A Year of Thanks

1 post a day for 365 days showing gratitude

Thankful Tuesdays begin and oh how I love San Francisco March 29, 2011

Filed under: adult fun,friends,travel — courtsbrogno @ 5:47 pm

The week went by rather quickly, and there is much to be thankful for.

Like finally finishing grading and ending a long and arduous quarter by submitting grades after spending much of the week grading like a mad woman, which is both exhausting and exhilarating:

Then for a very brief reprieve, I packed the kids into the car and off we went for a weekend in San Francisco to visit my mom and dad, attend my best friend Michelle’s baby shower, and spend some time with some great friends.

Oh, how I do love you San Francisco.

Is there any bridge more beautiful than the Golden Gate?

Of course, with my terrible sense of direction, I spent a very frustrating amount of time driving around lost in this city, but then I came to realize, getting lost near Golden Gate Park is not such a bad way to spend my time lost and driving around the city:

And spending some time on Tasha’s roof so we could take in the views of the city? Practically heaven:

 

 

 

 

Or being in the Sunset district and looking down a street, admiring a row of uniquely styled houses, which is always a reminder of why the diversity of the city–even in just the houses and districts–makes San Francisco a place that other cities should be jealous of:

And just because I happened to be lost and somehow ended up at City Lights Bookstore, I’m putting in one of my favorite poems by its founder (note: the actual spacing of the poem is not transferring correctly):

Constantly Risking Absurdity (#15)

by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Constantly risking absurdity
and death
whenever he performs
above the heads
of his audience
the poet like an acrobat
climbs on rime
to a high wire of his own making
and balancing on eyebeams
above a sea of faces
paces his way
to the other side of day
performing entrechats
and sleight-of-foot tricks
and other high theatrics
and all without mistaking
any thing
for what it may not be

 

For he’s the super realist
who must perforce perceive
taut truth
before the taking of each stance or step
in his supposed advance
toward that still higher perch
where Beauty stands and waits
with gravity
to start her death-defying leap

 

And he
a little charleychaplin man
who may or may not catch
her fair eternal form
spreadeagled in the empty air
of existence

 

 

I attended Michelle’s baby shower while I was up in San Francisco as well, seeing most of my same best friends I saw at my birthday. Which was great. It’s so rare we get together that often. Plus, celebrating Michelle’s new baby coming (due May 11th!) made my visit seem even more special:

(Another girl for Michelle and Cain!)

 

(lots of presents for this new baby girl)

 

(Michelle, proud mama to be, relishing in the attention she deserves)

 

(Michelle was delighted to have many family members fly up to SF to help celebrate. I was delighted to see her family!)

 

And then it was off for a night on the town with Tasha, some old friends, a few new friends, and I even got the chance to see my old neighbor, who I miss living next to (he didn’t call the city and complain about my chickens!). We had so much fun; oh yes, we did!

(That’s Tasha and my old neighbor Brady. They are not kissing. Just hugging.)

The night was a love fest and it was one that I will always remember. Good times and good memories: I can’t ask for much more.

Sadly, I had to leave Sunday as it was time to drive home and  prepare myself for a new quarter with classes starting Monday. Though I was up way later than I had anticipated, I’m thankful I successfully finished all my prepping for the new quarter. Giving up some sleep was well worth waking up without stress.

And then it was back into the classroom, and the first day, why always exhausting, is also invigorating. I think of all the possibilities that can come from both me as an instructor and my students as well. All the possibilities that await exploration. That’s what makes all the grading and exhaustion worth it. Very worth it.

It was a good week. A busy week. A short vacation with a lot of love spread around.

I’m so lucky in life. That I know to be true.

 

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1640 words of “the end,” paralysis of analysis, Prufrock, and a new start (and I’ll keep blogging) March 22, 2011

Filed under: favorites,self-discovery,self-growth — courtsbrogno @ 6:44 pm

It’s obviously been more than a day since my last post. Quite awhile. And while I’m usually a quick writer, I began to feel incredibly stuck with writing a significant last post. Usually, my writing process starts in my head. I mull over what I want to say and organize my thoughts all in my head. Then I set out either writing an outline or just going for it. For this blog, I usually just write quickly whatever may come to mind. There have been some posts that have been planned, but I’ve felt no obligation to be deep or even grammatically correct. I knew when I began writing this blog, I wouldn’t have the time nor interest in aiming for perfection or deep insight.

But my last post? The end of my year of thanks? I knew that should be deep and mindful and even inspiring.

So I started thinking and reading some old posts, and then I froze. I just didn’t know what to say. So much happened in the past year and I was overwhelmed. I didn’t even know where to start. Every day I thought of a story to start this important blog post. Perhaps I’d write about the time I started a photography class and then quit. Perhaps I’d start with an early story from my childhood, one that elicited when I broke, when my emotions shattered from disappointment and how I built myself up from that. Maybe I’d start with how hard I worked to put myself through school, all the late nights spent writing long essays about, oh, say, Tennyson and how much I’d grown from those experiences.

But I didn’t write a thing. I developed paralysis by analysis. I couldn’t put into words how I was felling or how much I’d learned. I spent over 2 years reeling in the muck of my life, beating myself up for past failures. Then I spent a year building myself up, working diligently to change my viewpoint by chronically what I was grateful for and delving deep into my insecurities through therapy.

I didn’t know how to record the changes, the deep, deep changes I’d made in myself. Plus, I wondered how much of these deep changes were even tangible. Again, paralysis by analysis.

So I did what I always do when I’m stuck. I went for advice in the best, greatest minds. I perused my bookshelves and reached for the first book that called to me. Surprisingly, it was a book of poems my T.S. Eliot.

I can’t even remember the last time I read T.S. Eliot. Probably in graduate school. And I don’t know what drew me to this particular book, but I grabbed it and sat on the couch. I turned to my favorite Eliot poem. And while I know “The Wasteland” may be his most famous, I can’t help but love “The Love Story of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

I read. And I thought. And I knew that while I had healed myself in a number of ways, I had also turned slightly into Prufrock. My life had become Prufrockian.

Case in point: I read this stanza at least 20 times:

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair–
[They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin–
[They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”]
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:–
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

Is it even more prophetic that I was actually reading this as I stirred the sugar into my coffee with a spoon? Oh Prufrock, you may be a man, but you summed up how I was feeling, as a woman.

Had I over-examined my life?

Had I stopped living?

Was I dealing with the same overwhelming life question of Prufrock:  How can I live a meaningful existence within a modern society and within my own mind with walls built so high that I can barely see over them?

Have I been a passive observer of my own life?

Finally, who is the intended audience of my life?

Paralysis of analysis.

I have accomplished so much in the past year, the least of all actually staying committed to writing for an entire year. I have looked backwards and forwards and mostly stayed in the present. I have felt some old wounds heal and watched new ones grow. I have become stronger, more dedicated, and less prone to self-doubt. I have realized the wonderful and devoted friends that surround me in all aspects of my life. I have felt loved and less lonely (when, truth be told, I didn’t even realize how lonely I had been).

But I hadn’t really put all of that analysis in action. And I got stuck with the question of NOW WHAT?

I looked back to the “About” section of my blog in which I hastily wrote on March 4, 2010 as I was just learning how to put together a blog:

After 3 relatively messy, lonely, boring, and thought provoking years, I am attempting to re-center myself. First step? Taking a year to note what I am thankful for. From there? Live and move on.

I believe I made a commitment before I even started writing to finish the blog and then to “live and move on.” Good advice from over a year ago. Wise advice. Live and move on.

Gratitude has been great, overwhelmingly good for me. Living out my life, not passively but actively, will be a bit more difficult. Difficult and unsure, I will live life, full of gratitude and composed of action. Yes, I will observe and record, but I will also write my own story.

So let the adventure begin.

But first, my birthday. It was a grand day.

Starting with hearing my best friend Sofia tip toe into my house at 5:15 a.m., driving from San Diego all night after she got off work. Then at just 7 a.m., coming downstairs, wide-awake and ready to walk downtown to take me to coffee. Sofia, I’ve decided, doesn’t need sleep. She may be a vampire. But she’s my best friend, my love, the woman who constantly inspires me.

(walking downtown with the kids, Sofia, and Sofia’s daughter Isabella)

(Isabella and Maddie: happy best friends as well)

Then we came home and my brother-in-law was cleaning up my yard and my friend Jenn was cooking in the kitchen. We talked, cleaned a bit, and waited for Jill and Ryan to arrive, my best friends coming from Orange County.

They arrived and Sofia, Ryan, Jill, Luke, and I all went on a hike. Taking a hike was the one thing I really wanted to do on my birthday, and I even chose a path I had never been on before. Having my best friends there to accompany me made the hills, the sky, the air even more magical.

 

(Jill, Sofia, and Ryan: they make me so happy)

 

(I glow with happiness to be with such great friends, on top of a mountain, surrounded by my beautiful town)

Once we returned to the house, we were on a quick run of cleaning the house and getting ready. Kids were gone and bottles of wine were opened. I had wanted to take picture of every one of my friends who came, everyone who helped mold and change my life in some way, but I was having too much fun, and the following photos don’t capture all the dear, dear friends who came and helped me celebrate turning 35, but for everyone who was here, and for all the friends who couldn’t make it, I am incredibly grateful to have you in my lives. Truly, this was more of a celebration of them than me.

(My  sister and Jenn. Without them there would not have been a party. They did everything!)

 

(Sofia. She may be a vampire, but if I was a lesbian, she’d be my wife.)

(Colleen, who helped cook and get the party ready. She is an inspiration to all who know her)

 

(Mike: the kindest man I know)

 

(Sofia and Grace. Grace is the epitome of her name. I love her so much.)

 

(Mike and Reese, the best musician I know)

 

(Michelle, Jill, and Grace. I’ve known Michelle since I was 15; Jill since I was 17. I look up to these women and aspire to be like them)

 

(Malik, the best DJ in town and Tim, a wonderful food-savvy friend)

 

(My very, very best friends)

 

(All of us together)

(A party in action)

 

(My beautiful birthday cake, brought by my best friend, my soul-mate, Denise)

(That’s a lot of damn candles)

 

(THANKFUL)

And so it ends, the year of thanks. It’s been a good year, a healing year.

A year that I already miss, but am thankful to for.

And yet, surprisingly, I’m missing writing.

So there will be more.

Thankful Tuesdays will start next week. And while I know Thankful Thursdays sounds better (that great “th” alliteration), Tuesdays I don’t have Luke and so I have more time to write.

I will still be thankful, but I promise I will also be active.

Because as Mary Oliver says, “”Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Oh, Mary Oliver, I plan to do it all.

 

 

 

 

 

thinking… March 13, 2011

Filed under: self-discovery — courtsbrogno @ 9:52 pm

I didn’t write last night, but I didn’t feel guilty either.

Mainly because my year had technically finished and also because I was having too much damn fun.

I will write a long, detailed post tomorrow. One where I look back on my year of thanks.

But now, I just need to process. To think about what I want to write. To think about the shape this year, my story, will take.

But I promise, I will get finish. Perhaps with a bang!

 

P.S. Many of my friends have suggested I keep writing my blog, chronically what I’m thankful for. I’m not sure yet if I will. I’ve also thought of writing another year-long, daily blog. Here are some ideas:

My year of dating (but I pretty much think this would be DEPRESSING. Like really depressing.)

My year of trying to find God (perhaps spend 3 months researching and attending different faiths (like Catholicism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Judaism).

My year of what I’m not thankful for (this would be a downer for sure, and probably almost every entry would be about grading essays).

My year of trying something new (but are there really 365 new things I could try?)

My year of imagining the future (sounds too sci-fi for me).

My year of discovering (and sometimes rediscovering) the classics (but who would really want to read this?)

Or maybe continuing the theme with just “Thankful Tuesdays,” where I only write once a week.

These are just a few ideas. And other ideas? Seriously, I’m open to any suggestions.

 

 

 

preparation March 11, 2011

Filed under: friends — courtsbrogno @ 8:22 pm

Tomorrow is a BIG day–my 35th birthday.

Tomorrow my friends and I will celebrate the end of my year of thanks with a big party. I invited almost everyone I wrote about on this blog and a few can’t make it because they live out-of-state or have to work or can’t find a babysitter.

But about 40 people will attend. That’s one big party.

So today we prepared. And by we, I mean basically my friend Jenn.

My friend Jenn has been cooking up a storm since this afternoon. My house smells amazing and it’s all warm and comfy inside. The yard is getting cleaned tomorrow by my amazing brother-in-law Jon, Maddie is cleaning her room and making her beds for visitors, and Luke is sleeping peacefully–as in, he’s not making a mess.

To be honest, I haven’t done much of anything. Jenn, as well as my sister, have planned what is looking to be a pretty fun and awesome party. An extravaganza they’re calling it.

I’m so, so, so incredibly thankful to have such good friends throwing this party for me, coming up to be part of the festivities, and generally making me realize why my year of thanks has been such a success.

Plus, this whole weekend, starting with all these preparations, will reinforce what I found to be so true: I have the best friends in the world and my life is complete because of them, for them, and with them.

To make today feel even more special, some friends came into town early, and we started celebrating tonight.

Celebrating by letting all our kids run amuck.

(Olivia and Luke having the best time–flip a kid upside down and their whole world changes)

I’m thankful or the time I spent tonight with Michelle, Cain, Niki, and Grace. I’m thankful the kids had fun.

I’m thankful for the beginning of a wonderful weekend.

Thankful, thankful, thankful……

 

collaborative group March 10, 2011

Filed under: friends,work — courtsbrogno @ 10:02 pm

Tonight, just like many other nights since January, I met with my critical thinking collaborative learning group. But tonight, instead of being excited, I really didn’t want to go. I have tons of work to do and I was exhausted. Like really exhausted. Like I could have crawled into bed at 6 and gone straight to sleep.

But I made a commitment to my group, so, of course, I went. Grumpily.*

And we did discuss really intelligent concepts and so I felt better and a bit more awake because my brain started to work, making connections.

But then my group really awoke me with a birthday cake, candles, and by singing “happy birthday” to me. It was so sweet and thoughtful and such an honor.

I looked at our group of instructors, almost all who have kids and teach a lot of courses, and thought about how much they become–to me–more of just a collaborative research group. I almost feel like they’re becoming some sort of family, which in some ways in weird because I don’t know some of them very well at all.

Yet it feels really natural to call them family. We care about each other. We promote each other. We listen to each other. We work together for a common goal.

The end point of this group is to define, interpret, and spread awareness about critical thinking across the disciplines. To create a cross-disciplinary conversation.

But making new friends and feeling like I have a university family is an outcome I didn’t expect. An outcome I’m quite thankful for tonight.

*I think I just made this word up. Can you act grumpily? Or are you just grumpy? If I made this up, I am totally fine with any Palin-directed jokes you are making. I deserve it. But I’m really, really tired (in my defense).

 

lent March 9, 2011

Filed under: family fun — courtsbrogno @ 6:44 pm

Today is Ash Wednesday, and so, as a family, we’re about to embark on our 40 day journey in which we either give up something we love OR do something/give back.

Here’s the low down of what we’re doing:

Maddie: after much thought and discourse with me about what she doesn’t want to give up (candy, computers, games, complaining, etc), Maddie finally came to the conclusion that for the next 40 days, she will do one nice thing for someone each day. Every night at dinner she’ll report what she did. I like this idea. I think she’s made a good decision.

Luke: after a long conversation with Luke about Lent and what it is, he looked at me with a blank stare. He doesn’t understand. At all. But I didn’t think he would. So he’s not giving up anything. That’s okay, though. I’m sure Jesus loves him just the same.

Me: after much thought about this, I still have absolutely no idea what to either give up or do. Should it really be this difficult? Sweets? Not this year. Facebook? Not ready to disconnect myself, especially since I really don’t use it very often and mostly use it to send out messages (and usually, pretty important ones). Meat? Come on! I can easily slip into anemia, and I don’t eat it that much anyway. Stop gossiping? I try my hardest to not gossip at all anyway (though, of course, I’m not perfect). Sex? Hahahaha…that was given up a long time ago anyway. Drinking? I don’t do it enough for it to really matter.

I don’t know what to do yet, so I’m going to leave it open for now. I seriously am not perfect in any way, shape, or form, but I don’t feel inspired to make a decision yet and I don’t think it would be wise to honor this time with something picked just to be picked. You know? I don’t want to be disingenuous.  Ahhhh…I’m Catholic, so I already feel guilty.

I am, however, thankful to be upon this time yet again. Even if you’re not Catholic or religious, I think it’s a great opportunity to give up something for a little over a month or to give back in someway.

But if you have any ideas of what I should do, I am open to suggestions!

 

SRC March 8, 2011

Filed under: self-discovery — courtsbrogno @ 7:22 pm

I’m throwing in the towel with grading tonight. I’ve been on a grading marathon lately and have even forgone my usual nightly reading, for, you guessed it, grading.

But not tonight. My brain is fried. Instead, I’m putting Luke to bed and then settling down to watch a stupid romantic comedy (SRC).

I picked out the movie Leap Year to watch tonight. It looks like it will be terrible and yet I can’t wait. It involves all I love in a SRC: a predictable plot (of course the guy and girl will end up together); an adorable man who will, naturally, save the girl in some horribly cheesy way; a clumsy girl who desperately needs the help of a good man; and even better, the movie it set in Ireland and the male character will have an accent. Oh how I love an accent.

I’m not a stupid or vapid woman, and I love deep movies with unique plots and intelligent character development. I also love sad documentaries. But dammit, I love a SRC like no other.

I know the plots and characters go against any morals I believe in and value. In fact, I’m sure it is reasonable to argue that the SRC goes against everything I value, especially feminism.

But I just don’t care. I want to be swept away in a ridiculous plot where the man does save the woman and where everything ends happily-ever-after. I want that cheesy romance for just a few hours. I want to yearn for a fictional life where a trip to Ireland will land me the man of my dreams. It’s unrealistic for sure, but I’m still thankful for a night spent watching a SRC.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll come back to reality, but for tonight, I’m going to wave my SRC flag and be proud.