot of people. I can only think of two people I’ve ignored…an old boyfriend who really, really hurt my feelings once over 10 years ago and my ex, Luke’s father.

My ex, Luke’s father, really hurt me after we broke up. He said some terrible things about me–to pretty much anyone who would listen. And they were mostly lies. But I live in a small town, and word gets around, and my pride was hurt as well as my reputation (to a certain degree, really. Anyone who knew me, knew the things he said weren’t really true).

But the fact it, he was hurt by me leaving the relationship. And as much as I think that the way he handles it was lame, I am not him and I don’t know what was going through his mind, though it couldn’t have been pleasant.

In fact, I was so mad that every time I saw him, I would feel a ball of rage forming somewhere in my stomach, and I felt like I’d explode.

And when we had to speak, either before Luke was born or shortly thereafter, he had a unique was of being nice on the surface, but then also being really passive aggressive and slipping in some under cutting statement that sent this ball of rage into an almost tangible fury.

Of course, he was dealing with break-up issues as well. How he dealt with it was his way of healing. It does not make him a bad person.

Anyway, at the time, I was in therapy, and my therapist suggested that I just stop talking with him–that everything we need to say to each other could be said via email or text. This wouldn’t last forever, of course, but until we could heal, it was probably the healthiest way to handle each other.

It worked wonderfully. Anything and everything we need to say concerning Luke can be said via email, and the ball of rage I once felt slowly went away. Of course, it was awkward at first not speaking to each other whenever we had a drop off/pick up of Luke, but after time, it grew to be quite natural for both of us I think. And much healthier.

And like I said, I’ve gotten really, really good at this.

But as Luke’s gotten older, I’ve started to realize that we cannot keep going on like this. That we will damage Luke if we cannot have some sort of pleasant communication while in each other’s presence.

The question then remained: how? How do you go from not speaking at all for a few years to trying to be civil,  even nice?

I’m not so good at that.

Then, last week a friend of mine recommended the book Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller.

Publisher’s Weekly describes it as:

“Miller’s a young writer, speaker and campus ministry leader. An earnest evangelical who nearly lost his faith, he went on a spiritual journey, found some progressive politics and most importantly, discovered Jesus’ relevance for everyday life. This book, in its own elliptical way, tells the tale of that journey. But the narrative is episodic rather than linear, Miller’s style evocative rather than rational and his analysis personally revealing rather than profoundly insightful. As such, it offers a postmodern riff on the classic evangelical presentation of the Gospel, complete with a concluding call to commitment. Written as a series of short essays on vaguely theological topics (faith, grace, belief, confession, church), and disguised theological topics (magic, romance, shifts, money), it is at times plodding or simplistic (how to go to church and not get angry? “pray… and go to the church God shows you”), and sometimes falls into merely self-indulgent musing. But more often Miller is enjoyably clever, and his story is telling and beautiful, even poignant. (The story of the reverse confession booth is worth the price of the book.) The title is meant to be evocative, and the subtitle-“Non-Religious” thoughts about “Christian Spirituality”-indicates Miller’s distrust of the institutional church and his desire to appeal to those experimenting with other flavors of spirituality.”

I read it in a few days though I don’t know how much I’d recommend it. It didn’t move me the way it moved my friend, and it seemed too Christian fundamentalist for me. But there were definitely certain aspects of the book that I took away thinking about: trying to be more “Christ-like,” in that you should love your neighbor, actually love everyone, as well as the strong message that we are selfish, ego loving people, and we should work on ourselves before we even attempt to go out in the world and make a change. If we better ourselves, the world will be changed!

I like that part of the book because I do believe I am incredibly self-centered at times, and it’s something I’m conscious of and strive to change. I also love the part about loving everyone because it’s what I like most about Jesus (and Buddha and countless other non-Christian awesome peeps).

But half-way through the book, I also though, “My ex would probably like this book” (for several reasons that needn’t be discussed here). And then I thought, in the spirit of the book, that I’d extend some love and give him my copy.

Which meant talking to him.

Shit.

And then I also was panic-stricken for two reasons:

1. Was I really giving him this book because I thought he needs to learn something from the message: like “stop talking shit about me, asshole!”

**But after much thought, I realized that no, I wasn’t thinking about giving him the book for this reason because when I was reading it and kind of just randomly thinking, “my ex would like this,” it wasn’t parts that were particularly about who I thought he was or what I though he needed to learn or anything about that. So I’m pretty sure I just really thought he’d like the book.

2. Would he think I was giving it to him because I had a hidden agenda, like “Look how nice I am. Read this book and fix yourself.”

**Well, I can’t control what he’s going to think or what goes on in his mind, so there’s nothing I could really do about that, and if I presented him the book and said, “I’m not giving you this because I think you need to learn some important message from it which will make you a better person,” then OBVIOUSLY that’s probably exactly what he would think.

And then again, just to remind you, I had to actually talk to him. Which was the point. Which totally terrified me.

But I decided to do it.

So when I dropped Luke off, I held the book up and said, “Have you read this book.”

Him: “No. Why?”

Me: “I read it this summer and though you might enjoy it. You can have this copy. I already finished it.”

Him, looking at me suspiciously: “What’s the premise?”

Me: “It’s not a parenting book.” (and I know that wasn’t the question, but I was already nervous and I didn’t know how to describe the premise without more talking than I was ready to actually do at this point.

Him, with a look of continued suspicion: “So then what’s the premise?”

Me: “I just think you may like it.”

Then I walked away. I didn’t feel exalted or extremely impressed with myself. No mountain was moved. But I didn’t feel a ball of fury in my stomach and that’s good.

So, a small peace offering I gave today to my ex. Who know’s what will happen from here.

I’m pretty thankful I made this gesture as nerve-racking as it was. And while I’m certainly no Jesus (or Buddha or Mother Theresa or Bono), I’d like to think that they’re all high-fiving me for my attempt at kindness.

 

emails deleted August 30, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — courtsbrogno @ 8:12 pm

I just finished deleting all the emails in my university email account and my gmail account.

My university email account had 2,000 messages in the inbox and countless more in the sent folder.

My gmail account had over 5,000 messages in the inbox.

Out of control, right? I thought so. I remember when I first got my gmail account and I thought how great it was because gmail didn’t erase emails (unlike hotmail–at that time–where after something like 10 days your emails were erased). And though it has been a blessing in some ways, it’s also been a huge pain in my ass to keep up with all those emails cluttering my inbox.

I’ve been meaning to do this for a few summers now, but never got around to it. The chore just seemed so HUGE.

And it was a huge time sucking ordeal. But it’s finally done. And while I did archive some important emails, most of them I didn’t. I know I’ve just deleted some really important information from my life.

Oh well.

I’m still so thankful I finally tackled this chore. It’s so freeing to see an empty inbox.

 

scoccer help August 29, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — courtsbrogno @ 7:43 pm

This evening, we had a meeting with Maddie’s new soccer team. We had the chance to meet our new coach, meet the new team, and listen to all the new rules and regulations put in place this year for AYSO.

Since Maddie started AYSO soccer, there has only been one time–when she was 5–that another kid from her school was on her team. Of course, Maddie’s school is small, and AYSO tries very hard to vary what schools the kids come from, ensuring that different kids from all around the community get a chance to come together and play together, therefore strengthening community bonds, rather than just school bonds.

A noble philosophy. But as a single parent, juggling a kind of crazy schedule, it’s made the last 6 years a bit difficult for me. Not knowing the parents on each team makes it awkward to ask for help with driving, and car pooling to practice is often impossible.

Tonight, however, I found out that by pure chance, there are 3 other kids besides Maddie from her school on her team! I knew all the parents on our new team, and already, we discussed carpooling and helping each other throughout the soccer season.

I am so, so, so, so incredibly thankful that there are parents I know from Maddie’s school on our soccer team. I already see my life being much more easy this soccer season.

 

Maddie’s room: DONE August 28, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — courtsbrogno @ 4:55 pm

All summer, Maddie’s room has been a work-in-progress.

She wanted a more “adult” room, and I wanted more space. We took stock. Made some plans. Calculated costs. Got rid of what we didn’t need.

First I bought bunk beds. A few weeks later, I bought the mattresses. Then, we rearranged the room. The carpets were cleaned, and today, I bought the last piece needed: a bookshelf (I swear we have more bookshelves in our house than anything else!).

Voila, a fabulous new room that we both like.

(Her new bed and bookshelf)

(The other side of her room: devoted to games and playing)

I am so, so, so thankful this project is finally done. Maddie’s thankful she has a new room. I’m thankful she’s thankful. I’m also excited because this means NO MORE EXCUSES for a messy room.

 

fireman’s funeral August 27, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — courtsbrogno @ 8:59 pm

Last week, out town’s fire chief died suddenly of a heart attack. He was 61. He collapsed playing baseball, running from 1st to 2nd base.

I did not know him and know the details only from the local news’ reports.

Today there was a public memorial for him, and a procession of fire trucks through town.

I decided last night to take Luke because I knew he’d love to see all the firetrucks and that the fire chief was being carried in an old horse-drawn carriage, our town’s original fire truck. I felt a bit guilt, though: we were going to see the firetrucks and some horses, not to mourn the death of someone.

But we went anyway, and we sat patiently on the side of the road, waiting for the procession to come.

Luke played with his toy tire truck, running it up and down my leg.

After about 30 minutes, the procession came.

(color guards and bag pipes)

(our town’s first fire truck–a horse drawn carriage)

(the fire chief’s casket, covered in the American flag)

(the end of the procession)

Luke enjoyed himself. He enjoyed waving to the firemen and seeing all the motorcycle cops. I, on the other hand, started crying as soon as the bag pipes began to play. I was overcome with emotion: seeing community members on the streets,the somber family of the chief in a limo-bus, all the firemen who marched in their finest uniforms. It was all so emotional.

We went home, and even though I had no intention of doing so before I watched the funeral procession, I turned on the T.V. to watch the 2 hour live televised memorial on our local station. I was even more overcome with emotion. The fire chief, being eulogized by his closest friends and colleagues, would have been proud. And I loved hearing the heart-felt and amusing stories about him.

He seemed like a wonderful man, and I felt deep sympathy for his family and friends.

It seems we lost a great man last week. I’m thankful I went to the procession.

For in my initial silly attempt to amuse Luke, I found a much greater reason for being there: a celebration of life and the wonder of death, a pride in my community.

 

Bronte vs. Bronte August 26, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — courtsbrogno @ 11:11 pm

This evening, I went to my readers’ group and we discussed which Bronte is better: Charlotte or Emily for their respective novels, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. We had decided at our lat meeting to read the novel either we hadn’t read (and a surprising number of us had only read one) or hadn’t read¬† in a while.

Since I had read Jane Eyre a few years ago and remember really enjoying it, but had not read Wuthering Heights, I started my reading journey by reading Emily. Wuthering Heights is a weird, gothic, dark, interesting novel. Did I love it? Not so much. Did I respect it? Very much so.

Then I reread Jane Eyre. Oh, how I LOVE Jane Eyre. I couldn’t put the book down and even though I knew how it ended, I still cried at the end.

I was prepared to fight that Jane Eyre was much better, but, collectively as a group, we all agreed (minus one member who still likes Wuthering Heights, though I think he kind of cheated by not reading Jane Eyre again, the book he is less familiar with) that Jane Eyre is by far the better novel. It just has everything great in it: feminism, gothic elements, class struggles, interesting and diverse characters, and a wonderful romance.

I’m thankful my Bronte won the battle tonight. I’m thankful Jane Eyre was written. I’m sure I’ll continue to read it over and over again, never tiring.

 

heat wave August 25, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — courtsbrogno @ 9:29 pm

Finally, finally, finally. Some heat.

For the past three days, we’ve been experiencing a heat wave. And since this may go down as the mildest summer I’ve ever known, it is well-needed and well-deserved. Especially since the weather channel has a 10 forecast of 65-74 degree weather starting tomorrow.

But oh how I’ve loved this hot 90 degree weather. It is even better since I didn’t have to teach today.

And could take Luke to the beach today at 10a.m.

And let Luke swing at the park right by the beach so that the swinging motion created a nice breeze just for him.

And finally wear this super cute romper I got in May and have been unable to wear because it’s been too cool.

And watch my tomatoes finally turn red, after just staying green for many, many weeks.

And walk through the yard in just a diaper and tee-shirt because it’s too warm to wear anything else (not me, of course):

And then run through the sprinklers just because we can.

And then order Mexican food for dinner because Mexican food compliments a hot day better than anything else.

I’m pretty thankful for this little heat wave we’ve been having. I’m already sad it’ll be gone tomorrow. Perhaps we’ll get lucky and have a late summer, an Indian summer (Oh, I know, so very not PC. But Native American summer just does not sound right), but if that does happen, here’s hoping it happens on the weekend. Ain’t nothing worse than being cooped up in a hot classroom.

Oh, and yippee, I’m pretty thankful for the cool new app I installed (for FREE) on my phone: hipstamatic camera which takes all these cool, retro pictures. Finally I can ship my real camera to Illinois to get fixed!