A Year of Thanks

1 post a day for 365 days showing gratitude

loyalty May 31, 2011

Filed under: friends,kids,pets — courtsbrogno @ 5:36 pm

I love the idea of being loyal, the idea of being faithful to one’s own beliefs, allegiances, and even states of being.

But let’s face it, loyalty is hard to maintain and I’m not the most loyal person around. But how can I be? I’m constantly evolving and changing (hopefully for the better) and to say that I’ve stayed loyal to even my own feelings at any given time would be a huge lie. In fact, if there’s anything my past has shown me it’s that all too often I’m not loyal enough to my feelings, which, of course, leads to bad decisions. I’m also not the most loyal friend. While I do consider myself a good friend, great even at times, people change and friends change, and sometimes I’ve had to let go of a friendship because it evolved into an unhealthy state.

Even the world at large seems to disavow loyalty. Nations back stab each other, politicians go back on their promises, and cheating has become a common factor in many divorces (and don’t even get me started on this article where the author writes about how he’s still “hot for his wife” after 36 years together and can’t understand the cheating of Schwarzenegger and then half way through the article admits that he’s had TWO affairs. Seriously?).

I can’t say I understand what loyalty means in its entirety, but I do feel that this past week showed me how loyal friends can be to me, how loyal I am to dancing and my parenting style, and how loyalty is most exemplified in my best companion, my dog.

:::::

My friend Kirby made a surprise visit to town this weekend, having just stepped off a plane from Australia. Word got around pretty quickly that he was in town, and many (me)  became quite stalker-ish in attempts to see him. That’s because, as I’ve written about Kirby before, he’s just one of the most incredible men I know. Actually, let me take that back. He IS the most incredible man I know. The last time I saw Kirby was last summer in Portland and a few days after our visit, he boarded a plane for Australia with no clear plans on coming back to the states, and in the time that has passed, I’ve made few attempts to contact him.

But that’s okay because I know that our friendship is so strong that we can pick up right where we left off. Which is what we did this past Friday night.

Kirby and I walked around town, ate dinner, and shared a bottle of wine. But mostly what we did was talk. there was a lot of catching up to do, and so I feel that at times our conversation was rapidly paced, trying to fit in as much as possible. When trying to set up a time to meet via email, I had made a joke that “I would very much enjoy spending time with [him] and searching through the depths of [his] mind to find a true meaning to this life we live.” And I said this in jest, but in fact, that’s exactly what happened in the course of our conversations.

Kirby has a deep soul. He seems to have lived several lives and his constant respect for humanity as well as his rebellious nature to push against what he sees as unjust or even unwise gives him a clearer perception of life than almost everyone I know.  When he talks, I listen. And I was captivated by what he had to offer. Kirby’s not wise in the sense that he knows everything because, in fact, I’d venture to say that he’s quite confused about a lot of things.

Kirby lifted my soul up in so many ways through the course of our evening together. He boosted my self-esteem and for the night, at least, I saw myself as he sees me: a strong, woman who is good in many ways. There are so many times I doubt myself and my life choices and I often feel like I’m wandering through a maze unsure of which way to turn. Kirby reminded me that there is no right way, that every way is the right way, that life’s lessons are meant to be lessons and not harsh punishments.

The following morning I received an email from Kirby and he wrote, “I just walked in the door; 11:55pm right now as I type to you. I can’t say write because, well, this fucking bright blue computer screen  is not a pen and paper – oh the power of leaving a mark on a page is everything….tonight was one of the best nights of my last year, and one I will
always remember. Thank you for your love. No matter how lovable the one we show love and kindness to is, the choice to give ALWAYS remains our own and the imprint you leave on me is wonder-filled – thank you for your world and for sharing and gawd! cha ching – we are in this for life eh dear friend :)”
Loyalty is Kirby. Loyalty is knowing that no matter what–what country we live in, whom we decide to settle down with, the different places our minds may be–we are, for sure, in this for life. And my life is more blessed, more beautiful with Kirby in it. The universe has shown me many beautiful things over the years, but the greatest gift has been strong friendships, friendships with people like my dear friend Kirby.
:::::

Maddie graduated from 6th grade this past week, and while I’m so glad that schools over for the year and we can start a much-needed break, I’m so proud of how well she’s doing in school.

But, she could be doing better. Maddie made the honor roll this year, but the thing is, she didn’t even try this year. She kind of half-assed it the entire year, waiting until the last minute to do her work or study for her exams. I know I seem like a terrible parent for being a bit hard on her, but I hope to impress the absolute truth in trying her hardest in any given situation. Sure, she made honor roll and got a 3.55 gpa, but to know that she could have achieved far better had she just applied herself peeved me a little.

When I was in college, I took a class with my best friend Denise. I can’t even recall what class it was (perhaps a history class?), but the class was a challenge. For me. Not Denise. Denise didn’t study for exams and she rarely took notes, but I studied a lot and my notes were ridiculously long and labored. When exams came around, we both did well; I believe we both achieved an A in the course. But that experience taught me something really important: Denise was way smarter than me and had a much better memory than I did. BUT, if I worked hard, I could achieve the same grade as she did. This has been one of the best life lessons I’ve ever had. I know that if I really want something, something that may seem unachievable at first, that I can accomplish it–if I work hard enough. I truly believe that if I wanted to become an astrophysicists, I could (but I really, really, really don’t want to).

So I am a bit hard on Maddie. I did congratulate her, and I kissed and hugged her, but then I also sat her down for a long chat about how she could have done better. I made her think about next year and the goals she should set for herself. I think it was a good talk. I hope, at least.

I do feel confident that I’m staying loyal to the way I parent Maddie. I don’t want her to be a spoiled, self-involved woman when she grows up. I want her to be humble and kind and hard-working. I want to impart on her good values and ethics (and though this begs the question that what we want our kids to be is usually the exact opposite of what they become, I’m willing to take the risk).

:::::

Maddie, with all her kindness and love toward me, has become completely embarrassed of me for one thing: my dancing. I like to dance. No, I LOVE to dance. I dance in the car, around the house, and yes, sometimes even in the shower. And I know I’m not a good dancer, but I don’t care at all. For years Maddie was my dancing partner and we had no inhibitions when prancing around the house, but now that she’s become mortified by my behavior (oh, the pre-teen years kill me sometimes), I only have Luke left as a dance partner. Which is fine (except that he likes to be carried and it’s hard to bust out great–in my mind at least–moves with a 35 pound kid on your hip).

In another attempt to show me how uncouth my dancing is, Maddie grabbed my phone to record me and Luke dancing while I made dinner. Surely, Maddie thought seeing myself on video would abruptly stop this behavior. But, oh no Maddie, I’m posting it here for the world to see. I’m not ashamed, and dammit if I’m not loyal to being a dancing queen.

:::::

Finally, my most loyal companion is my dog Baily, who comes on every solo hike I take, making me feel protected against mountain lions and other unforeseen possible disasters.

Baily teaches me much about loyalty. She lies on the floor by my bed every night, watching over me and the kids. If we forget to feed her (which we almost never do!), she still loves us. If we don’t brush her, she still loves us! Really, perhaps her love for us is flawed, perhaps we don’t deserve this love. But I guess there are a lot of times I haven’t deserved love in my life, times I’ve been un-loyal, times I haven’t been a good friend, and yet still have had friends by my side, companions to hug me, strangers who’ve made a kind comment.

:::::

Loyalty is strange in many ways. How to be loyal is even stranger. It’s been a good week for reminding me that loyalty exists in many different aspects of my life. It’s been a good week to reconsider what I need to remain loyal and dedicated in.

For even Proverbs states: “Do not let loyalty and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.”

Now excuse me while I go dance.

 

a short one May 24, 2011

Filed under: friends — courtsbrogno @ 9:20 pm

Since most of my week has consisted of this…

(grading, grading, grading)

…I’ve not had much time today to reflect upon all that has occurred this week nor time tonight to write about what I’m grateful for.

So I’ll be short and to the point. Despite all the grading, I’ve managed to squeeze in time to see friends, have drinks and conversations, feel life in an uncomplicated form, and appreciate all different forms of closeness I share with those who surround me. I’m thankful for that.

Cheers to the small bits of good times I’ve experienced this week, a needed break in between the mountains of essays:

 

coming down the mountain May 17, 2011

Filed under: family fun,favorites,friends,kindness toward me — courtsbrogno @ 7:45 pm

On Friday, I was tired. No really I was exhausted. But I didn’t have the kids, and I felt like a hike. I took my dog, a bottle of water, and headed up the mountain. Only a quarter of a mile in, I stopped. My body felt depleted of energy, my soul seemed sapped, my mind was on overload. I thought about turning around. But instead, I forged my way up, trying to appreciate the burn in my legs, fighting the exhaustion in my mind and body. By the time I reached the top, and watched the evening fog rolling over the mountains, I felt at ease, in every possible way, and thankful.

This week has been a series of ups and downs. Just like climbing the mountain, there were times that felt strenuous and not worth it. But following through, going to the top (or in some cases, just close enough), made the week’s adventures worth the hard work.

:::::

My collaborative meeting group ended last week with a big dinner where we discussed all we had learned and how thankful we were for the opportunity to get together, become friends, and improve not only our teaching skills, but our professional development as well. This group has been amazing in every possible way, but it’s been incredibly exhausting as well. We kept ourselves on task and assigned readings and little assignments to keep every member engaged. There were times I walked in so exhausted, I believe everything that came out of my mouth sounded like nonsense. Teaching a full load, having 2 kids, arranging babysitters to meet from 7-9 in the evening was taxing at times. But the benefit, the end result, was so very worth every late night. I know I’m going to miss this group an incredible amount, but I also know that we all need a well-deserved break.

:::::

My sister’s son, Braden, had a birthday this past week as well. It was one of the most successful birthday parties I’ve ever been to. She made it simple (though, to me, it looked rather complicated) by having a bunch of kids meet at a park after school for a game of baseball. Then there was pizza and cake. I really think Braden had the absolute best time of his life. In fact, every kid seemed to be having the time of their lives. Braden was in his element, surrounded by friends and family who love him so much. He’s a pretty amazing little guy (actually, a pretty amazing BIG guy now) and it was so much fun to celebrate this new year with him.

The only problem, for me at least, is that as soon as I got into my car at 4 to drive out to the party, I almost wanted to weep from exhaustion. I couldn’t even fathom how I was going to be a good aunt, a fun parent, an involved friend, when visions of my bed and pajamas were running through my head. It had been a long day, full of grading and lecturing, but the moment I arrived at the party, my whole mood lifted. Sure, I didn’t talk to many parents and spent most of my time pushing Luke on the swings, but to see 3-6 year olds running all over the place, having so much fun, made it impossible to feel tired or even sorry for myself. And I had fun. And the pizza was good. And the cake was better. And I’m thankful for Braden.

:::::

Friday night, I though about all the grading I had to do and my serious intentions of staying home, taking a bath, and just giving myself a quiet night. But since my hike refreshed me, I let my friend Jenn convince me to go to a rugby game with her. It was a pretty big game as our town’s team was playing against a team from Scotland.

I’ve never watched a rugby game, and I don’t know the rules, and while I’ve heard that the “only rule in rugby is there are no rules,” I’m going to beg to differ. There seem to be a lot of rules, and once someone explained to me what they were, I could at least follow the game a bit more, though it still seemed to make no sense. Weird huddles, full-on violence, singing at the end: it was an experience. An experience that I enjoyed so very much. And even though the teams seem to battle it out on the field (brutally), they have such respect for each other. When the Scottish team was down a player after so many had been taken out of the game for injuries, the coach of our town’s team stepped in to play for Scotland. I love that kind of camaraderie: everyone playing to play. In the midst of bloody noses, the sound of bones crashing into each other, and injured players, my heart warmed, and I was thankful I went out.

On a side note: Though I know we speak the same language, I couldn’t understand a damn think those Scots were saying. I talked to a few of them after the game, and hell if I know what we discussed. Their accent is so thick. But it’s also incredibly sexy, so to make do with a conversation I didn’t understand, I just imagined they were telling me how much they wanted to make love to me (I mean, these were some seriously gorgeous, Scottish rugby players. Can you blame me?). It worked beautifully, and I stayed interested in our never-going-to-understand-you-conversation.

:::::

Some weird things have been going on in my life, and I’m just not sure how I feel about it. First, I received the mystery book package in January. Which I loved, but it didn’t have a sender, just a nice note.

Then last week, I got in the car to take Maddie to school and noticed a CD in my driver’s side car door pocket. I keep a few CDs in there (and some receipts, and a pen, and a few other things as well), but it was such a colorful CD I instantly reached for it. It was the newest Broken Social Scene album, “Forgiveness Rock Record.”

Which I hadn’t bought. Nor remember borrowing. I sent out a text to all the friends I could think of whom also like this band (it’s kind of an obscure band) asking if I had borrowed it from them. They all replied “no.” I’ve wanted this CD for a while now, and even a few weeks ago, I watched some videos of the band from when they played at this years Coachella music festival, and I even thought to myself, “I HAVE to go buy that CD.” The CD wasn’t sealed, and there wasn’t a note. I reasoned that perhaps someone could have dropped it off in my car, but then I also thought how did it get into my car side door pocket.

Then I had a memory. I remember a week or so before I had gotten into the car and sat on a CD on my driver’s side seat, and in my mind’s-eye I can see the bright colors of the CD. I was in a rush, so I took the CD and hastily shoved it in my driver’s side car pocket. So maybe someone did put the CD in my car, throwing it through the crack in my window (I always leave my windows open a bit).

I put out a message on facebook, but no one responded that he/she had left me the CD. In the end, I shrugged it off, and have been listening non-stop to the CD, hoping I don’t have early on-set Alzheimer’s and did borrow it from someone and don’t remember or slept-walked to the record store and bought it in my pajamas. Neither are very likely though (mostly because if I borrowed this CD, a CD I’ve wanted for so long, why would I not have put it right into my CD player?? And also because if I stole it, I’m sure I would have woken up in jail.)

Then today, I walked to my car after teaching, and in my driver’s side car mirror was this beautiful flower:

It’s not really a flower, so much as part of a bush, and I thought it must have fallen from a tree and how beautifully, and perfectly really, it had landed. But then I looked up and there were no trees around. And then I walked around the parking lot and there weren’t any of these flowers anywhere in the vicinity. And then I thought maybe someone placed it there.

And then I just started thinking how weird all this is. And it could just be conjuncture on my part, and it seems pretty egotistical to think that someone is leaving/sending me stuff. And the flower could have been a student just passing by, and the CD could have been something I did borrow and just don’t remember from whom (though this seems like a stretch). Or all three could be from totally different people.

I’m just kind of weirded out and I don’t know what to make of it. I’m both flattered and scared.

But mostly, I’m just confused. I don’t think I like mysteries one bit.

:::::

The community college finally ended this past Monday, and I was so thankful to be giving a final and ending my days of teaching in the morning. So on Monday, as I walked to my classroom, I was practically skipping. I felt like I had scaled a huge mountain this semester, full of tiring and endless work, and now I was at the top.

I got to the classroom, collected essays, and students started writing their final. I sat down to do some of my own grading. Then Student F (as in failing) came up to talk to me.

Student F has been a complete pain in my ass all semester. He started the class a week late (and it’s  a 9-week accelerated class), but had some lengthy excuse for missing the first week. I believed him and set aside time to go over the syllabus with him and what he had missed the first week (a lot!). From that point on, he missed class often, didn’t turn in assignments, and pretty much showed up when an essay was due. But he always sent me long emails about why he’s not making it: his car broke down, his computer crashed, he’s sick, etc.. Finally last week, he sent me another long email about how worried he was about his grade, about possibly failing. He had a bunch of excuses and told me if he doesn’t pass my class, his parents are going to cut him off, and so could I please just consider passing him with a “C.” To which I replied, curtly, not to insult me (the whole “give me a C” thing), that I was over his excuses, and that he just needed to show up to the final with his last essay.

Back to the day of the final: he comes to my desk and says, “I left my binder outside with my essay in it. Can I go get it?”

“Sure,” I say.

He leaves, comes back in empty-handed, and says, “I actually think it’s in the library. Can I take the exam and then go get it.”

“Sure,” I say, “you have until 11:45, when the final’s over, to get me your essay.”

He takes the exam. He takes a long time. He finishes. He leaves for the library. Guess what? Five minutes later, he comes back and says, “It’s not in the library. I’m going to have to email it to you later.”

“Nope,” I say, “You have until 11:45 to get me your essay. Otherwise I won’t accept it.”

It’s 11:15. He asks if I’m serious. I nod yes. He then proceeds to have a complete meltdown and starts screaming at me in front of the 3 students left taking the final:

“You’re such a bitch. You’re a bitch. You’re ruining my life. You don’t even care about me. I was in the E.R. twice this week and you don’t even care. You’re such a bitch…” blah, blah, blah.

The poor students left taking the final were so caught off guard. And I just stayed super calm and said:

“Student F. Leave my classroom. You have no one to blame but yourself. And you’re right, I don’t care. Get out now.”

He replied, “I’m going to talk to your principle.”

I said, “We don’t have a principle, but why don’t you go complain to my Chair.” And I told him how to get there.

Twenty minutes later, he came back into the classroom, and said, “Your boss said I have until Friday to turn in my essay.”

I said, “Get out of my classroom, Student F.”

So I went to check with my Chair, and of course he didn’t say that, and I explained the incident, and he is going to fail, but now I have to write a detailed incident report, which just means more work from me, and I left with my Chair’s warning to  “lock my doors” at home.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Just when I thought I had scaled this great mountain and everything was done–I mean I was skipping to class– Student F sends me straight back down. And while I was calm throughout the whole event, I just felt exhausted afterward.

So I took a mental health day at the university and called it a day.

:::::

I’ve been dating. I know. Like actually going on dates with men. And it’s fun. And I like getting to know different people. And I like talking and I love hearing their stories (and note: none of the weird mystery gifts from above are from these men).

But damn if it isn’t so confusing sometimes. Just when I think something is completely uncomplicated, a little complication arises. A kink. A moment of pause. Because it’s hard for me to give my heart to someone and be vulnerable, and it’s even more difficult to decide who to give my heart to–even if it’s just a little piece of my heart, a tiny piece really. I’m not ready for a full-blown relationship, but I have to give trust at some point. I have to be vulnerable.

Because an old friend of mine, Greg, once told me I was a man-eater. And I think this was in jest, but this week he said, “Courtney, you just need a strong man who will say NO to you.” And he’s correct. All this dating has helped me figure out what I do like in a man: someone who’s honest, kind, funny, not a serial killer, etc…all the usual things. But I also like men who are a bit eccentric. Men with a sense of style (and not a specific style). Someone who doesn’t care about wealth. Someone who likes to have fun. Someone who’s a bit artsy. Someone who will read with me. Someone who doesn’t judge. Someone who likes to take hikes.  And dammit, someone who is a strong man, someone who will put me in my place (and not in an abusive way, obviously.).

But Greg also said this week to me, “I just call it like I see it Courtney. [You’re like:] No need to get up gentlemen, I’m just passing through.”

And the thing is, I kind of think he’s right (and also funny). Because I am afraid of getting hurt so it has been easier–and it is easier–to just stay for a bit, to kind of pass through. How safe. How unobtrusive. How easy.

But the real challenge now, I think, is how to stay. How to be vulnerable.  How to find the right person to do this with. How to trust. How to give my heart out a little at a time. But also how to be smart about it.

This.is.so.difficult.

::::

Finally, last Friday on my hike after I reached the top, I came back down. The sun was setting behind the mountain. My head felt clear. I felt a moment of perfection. A brief moment where suddenly everything in the world, in my life, made sense.

And then the moment was gone.

How confusing this all is. This game of love. This game of life.

But how very worth the climb.

 

this is what family looks like May 10, 2011

Filed under: family fun,friends — courtsbrogno @ 8:47 pm

I had a thought this week: how different would my life be had I been born 100 years ago. Besides the different clothing, the lack of speedy automobiles, and the deficit of women’s rights, I really focused on the fact that I would be surrounded by family constantly. 100 years ago people generally didn’t move away from their hometowns. They stayed close to one another. They took local jobs, went to local schools, and built up a familiar community.

Now, however, getting out of the town you were born in is almost a given. We go away to college, we take a job that makes good money even if it means living in another country, we move often, community stays alive through facebook.

But this wasn’t the way I was raised. I grew up surrounded by family. My parents seemingly had no friends other than family members. My grandmother and my aunts and uncles all helped raise me. Second cousins were in abundance and there were lots of parties–but only family was present.

Even when my parents broke the mold and moved to a different (though neighboring) county, we still almost solely socialized with our family. I didn’t have huge birthday parties where all of my friends were invited; I had family birthday parties. And it was a great life. One that I’m forever thankful for.

But I really broke the mold when I went to college and moved 250 miles away. And didn’t come home for the summer. And didn’t visit often. And then my sister moved as well. And then my brother and mom and dad. We all came to the same town, but over time, my entire family has shifted a part. Some have come to live in my area, some have moved to San Francisco, and some have stayed in Los Angeles. We’re still a family, but we don’t see each other nearly as often as we used to.

I miss my family though I don’t miss where I grew up. I love my town, and I’ve found, in the absence of blood family, that I forged my own type of family–a type I consider as close as blood. And all of this was going through my head this week: a longing for my blood relatives and an appreciation for my new family.

Because in the end, family to me means the people I surround myself with who help me, encourage me, love me, and nourish my soul. I’ve had a week of support and love and nourishment from friends around me. To me they define what family is.

Family is the friendships that hold me up and tell me the whole truth, not sugar-coating anything that might hurt my feelings. Honesty. Loyalty. Telling me how to be a better person.

Family is my friend Melanie, whom I had coffee and a talk with this week.

I wish everyone could be friends with Melanie. She is wise and fun and most importantly, intuitive. She gave me some life advice and honed in on who I am as a woman. She, in the most friendly of ways, called me out for my lack of vulnerability. I left her house with a new understanding of who I am. And when I sent her an email and asked, “well, how do I be more vulnerable?” this was her beautiful response:

It means, if you leave me or don’t like me, I’m going to be really really hurt. It means, if you go away, a light will go off inside me.  I just think it means, Here’s my heart, I’m offering it up. You hope the person will be careful, gentle, thoughtful. But really, you can’t help yourself. It’s worth the risk. Because that’s what it means to be alive–to love like that.

Wise, isn’t she? And a beautiful writer as well. I’m thankful for the honestly and insight Melanie provides. I’m thankful we’re in each other’s lives.

Family is my friend Jenny whom I also had the chance to hang out with this week. We met and took the kids for a little walk.

After the hike, we went back to Jenny’s house and played in the backyard and I had the opportunity to hear Jenny’s youngest say “mama” for the very first time! I love bearing witness to moment like that.

I love spending time with Jenny and her family and our kids get along so well, but damn do I just love Jenny. She’s funny and fun and wise and she listens to me, really listens to me. She’s had my back for years and she has never once judged me. I kind of consider her my sister, but I freaking love her so much that calling her my sister would be incestuous.

Family is my “rent a husband and dad,” Steve, a man whom I would never consider really dating, but who is the best man I’ve ever met. The woman who eventually marries Steve is one lucky girl. He’s kind and thoughtful and handsome and hardworking. His one flaw, I think, is his weird obsession with Disneyland.

Steve came over for dinner and in turn helped me with some stuff around the house. Mainly though, he played with Luke and Maddie and *gasp* kept Maddie in line. When she complained about eating chicken for dinner, he kindly scolded her. When she didn’t eat very much, he coaxed her into eating more. I honestly looked at him as if he’d performed magic. Steve is my family, he’s my man of the house, he teaches me how to be a good friend.

Family is my friend Megan and her husband Ryan. Maddie and Megan’s daughter are best friends, and Megan and Ryan help me out all the time. Like a ridiculous amount. Like I owe them a lifetime of babysitting. Megan picks up Maddie from school and watches her when I’m working. Megan takes Maddie to track practice. Even better, Megan and Ryan are cool. Super cool. I love how our friendship is so easy and uncomplicated. I love that I can count on them. I love that they have never made me feel badly about needing help. I’m so thankful they are in my life.

Update: Megan wants me to mention that though she is a reliable friend she’s also super hot and sexy and really crafty (the woman literally cried when tickets sold out to this years sock summit in Portland. Anyone who cries over not being able to attend classes about knitting socks is seriously crafty. As in this song). She also wants it to be known that she’s a really fun mom.

Family is my community learning group who not only enrich my mind when we meet, but encourage (force) me to ask out a man. Mainly, one member: Ginger.

(Ginger and her husband. Kind of an awkward photo for this post, but it’s the best I could find. Geez Ginger, put up some more photos!)

I know I won’t ever adequately describe Ginger. She’s hilarious, but in a constant one-liner awesome way. She’s kind-hearted. She’s smart. She’s just, well, amazing. And let’s face it, she’s pushy (in a good and funny way). She found me a man to ask out. She talked me up to him. She convinced me he was normal, kind man. I agreed to ask him out.

And then I didn’t.

So when I walked into my collaborative group meeting last Thursday, she rushed me and told me this man was downstairs in his office and now would be a perfect time to ask him out.

So I did. I marched my butt down the stairs to his office and just asked him out. Well, what I really said was, “Hey, I’m Courtney. Ginger’s told me all about you. I’d like to ask you out, but I don’t want to put you on the spot, so I’ll just leave you my email address and if you’re interested shoot me an email. If not, no biggie.”

Oh Ginger, I’m glad you encouraged (forced) me to do this. I stepped out of my comfort zone, I completed my terrible homework assignment, and I made my therapist SO PROUD.

By the way, he emailed me that night.

Family is a community getting together to raise money. As I’ve written about before, my good friend Colleen has cancer–a rare cancer. With the cancer, she also has looming medical bills. Thus, friends and family got together and created a fundraiser to raise money to help pay for these bills. For $5 people could buy a ticket for enchiladas, as well as buy raffle tickets, bid on a silent auction, and a whole bunch of other events. This past Saturday was the day when everyone picked up the enchiladas they ordered. This was a feat–over 3,000 enchiladas had to be made.

And they were by a crew of friends who want to help and support Colleen and her family in any way they can. By the time I arrived, the enchiladas were all made by this amazing group of volunteers:

(My sister was there early making the enchiladas)

(enchilada volunteer group finished!)

I was a runner, packaging up the enchiladas when people came to pick up. My job was easy. Actually, all our jobs were easy compared to Colleen’s battle against cancer. But to see all Colleen’s friend and family come together to support her brought tears to my eyes. I was honored to be part of this group.

Finally, family is me and my kids. We’re not a typical family. I’m a single mom with 2 kids. With different dads. 9 years apart. I know some people judge me for my decisions and make comments about my situation, but that’s their deal. Not mine. Cause my family is awesome in every way. I love the dynamics of my household.There is so much love in my little house that we could heal large portions of hate in the world (if only our care-bear powers worked!!!). So Sunday, Mother’s Day, is a day I really like to celebrate. I celebrate all the moms who have taught me how to be a better mom. I celebrate my own mom. I celebrate how much I love being a mother. Being a mom is never a job or a chore. It’s my universe, whole and complete.

Mother’s Day was great this year because I wanted it to be simple.

Kids jumping around and playing in bed early:

Meeting my wonderful friend Megan for a hike with her and her four sons:

(cows so close we could have touched them)

(looking for bull frogs and crawdads)

Megan is a single mom as well, and I love spending part of my day with her. She’s such a happy and inspiring woman and her sons–MY GOD–are the kindest boys I’ve ever met. She needs to give lessons to parents about how to raise children to be so kind and thoughtful. I’m thankful for my friendship with Megan. She’s truly an inspiration.

The rest of my Mothers Day was spent finally planting flowers and vegetables. Maddie, Luke, and I had fun playing in the dirt and sprucing up our yard.

In the end, I guess family is what I make it. The people I choose to share my life with, to have around when I need a good ass-kicking, to pat me on the back when something good happens, and –most importantly–to love. I do miss my blood family, the days when every weekend was spent lounging with grandparents, and cousins, and aunts and uncles. But now it’s really just the same. My days are filled with friends, friends who are my family. I’m thankful for them, for their love, for the community we have built.

 

celebrating May 4, 2011

Filed under: books and reading,family fun,friends,kids — courtsbrogno @ 8:22 am

This past week has been all about celebrating: celebrating life, Spring flowers, family, and even illness.

First and foremost, I finished reading a novel last week early in the evening. I got up and looked for a new book to read. And I found…nothing! Sure there were a few non-fiction books that I had yet to read, but for the most part, all books in my house have been read. What was a girl to do?

That’s right. I logged straight onto amazon and ordered myself five new books. I had made myself a promise earlier in the year that I would not buy one more book until I finished what I already had in my house, which minus a few slips, I didn’t break.  But now, without a new novel to read, I felt completely justified and even, dare I say encourage to buy new books. And when they arrived a few days later, it almost felt like Christmas morning. A book celebration: Five new books to read! Five new worlds to dive into! Five new stories to guide me to sleep! In essence, five things to be thankful for.

(Notice the quilting book? Oh yeah, I’m going to learn to quilt this summer. Can’t wait!)

Unfortunately, I had the opportunity to celebrate motherhood in its most extreme meaning.  Luke got sick. Really sick. That poor kid had 104 degree fever, which greatly disrupted my plans for the evening (I did have tickets to see a dance performance with my friend Jenny) as well as any plans of having personal space for a few days. because when Luke is that sick the only place he wants to be is on my lap. Huddled as close to me as he can get. I was able to slip him into Maddie’s lap for a few brief moments so I could escape to the bathroom, but that was about it. Luke and I became one for a few days.


(Look at those rosy, feverish checks!)

Luke being sick doesn’t make me celebrate illness, but it does make me celebrate motherhood. As much as it is a complete physical drain to have my kid stuck to me, all feverish and uncomfortable, it is also in these moments that I feel like I can offer the most comfort, the most love, the most care. I really feel like a super hero. Like just the cool touch of my hand is all it takes to fix the world’s problems. I love that feeling. I’m glad Luke’s feeling much better but I have to admit, I kind of miss having him stuck to me.

Luke’s illness cleared up in time for our biggest celebration this week: Cate, my niece’s, birthday. Cate turned 3 and mys sister had a big backyard party for all Cate’s friends that was just perfect. I mean, really, the party could not have been any more perfect. The weather was in the 80s, the kids played in the sprinklers, and the parents lounged in the sun and talked. Cate was in heaven, happy to be surrounded by all her friends.

Cate is the sassiest, funniest, most kind-hearted little girl I know. We often tease that she acts like a little Jewish mother, always making sure everyone is having a good time and rushing to take care of any problem she sees. She follows Luke around all the time to make sure he doesn’t fall or get hurt. She tries to change other kid’s diapers. She shares her food. Really, she is like a little mama and we love her so much more for it. Cate: we celebrate you!

Being outside so much for Cate’s birthday made me remember one of the things I love about spring and summer so much–fresh flowers. My mom’s house has tons of roses as does my neighborhood. In general, there’s not much I’m very particular about when it comes to my bedroom. I don’t care if my bedroom sheets match the decor of my room and I almost never make my bed. Books lie in piles all over and clothes gather in corners. Essays and midterms stack up high on my desk. Mostly, none of this bothers me and I’ve never been someone who cares too much about the state of my bedroom.  But there’s one thing I absolutely insist on in the spring and summer. And that’s fresh flowers by my bed. I love smelling sweet roses as I go to sleep; I’m convinced it brings better dreams. And so as soon as I saw some fresh roses, just waiting, really waiting, to be cut, I had at them. And now, as easy as that, fresh flowers are on my nightstand. Every morning when I wake, I glance over at the flowers and think of how I want my day to go. The flowers remind me that only I can master how a day will be, how I will process what happens. I choose to celebrate life, not ignore it. I’m thankful for the daily reminder.

In my household, it’s become a battle of the wills between Luke and I, who just recently figured out how to take off all his clothes so he can be naked. Which is fine most of the time. But that kid can’t be naked always, and since he’s not potty trained yet, not having him in a diaper is a gamble every time. I’ve cleaned up a lot of pee around the house since he learned this new trick. But damn if it doesn’t make him happy as can be to run naked. So for now, I’m celebrating Luke’s nakedness.

This past week,  I had a surprise visit by an old boyfriend, Garth.

As I’ve already written about him, Garth was a great man, and we had a pretty good relationships, one that had many ups and downs. We split up a few times, but the last time was the most difficult for both of us. We could not speak to each other. We could not see each other. This was the only way we would ever move on. And so we didn’t. He moved to San Francisco and I stayed here; we had other relationships; we continued on with life.

For a long time, I thought we’d never be friends, and not because we had hurt each other so badly that there was too much pain or resentment. In fact, I think we both hold each other in the highest regard and I know that I would never say anything negative about him. But, I figured it might be too hard in an emotional sense. We were, in many ways, always such a good fit, and I feared that seeing him again would remind me of a deep love I once held for him.

But slowly, we have become friends. Over an email, a text message, a dinner in the city with friends, and then last week, he came by to see Maddie, Luke, and I. It was unexpected. Garth called 2 hours outside of town and asked to come over. It was his lucky night as I was cooking a good dinner for the family, so he joined us all for dinner. We had a great time. It almost felt like 5 years hadn’t passed and we were eating just any other normal dinner with an ease of conversation and joking that I consider one of the main reasons I loved Garth so much: I could talk to him about anything and vice versa. In my life, I have never been so open and honest with anyone, and it felt good to have that feeling back during dinner.

And you know what? I did feel love for him. A deep love. And I realize that I will always love him in some way. He got  a part of my heart years ago, and I’m ok with that.  It’s his. My heart is pretty big, so there’s lots more room for love in it, but I’m not going to be stubborn about: He can keep his part of my heart.

But the best part about this is that Garth and I are friends. Good friends. And maybe that’s all we should have ever been in the first place, but for five years, I didn’t realize how much I missed my friend. And I did. And do. So, more than anything, I’m thankful for a renewed friendship. Not many couples I know can let go of pain and hurt and be able to come together as something better, something wiser, really. I celebrate that.

Finally, the reason this post is going up Wednesday morning is because I was out late last night at….readers’ group (I only wrote half of this post last night and then I fell asleep)! Our wild and crazy reader’s group met to discuss Jennifer Egan’s The Goon Squad. It’s dorky to admit, but I don’t even care. I so look forward to my readers’ group almost more than anything else I do. And this time was no exception. We laughed, we agreed, we disagreed, we teased each other, and yet, these are the people I want around when life is good and bad. They make me smile for no reason. God, do I celebrate that!

The last celebratory bit of my week? Spending so much time with the kids. Slowing down because of illness, lounging around the house in pajamas, canceling all plans: in the end, it was so very worth it.