Friday, November 30, 2012

30 Days of Thankfulness- All of it

And so we come to the end of November. Hopefully this won't be the end of gratitude, though. I hope that if you participated in this challenge, you will continue to try to come up with at least one thing you are thankful for each day- even if you don't share it with everyone!

Today, I am thankful for so many things about which I can be grateful. I could keep listing things every day. I could expound upon previous posts, pulling out individual thoughts and ideas, and turn them into posts of their own. The point is, I am very blessed to have so many things about which I can give thanks. I will keep on being thankful, even into next month. : )

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Reading Challenge

I am a big fan of a website called Goodreads. It's got a social networking aspect to it (your friends can see what you've read, and you can share book recommendations), but the best part is the ability to keep track of what you've read and what you want to read. The site will even make recommendations for you based on your "currently reading", "to-read" and "read" shelves, plus whatever topics you tell it you like. You can rate the books, too, and write reviews for them. They also host giveaways from publishers to encourage people to write reviews for new releases (or copies that haven't been put on sale yet.)

Anyway, on the Goodreads home page, there is a spot where you can set a reading goal for the year. You type in the number of books you want to read for the year, and as you read them (by marking them as read on the website) it keeps track of your progress.

This year I set a goal to read 750 books in 2012. I set a high goal because I read a lot of cookbooks and children's books. If I only read novels, I probably would have set a lower number. Yesterday, I reached my goal!

I'm kind of proud of myself. I read a lot this year. I will be setting a higher goal next year- probably 1000. Reading is so much fun! Now if only I was this competent at reaching other goals I set for myself...

30 Days of Thankfulness- Our Amazing Planet

Do you have any idea how amazing our planet is? It's astounding. Miraculous. Stunning. Overwhelmingly awesome. It's huge. We will never know every plant and animal on the face of this earth. If we live responsibly, and don't use things like there's no tomorrow, our planet can sustain quite a few more people, which is good since our population is growing all the time. Our planet is amazing. Here are some of the things I am thankful for.

For one, I'm thankful that our planet functions pretty well. I read an amazing book series for teenagers last year that made me realize that life exists in a delicate balance here on earth. In the book, a meteor (or was it an asteroid?) whacked the moon and knocked it a little closer to our planet. People went to bed that night surprised (the meteor shower was expected, the moon thing was not) but not panicking. The events that followed that collision were really terrifying. The moon's gravitational pull controls our oceans' tides, among other things, and it would really mess things up if things fell out of balance. In the book, massive tidal waves wiped out entire countries, and the coasts of the United States. The gravitational pull brought up all kinds of lava, setting off volcanoes all over the world, which covered the planet in ash clouds that normally only affect people near the volcanoes for a short period of time. Because of this, crops died (no sunlight), and people froze. The weather was drastically altered. It was insane. The books are really good, by the way. But seriously, I am thankful that our planet is placed in just the right spot. We're not too close to the sun, or to the moon. Jupiter acts as a buffer for the rest of the solar system, absorbing impact from all kinds of junk flying around in space. If that stuff hit another planet, it could seriously mess up the whole solar system. Thanks, Jupiter! I'm thankful that our planet is not covered in volcanoes, and that we can see the sunshine and breathe the air (usually) and grow our crops and have food to eat.

I'm thankful for green. I have thought for a very long time that green must be God's favorite color, because there is simply so much of it. Green is all over the place. Grass is green. Trees are green. Ferns and flowers and everything that grows- green. Even cacti are green. Our creator even threw some green into desert wastelands washed out with beige sand and red clay. Even the oceans and rivers are kind of green! I'm thankful for plants, for brightening our world, for cleaning our air, for being here for us to eat. I'm thankful for the trees we use to build things. I'm thankful for herbs that spice up our food and help us to feel better. I'm thankful for crazy weird plants like the giant rafflesia and the murderous Venus fly trap.

Perhaps most of all, I am thankful for wildlife. I don't understand how people aren't as excited about animals as Brandon and I are. Do you have any idea what's out there? Animals are fascinating! They're powerful, cute, majestic, interesting, smart, amazing, intelligent, helpful, vital to life on our planet. You can never stop learning interesting things about animals. 

Did you know that giraffes and practically all the other animals have the same number of vertebrae in their necks? But which animals don't have the same number? Sloths! They have more!

"Take that, giraffes."

Did you know that the only apes that eat meat (not including insects) are chimpanzees? Chimps hunt other ape and monkey species. Gorillas, on the other hand, depicted for decades in our movies as man-eating, terrifying monsters, mostly eat fruit and browse, and only attack if their family unit is under threat.

"I'm almost extinct because people like to eat us and cut off our hands for use as office decorations."

Did you know that elephants recognize each other even after spending 40 and 50 years apart? Did you know that some of them like to get drunk? There are trees that drop heavy fruits on the ground, which ferment- turning them alcoholic. The elephants like to seek out these fruits, gobble them up, and get wasted. Which is pretty funny to watch.


Did you know that humans have the same number of hairs per square inch as great apes like orangutans and gorillas?


Did you know that sharks were responsible for 17 human deaths last year, but ants kill about 30 people a year, and hippos kill over 2000 people annually in Africa alone?

"Don't cross me."

Did you know that big, goofy tapirs are actually classified as extremely dangerous animals in zoos? They won't maul you, but they might accidentally stomple you to death. Tapirs are kind of unstoppable when they're on the move. They are so big that their only natural predator in the South American jungle is the jaguar, which hops down from its hiding place in the trees to jump on the tapir's back. The tapir's only defense is to run like crazy, knocking down the forest on the way. If there is a path in the dense jungle, used by animals to travel through all the lush greenery, chances are, that path was made by a tapir. They build wild infrastructure.

"Take me seriously."

You may have known that koalas only eat eucalyptus leaves, but did you know that those leaves are poisonous? Did you know that there are only a few varieties (out of dozens) of eucalyptus that are not lethal?  Did you know that eucalyptus is so bad for the body and so low-calorie that koalas take days to digest the leaves- which is why they have no energy and sleep all the time? And I'm not even going to tell you how baby koalas prepare their tummies to switch from mama's milk to poison leaves. It's too gross.


Did you know that Michael the gorilla (Koko's less-famous roommate) seemed to remember the horrible events that left him an orphan, and could communicate that story? Michael could sign a story about the death of his mom and how he came to live in captivity.

Did you know rats can chew through lead? This is not super-surprising to me, since my rats are so devious and destroy anything they come in contact with.

My point is, we live in an amazing world. I'm especially thankful for all the critters and creatures (most of which I'd like to have as pets.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

30 Days of Thankfulness- 'Merica

I kind of touched on some of these things around election time and Veterans Day, but I am thankful to live in the United States. I am thankful for my country. I am thankful for the freedoms I have, and the fact that people are not actually persecuted in my country (despite what some people may tell you around Christmas time...I think those people have no idea what persecution actually is.) I'm thankful for the beautiful landscapes which some people would like to ruin for some reason, and all the exciting wildlife that lives there that people like to kill for fun or think they deserve to die because we need to build more subdivisions and outlet malls, gosh darn it. I'm thankful for our national parks, and the fact that we are at least making a tiny effort to preserve some of our country's natural beauty. I don't think I would have had a fun time on Lewis and Clark's adventures (I don't travel well even under the best of conditions), but I really wish I could have seen what the country looked like before all the people started moving into the wild and turning it into something else. I'm sure it was stunning. What we have left is pretty beautiful.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

30 Days of Thankfulness- Louisville

I am thankful to live in the city of Louisville. There are a lot of stereotypes about Kentucky, where I live, but usually Louisville doesn’t represent a stereotypical picture of Kentucky (unless it’s Derby time, and then we all go along with it, for some reason.) Louisville is a pretty cool place to live. My city contains about a fourth of the state’s population. I like visiting the country (or more rural areas of the state), but I like being in Louisville, most of the time. We have lots of hospitals here. We have semi-decent weather (no hurricanes, not as many tornadoes as some areas of the country, no volcanoes that I know of, even though that’s geological and not meteorological.) Louisville has some very diverse neighborhoods. I have visited parts of the east end, where all the gigantic mansions are (and where Papa John himself lives.) We have an OK airport- better than any other airport in the state, I assume (are there other airports in the state?) We have 19 libraries, several colleges and universities, a wonderful zoo, a race track (not really my thing, but whatever), a baseball bat factory, an arms museum that has turned into a “history” museum (the name change made it sound less violent, but it’s still full of swords and guns and stuff), and a ton of other weird little places that are historically significant. Like the home of Joshua Speed, Abraham Lincoln’s BFF. And we have the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery, where a president is buried (three guesses as to which one.) We have the Derby museum, too, and I think we have some kind of Muhammad Ali thing around here somewhere, since this is where he’s from. We have a new arena and lots of flea markets. The state fair is held here, too, if you’re into that sort of thing. There are tons of awesome restaurants and interesting stores here, too. I haven’t eaten at all of them (or even half of them), but I have a list of ones I’d like to visit. I have a feeling if I lived in one of the more rural areas of the state, I wouldn’t have access to those sorts of things.

So I am thankful that I live in Louisville, even if our allergies are really bad because we live in the Ohio valley, and even though people who live here will literally beat each other up if the NCAA tournament conditions are right, and even though for some reason everyone assumes we are missing lots of teeth and don’t wear shoes. That’s only true about some cities. Anyway, I’m thankful that if I have to live in Kentucky, I live here in Louisville, and I’m thankful for all the things my city has to offer. 

Here is the city from the river. 

Churchill Downs

The Louisville Science Center

The Louisville Slugger Museum

A random horse in a field.

My rhino buddy at the zoo

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sweet Greetings

On Mondays, blogging Compassion sponsors often post the letters they may have received during the week. I am linking up with Blogging from the Boonies- please check out Michelle's lovely blog and the wonderful Compassion-related resources she posts there.

This week we received a short letter from Said, thanking us for the birthday gift we sent, and telling us what he bought (a shirt and sandals.) His birthday is actually in four days, but we sent his gift in plenty of time, so we already received a quick note about it! That's pretty cool.

Stapled to the note was a waxy brown envelope. I opened it up, and found a picture of Said wearing his birthday gifts! I was so excited (and still am!) It took forever to get an updated photograph of Said, so to receive this picture felt extra special. I'm so thankful that Said's project has easy access to a camera so they can send pictures like this to sponsors (my mother in law sponsors a little girl in the same project, and she got a picture after sending Suzan's birthday gift, too.)

I really hope we hear from Annet and Victor soon. Annet joined our far away family more than two months ago, and we haven't yet received even a form letter from her. I am eager to get to know her and Victor, so I hope I hear from them soon!

30 Days of Thankfulness- Internet

It sounds kind of weird, but I am really thankful for the internet. I know the internet can be a huge waste of time. I know it can cause issues in people’s lives, from affecting their family time to damaging relationships. There are a lot of ways the internet can turn out to be a negative force in people’s lives. But there are good things about it, too. For one, we have almost infinite knowledge at our fingertips. I know some people will think that by saying that, I’m implying libraries and book knowledge are obsolete. They’re totally not. And I don’t think they ever will be. But the internet can make research, for pleasure or work or school or whatever, so much easier than hunting down written information, sometimes. For example, the internet is always open. You can access encyclopedias and other treasure troves of information via the computer (especially if you have a library card!!) You can learn to cook, how to tie a tie, how to clean a washing machine, how to get rid of spiders, how to knit, and billions of other how-to projects. You can self-diagnose yourself (or at least convince your crazy brain you are not currently dying of pancreatic cancer…not that I know anything about that…) with a number of online health advice websites. I like all of these things about the internet.

My favorite thing, though, is the fact that the internet connects me to people. I can stay connected with friends that I don’t get to see very often. I can reconnect with people I haven’t seen in years. I have established (or reestablished) friendships with people from my former church, relatives who live out of state, classmates I didn’t care for 7 years ago but it turns out are actually OK people that I have a lot in common with…it’s fantastic. I have made friends online through mutual friends. I can connect with other Compassion sponsors, or people who are going through similar things in life that I am. The internet gave me a method of selling crafts to raise money for my husband and I to adopt (our shop is currently closed, but I hope to reopen it again next year) and connected me with some lovely, supportive people in the process. I am thankful for the internet, and I’m thankful that we are able to afford it (and I’m thankful for the 3G coverage on my phone for those times when I don’t have internet service on my computer!)

30 Days of Thankfulness- Wesley's Visit

I thought I updated yesterday, but I was wrong! Oops!

I am thankful for the guest speaker we had in church yesterday. Wesley Korir came to our church and had a sort of interview thing with our pastor, Bill, during the service. Wesley is a marathon runner originally from Kenya. When we found out a few weeks ago that he would be coming, we were told this is a good opportunity to invite sports-minded friends, or friends who like to run, to come to our church. I was sitting there thinking to myself "shoot, I don't care about running- I care about KENYA!" Our newest sponsor child, Victor, is from Kenya, and I was looking forward to hearing whatever Wesley had to say when he came to visit.

The service was pretty amazing. Wesley had such a wonderful story to share. He grew up extremely poor in Kenya, with seven siblings and an alcoholic father. Poverty, large families, and alcholism- sounds like so many children sponsored through Compassion International. Wesley shared his persistence in trying to go to school, despite the fact that his family could not pay for it. A missionary noticed this determination and decided to pay for Wesley's schooling. He graduated and was able to get a scholarship to come to the United States, and actually wound up at the University of Louisville. In between classes and running, he worked as a janitor to send money back to help his family. Wesley has since won all kinds of marathons, including the LA marathon and the Boston marathon, and is always eager to give credit to God for his success. He "points to Jesus" at every race, and said in church that this is because he is thankful for every race he runs. He said that if he wins, people will say "yay, Wesley!" and if he loses, people will say "who is this guy? Get a job!" but Jesus always says  "well done, Wesley", whether or not he wins the race.

Everything he said was fascinating and inspiring. I loved listening to him talk. I fought back tears throughout half the service. Wesley also shared a few non-running related things with us. First is his foundation, Kenyan Kids Foundation.  Wesley and his foundation are striving to empower families to provide education for their children, so they can be released from poverty and have more opportunities available to them. He said that right now 45 children are being "sponsored" and getting an education, and hopefully next year that number will be doubled. I will be giving to the foundation sometime in the future and keeping my eyes peeled for ways that I can help!

The other thing Wesley talked about was politics. I know that statistically, Kenya is actually better off than many countries in Africa, generally having a more stable government and things like that (though there has been some turmoil over the past few years.) Wesley shared that greed and corruption are pervasive in his country's government, and that has a huge impact on the people of Kenya. People send all kinds of aid to Africa, and a large percentage of it goes to Kenya. So why is poverty so rampant? Wesley wants to change this, and said he has intentions of running for political office next year. He said in ten years, he wants to be president of Kenya. I wish I could vote for him! I will be praying for him and watching for his name in the news.

Wesley's visit to my church was particularly touching for me, since we have a connection to the beautiful country of Kenya through Victor. I connected almost everything Wesley said to our sponsor child. I prayed that Victor has a strong Christian influence at home, like Wesley has in his mother. I pray that he will be able to complete his education. I don't know if he plays sports (he looks like a runner!) but wouldn't it be fantastic if he could attend university in America someday? And wouldn't it be hilarious if he came to Louisville? I know it's probably not going to happen, but hey, it happened to Wesley!

I practically ran out of the service Sunday to meet Wesley in the foyer. I shook his hand and told him about Victor and thanked him for coming to speak to us. I told him I was excited about his foundation, and that I would be praying for him!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

30 Days of Thankfulness- Finances

Every day I am thankful for our financial security. Every single day. Some days I may feel a little unsure about things, and we have scary moments here and there, but I am so thankful for what we do have. I’m thankful that I earn enough at my job that we can get by with me only working part-time. I’m thankful for every minute that Brandon works, and every cent he earns, because without him and his hard work, we’d be sunk. I’m thankful that we can pay our bills on time (and if we have an emergency, which has happened a few times, I’m thankful for our family members who have helped us out!) I’m thankful that the only debt we have is a mortgage and student loans. I’m thankful we don’t have credit cards, and we have excellent credit scores. I’m thankful that we can buy groceries and feed our pets, and I’m thankful that we are slowly but surely rebuilding our savings, so hopefully not too long after I recover from surgery we can get back to actively pursuing adoption. I’m thankful for what we have been blessed with, and I’m thankful that my dear husband is such a good manager of our finances, too!

30 Days of Thankfulness- Creativity

Our internet has been down recently because Cupcake chewed through one of the internet cords. Brandon patched it up with some tape and we're waiting for a new cord to come in the mail. Anyway, here is the post I wrote yesterday on Word so I could post it here whenever our magical internet came back!

Creativity brings so many wonderful things to the world: music, art, literature. I love music. I can play a few songs on a few instruments, and I enjoy singing. Life without music would be terribly boring. I like art. I like visiting museums and looking through art books. I love reading. I can't imagine a life without books. I can't imagine living in a place that censors what people read. I may  not like everything that is in my public library system (*cough* A HUNDRED COPIES OF FIFTY SHADES OF GREY *cough*), but I am proud that my library does not allow for censorship and all sorts of viewpoints are represented in our collection. Books provide entertainment, knowledge, and an escape. Some of my favorite books are the Harry Potter series, Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series, most of Jodi Picoult and Sarah Dessen's books, anything about animals, and lots of stuff that makes me laugh (like The Onion and Pearls Before Swine collections.)

I’m also thankful for the creativity that I possess. I like writing jokes and relaying funny stories to make people laugh. I feel proud when I can use my writing skills to write posts on here or on social media websites that make people think. I also love to draw. This is something I discovered fairly recently. I dropped out of art class in high school to take yearbook instead, but the one project I did earned me an A and a shout-out from my teacher. Since then, I hadn’t thought much about my artistic ability. Then, I had the opportunity to draw some characters for our meeting room at work. My coworker was telling me about all the nice pictures of storybook characters another branch had hung up in their meeting room (where storytimes are held) and mentioned that she wished we could do something like that, too. Around the same time, she asked if I could find some pictures of Dr. Seuss characters we could hang up for an upcoming Seuss birthday storytime. I decided to try drawing a character instead of printing one out, and it turned out fantastically, if I do say so myself. Since then I have drawn several more children’s characters for our library (we usually put them on scrapbook paper and then laminate them to hang up), including Elephant and Piggy, Madeline, Babar, Spot, Pigeon, and several others. After doodling a passable Pikachu on a birthday card, my husband asked me to draw all the Pokemon. I’m not sure why. He says he wants to hang them up around the house. But did you know there are like 600 of those things now? When I was in middle school and Pokemon was really popular, there were only 150. Anyway, it gives me something to do when I’m bored, and I’m really proud when a project turns out well. There are so few things in life I think I’m good at. Drawing (and coloring with Crayola crayons- I refuse to use any other) is one of them. I’m not an artist, but I do enjoy exercising my creativity in this way. 

So I'm thankful for creativity- mine and the creativity of others. 

This is the first drawing I did for our meeting room at work. 

I drew this on Thursday at a family Thanksgiving gathering. At a different Thanksgiving gathering, I had decided it would be cool if someone made some lawn decorations of a team of walruses pulling Santa's sleigh. So I decided to draw it. I'm not quite finished with it yet, but I think it looks pretty cool. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

30 Days of Thankfulness- Food

We are all going to eat a lot today. Some of us more than others. I hope I can at least enjoy lunch (I've been having trouble eating lately.) What are some of the things you will be eating today? Brandon and I will be attending three separate family gatherings, starting with lunch at my grandparents'. Here is a list of some of the stuff that will be or could be offered, just off the top of my head (and not including breakfast):

Mashed potatoes
Green beans
Broccoli casserole
Cranberry sauce
Sweet potatoes
Pies pies pies

I will probably have a very full tummy today. I'm blessed that even when my pantry is rather bare by our standards, there are still things to eat. I'm not really starving- I just am not in the mood to eat a box of Rice-A-Roni, you know? But there is always food in my house. Chances are, there is always food in your house, too, even if it isn't what you want to eat.

There are three grocery stores within five minutes of my house. One is gigantic, the other two are pretty good sized. The shelves are stocked, and there are plenty of options available, from the cheapest box of corn muffin mix to the most expensive cut of beef. I could buy things in bulk (a gallon of nondescript chocolate pudding, for instance), or I can buy individually wrapped single-serving packages. We are surrounded by an overwhelming amount of food. We can visit all-you-can-eat buffets and view in one room more food that some people will see in a lifetime. We are surrounded by food- healthy and unhealthy, "whole" and processed, organic and chemical-covered. We can choose to go vegetarian or vegan, gluten-free or dairy-free, because of all the options that are available to us.

I guess we are so used to having food all around us that we've grown complacent. We have no problem throwing away food. In the United States, we throw away almost half the food we purchase- over $150,000,000,000 in food annually. Did you catch all those zeroes? That means billions. Billions of dollars. I'm sure some of that was for legitimate reasons, like meat that went bad or vegetables that wilted. But you know most of that was just waste. I made myself oven fries the other day for lunch, and I threw away my leftovers. I have seen a disturbing amount of uneaten fast food in our trash cans at work. I read a book recently where the author said she fixed fish fillets for her children for dinner, and they threw them away because they were out of ketchup. Six perfect fish fillets, thrown into the garbage can. I'm not judging those kids. We ALL do it. We all throw stuff away.

I don't know what we should do instead. Maybe we should buy smaller portions, so we don't end up throwing stuff away? I'm not sure. What I do know, though, is that today, out of a global population of 7 billion people, about a billion of them are hungry. I know that malnutrition and hunger are responsible for about a third of all child deaths annually. Every five seconds, a child dies of hunger or malnutrition. Children and adults in the poorest parts of the world are literally eating dirt because they do not have food to eat. My sponsor child in Indonesia, when eating with her family, basically only consumes rice, and maybe some freshly caught fish or fruit if she's lucky. Sixty-two percent of the children attending public school in my district qualify for the free or reduced lunch programs. If those programs didn't exist, they wouldn't eat. And who knows if they would have food waiting for them when they get home from school? Considering at least a tenth of them have been homeless at some point in the last year, probably a good number of them would be very hungry if it wasn't for these lunch programs. Nationally, one in five children struggle with hunger every day.

As you sit down with your families today to fill your belly full of whatever it is you may be eating, take a moment to say a word of thanks for your full plate. If you end up with a tummy ache later in the day because you ate too much, let that serve as a reminder of how fortunate we are. If you become overwhelmed with the family aspect of the holidays (whether cooking and cleaning is stressing you out, or you're in for some awkward or unpleasant conversation today), remember those who are not fortunate enough to gather with their families and share a meal- because they have nothing to share.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

30 Days of Thankfulness- Health

I wrote part of this two days ago, and part of it this morning. So if it doesn't make sense, that's why, and I'm sorry. 

I have a doctor's appointment today, so I thought writing about health would be appropriate.

I have a lot I could be ungrateful regarding my health. Like the fact that every night around 12:30, I wake up gagging and spluttering. I'm so surprised by everything (particularly the gagging, since that is already my biggest anxiety trigger) that I end up panicking. Sometimes it's not for very long. Sometimes it lasts around an hour. I usually end up getting a small bottle of Sprite from my fridge (sipping it usually makes me feel a little better), reading my Bible verses and reading the news online after taking an anxiety and a nausea pill to help me get back to sleep. Then, from the time I go back to bed until about 5 am, I have lots of nightmares and sleep really fitfully. But after that I usually do ok.

I could be ungrateful for the fact that I woke up at 2:30 am this morning, feeling like I was being choked. I tried to stay calm on my own, and didn't take any medication (but did rummage around for a cough drop.) I didn't go back to sleep until probably 4:30 or so...and then woke up at 6. I could be ungrateful for the fact that this time I woke up, I was absolutely terrified. I felt like I was under spiritual attack. I know not all my friends believe in that sort of thing, but there is a very distinctive feel to it. I felt like someone was deliberately trying to keep me afraid, like some kind of horror movie where a psycho taps into your brain and tries to make you miserable. I knew that I needed to go ahead and take my medicine, and to get out my little notebook full of Bible verses and start reading them. I don't know why, but I felt like this was all connected to my doctor's visit later today. Like that's something to be afraid of, or certain forces of evil would rather I stay home. I don't understand it, that's just the way I felt. It's been about an hour since this round of crazy started and I am really not feeling great. My chest is heavy and I feel a little puke-ish. My head is starting to get fuzzy from the medication, which is sort of a good thing, but I need to be awake now because I have things to do. And I still don't feel back to normal, so I can't start doing them now. But I'm grateful for the fact that I have not actually been physically ill (yet.) I'm thankful I was able to text my mom a little while ago and ask her to pray for me, and that she is awake and responded. I am thankful I didn't bother Brandon too much when I was wandering around in the dark trying to find my "survival supplies" (Sprite or ginger ale, book of Bible verses, iPod, saltines, tissues, plastic bag in case I get sick.) At least I think he stayed asleep. He did shush me one time when I cleared my throat or something. But that very well could be a reflex reaction he could do in his sleep.

I do not have the best health. I have a bad back, depression, severe anxiety, and a completely screwed up digestive system. Something always hurts. Even though I always have something I could complain about, I do have a lot to be thankful for, health-wise. I haven't spent months at a time in a hospital, like some of my friends. Although I fight with my tummy constantly, my issues are not always debilitating, which is nice. After years and years and years, I have finally found a reflux medication that has worked for me long-term (I have taken everything on the market. Everything.) I'm thankful that the drug company offers a discount program, so I am able to afford to take the medication I need to keep me from spewing all the time. I'm thankful that I have not had to be hospitalized for my depression or anxiety, though I have come close on a couple of occasions. I am thankful I have medication for that, too, and I'm thankful that it's cheap!

I have aches and pains, but my problems are not as serious as some people's, and for that, I am thankful. I have never broken a bone. I have never had serious burns. I've never even been stung by a bee! I have a lot of problems, but I manage. I'm thankful that I have an iron will and am able to bring myself to do what needs to be done and go to the places I need to go. I am thankful I have not succumbed to my agoraphobia and become a recluse.

I am thankful for my doctors, particularly the one I'm seeing today, who is smart and funny and listens. It is so nice to be heard. It's nice to know that my doctor actually cares about how I'm feeling, and will do whatever he can to help me feel better- even seeing me on a day he normally doesn't see patients. I'm thankful he is nice to talk to. He is so friendly, it really helps put patients at ease. I'm thankful that he'll call in prescriptions for me, even without an office visit. And I'm thankful he's in my insurance network!

I am thankful that I have health insurance, and have not gone without it, even when times were pretty tough. Because of the issues I have, even going through a short time period with no health insurance could have caused some very serious financial problems down the road because of those stupid "preexisting conditions" thingies. I'm thankful that my insurance also covers so much of the cost of some of the medications I need to take. I'm thankful that we have better insurance now than we did when we first got married (I maxed out our plan in our second month of marriage with a routine upper GI scope, which really caused problems when I needed to have my gall bladder taken out later that year.) I am thankful that I don't have to worry about which medication I'll have to give up because of the cost (I have been there before, too.)

So there you have it. Even though I have a lot I can complain about, I have a lot to be thankful for!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

30 Days of Thankfulness- Today

I don't have much to say today. I did rewrite my list of posts I plan on doing, though, so things should be back to normal-ish tomorrow. Today, though, I am thankful for today. I am thankful for a short work week, and for paid holiday time. I'm thankful I only work four hours this morning, and that Brandon will be home when I get off work. I'm thankful that I'll get to spend time with him. And I'm thankful that I have the next two days off! I have an appointment tomorrow, but Brandon is off Wednesday and Thursday, too, so I'll get to spend time with him and hopefully get some cleaning done around the house.

Monday, November 19, 2012

30 Days of Thankfulness- Compassion

I didn't get any correspondence from my Compassion kids last week, so I won't have a Mail Call Monday post today. Today, though, I am going to do my thankfulness post on Compassion and my sponsor kids.

I am so thankful for Compassion International and the good work they do all around the globe. Compassion has been providing so many good things (education, healthcare, emotional and spiritual support, to name a very few, very broad areas) for decades. I can't imagine the number of children and families whose lives have been changed forever because of Compassion. I can't imagine the number of people who have come to have a relationship with Jesus because of Compassion and their partnership with local churches. I can't imagine the family storylines that have been forever altered because of sponsors all around the world. We will never know the impact this ministry has had this side of heaven. But even though we will never know the exact numbers, the fact that Compassion has had a hugely positive impact on a multitude of individuals is undeniable.

I'm thankful that for a small monthly donation, I can have a part in this global impact. I'm thankful for what I have, and that I can share it with others. The amount I donate to Compassion every month is more than many families around the globe make in a month. I have spoken to many people since I began sponsoring who have said they don't have the money to help lessen global poverty in this way. That's fine, if you want to say that, but you probably aren't being honest with yourself.  My husband and I together make more than $10,000 less than the average family in my state- and my state is a poor state, compared to the rest of the country. About half my income goes to student loans. We do not have a lot of extra cash lying around. Every week, things are pretty tight. But you know what? We don't have cable. We don't go out to eat every day. We don't buy whatever we feel like when we go to the grocery. We don't go to expensive coffee shops and we don't go on vacations. I would rather watch television on the computer after everyone else has watched an episode, I would rather wait until I can watch a movie through Netflix than go see something in the theater every month. Life is about choices. If you care about the poor and the hungry enough to want to do something to help, but you feel that you can't commit to a mere $38 a month (less than subscribing to cable), maybe you can take a look at your budget and make a new year's resolution to do more to help those in need? It doesn't even have to be child sponsorship. Either last year or the year before that, I saved all my receipts from January to March. I went through them, looking at what all I had bought, and despite the fact that we were under tighter financial restraints than we are now (Brandon hadn't been promoted yet and we weren't paying a mortgage), I still saw at least $200 worth of just junk spending that I could have used for something more productive. We can all do more to help others. And we should.

I am thankful for my kids that I sponsor and correspond with through Compassion. I never would have imagined the impact they would have on my life. I thought sponsorship would be fun because I could put a picture on my fridge and have a pen pal somewhere else in the world. I never imagined how sponsoring a child would change my life. I never knew I could love someone so much- someone I have never met. I never imagined I would care so much about what happens in another country. I never imagined I would be praying for the people of Thailand when they were experiencing severe flooding, or the people of northeastern Indonesia as they watched a nearby volcano erupt. I never thought I would compare what I eat or my husband eats, in quantity and quality, to what specific children around the world are eating. I never imagined I would sit down to every holiday meal, remembering that Tasya told me that even on special holidays, her family only eats rice. I never imagined I would cry upon learning that a woman (Said's mother) 8,000 miles away had contracted malaria, fervently praying that she was ok and received the help she needed. I never imagined I would be so proud of receiving a printed alphabet and the numbers 1-100 from a child other than my own. I never imagined I would receive an Easter letter from a friend in Haiti, describing her church's revival where demons were cast out of people. Did your Easter service have demons??

Compassion sponsorship has changed my life. I have family around the world- children I love dearly and would give anything to go to and hug and draw with and visit at school. Sponsorship has increased my awareness of problems and circumstances around the world- that part is really hard to describe. We live in our own little bubbles here in the United States (and I imagine citizens of other developed countries have the same problem.) We have no idea what's going on around us. And even if you have visited another country, one that has pervasive poverty (like so many of those islands where Americans visit for vacation, but everyone except those residing in the resorts are suffering), you probably still lack the same sense of awareness that comes with having a relationship with a person living in that poverty.

I am thankful for Tasya, our first sponsor child, who calls me mama and prays for my family and knows more about Jesus and faith than some of us who have gone to church all our lives.

I am thankful for Joane, who doesn't get to write to us much because of the tremendous family responsibility she has. I am thankful for her caring heart (she wants to be a nurse some day) and for the fact that she lives in a Christian home. She won't have to worry about her family offering her up for a voodoo ritual (it happens.)

I am thankful for Tae, who really should be an ambassador for Thailand some day. His enthusiasm for everything in life, from Thai movie stars to Thai food to the dinosaur museum he got to visit to various festivals and customs in his country, is infectious, even through letters that arrived two months after he wrote them. And I'm thankful that even though he is no longer participating in the program, he is earning good money to help his family and may be able to escape the poverty that brought him to Compassion's program in the first place.

I am thankful for Said, who has urged me for a year to "welcome to Tanzania", whose mother loves me even though I have never met or spoken to her. Said is creative and caring and loving, and will grow up to be a great man some day, despite the fact that he doesn't know who or where his father is. Not every child lacking the influence and guidance of a father has that bright of a future.

I am thankful for Jayid, our smallest sponsor child. I am thankful for his intelligence, and his supportive parents. I see a bright future for Jayid because of his brains, his hard work, and his parents, who are active in his life (visiting the child development center and sharing their approval.) I have hope that one day Jayid will go to university and get a good job, breaking the vicious cycle of poverty in which his family is held captive.

I am thankful for Annet and Victor, our newest correspondence kids, and am anxiously awaiting my first letters from them. I have written to them a few times already (Annet more than Victor) and I am practically stalking my mailman, running outside as soon as I hear the mail truck, praying to see a cream-colored envelope holding my first letter from them. I'm thankful that Compassion has brought two new kids to our far-away family, and I can't wait to get to know them.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

30 Days of Thankfulness: Nursery

I feel weird, so I don't have much to say today. I am thankful that I can help in the nursery at my church. It's very fulfilling for me, and a lot of fun. Once a month I work in the "crawlers" room during the second church service. Little people are a lot of fun to be around, and I'm thankful that I can serve in this way.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

30 Days of Thankfulness- Car

I am thankful for my car. I don't know a lot about cars, so I can't tell you much about mine, other than it's blue and has a spoiler and because of the spoiler, I pay more in insurance (it's an Escort ZX2, which is allegedly a sports car, but when you think "sports car", who thinks of a Ford Escort?)

I went to the driver's license place on my 16th birthday, skipping part of school so I could get my learner's permit. When I got there, I failed the very first part of the test- the vision test! They said "look in this thing and tell us whether the dot is inside the green box, or outside it." I said "what dot?" Fail. So we actually left the driver's license place and went to the eye doctor that day, and I got a new prescription, and contacts. That was kind of exciting. However, I did not go back and try again until I was a senior year in high school, I believe. I got my license after I graduated. My family members drove me to and picked me up from college for the first several weeks while we looked for a car. In the end, my aunt bought a new car, my cousin got her old car, and I bought my cousin's old car. Or my grandfather bought it for me and I paid him back over the next few years. My car had fewer than 50,000 miles on it when I got it at the end of 2006, and six years later, it has fewer than 75,000 miles on it. It runs really well, considering how old it is. I've had very few problems with it. I love the fact that I don't have a car payment. When my car misbehaves, the problems are generally less severe (or less terrifying) than vehicles my friends have had over the years, and I'm very fortunate for that. I'm also so lucky to have an uncle who was a mechanic for practically his whole life, and who will come over and look at my car when I am being weird and panicky about it ("The windows aren't unfogging fast enough and I'm afraid to drive it.") I'm thankful that I have my own vehicle, which comes in handy. Sharing a car with Brandon would be tough because I couldn't go anywhere while he's at work. And taking the bus would be hard because our bus system is kind of terrible if you don't live downtown.

So there's today's improvised entry. I'm thankful for my car, the things that it allows me to do, and the people who help me take care of it.

Friday, November 16, 2012

30 Days of Thankfulness: Free Time

I still don't know where my list of posts is, so I'm just flying by the seat of my online pants at this point. Today I have decided to be thankful for free time.

I have a LOT of free time. I only work 20 hours a week. I am home by myself a LOT. It's actually kind of depressing at times. But lots of free time is something to be thankful for, because it's better than being insanely busy and barely having time to breathe. I am not always the best at prioritizing my free time, and I'm not always able to take advantage of it, because of the health issues I have.

I like my free time. I can clean my house. I can run errands. I can read books, and spend time on the computer, and play video games and watch documentaries (three this week.)

So there's my low-effort post for today. Maybe I'll come up with something more interesting or thought-provoking tomorrow. Here's hoping.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

30 Days of Thankfulness- Friends

Friends are not always something I have had. I had some friends in elementary school. I did not have friends in middle school, until I switched schools, and then I did not have many friends. Sometimes this bothered me.  Sometimes I was not always thankful for my friends that I had. I don't think I was ever mean to them directly, but I know there were plenty of times when I wished I had more friends. I am very thankful for the friends I have today. My friends today are more important to me than some of the friendships I had when I was still in school.

My two closest friends are Kelli and Jess. Kelli and I have been friends since we were in 8th grade. We even managed to spend lots of time together after high school graduation, having weekly late-night TV viewing parties, going out to eat, and all these other fun things that I don't always get the chance to do anymore. I don't see Kelli nearly as much as I want to anymore. My work schedule gets in the way. My personal schedule gets in the way- there are weeks when I don't get to see Brandon very often because of our work schedules, and it is important to spend time with my husband. Her school schedule sometimes got in the way, and now her work schedule does. Social media makes maintaining friendships easier in so many cases, but she isn't online much, which is ok. Even though I don't get to spend as much time with her as I wish I could, I still treasure her. We have so much in common- we like a lot of the same music, movies, and TV shows. We have the same sense of humor, we like the same foods... when we were younger, we'd share cupcakes because she didn't like icing and I didn't like the cake part! If that's not the foundation for a fantastic friendship, I don't know what is.

Jess is my other closest friend. I am so glad that she came to work at my library. And I'm glad that she came back after she left for a better job at another branch! I'm glad we get to hang out when we work together on Monday nights, and I'm glad that I have her to talk to. In many ways, Jess often feels like the sister I never had.

I have other friends, too. Lauren, who has been my friend since we were very small. Sarah, who was the first person to even talk to me when I changed schools in 8th grade (and was, for a very long time, the only person who would even talk to me on the phone or come over to my house!) I have friendly relationships with people I have gone to school with or have met through the library, and most of those friendships are maintained online. It sounds weird, but I really am thankful for things like facebook, because without it, I wouldn't have as much social contact as I do, since I don't go out very often and am no longer doing things like going to school, where I'm constantly surrounded by people my own age.

So today (and every day) I am thankful for my friends, and the relationships that we have, and I'm thankful for the ways we stay close!

Kelli, Lauren, Sarah and myself at my birthday party thing this year (appetizers from O'Charley's and a Jurassic Park marathon. We know how to do it up right.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

30 Days of Thankfulness- Bible Study

There are so many wonderful things about belonging to a Bible study group.

First, you get to study the Bible, or do a work book that focuses on a specific part of the Bible, or maybe sometimes you just read a good book on Christian living (as my local bookstore would call it.) Whatever you do, your relationship with God is better for it. Strengthening your relationship with your Savior is definitely something to be thankful for.

Second, I'm thankful that I can meet my Bible study group, either in a reserved room at church or in someone's home, without fear of persecution from my government.Sure, you run into the odd news story here and there about couples being fined by their HOA for hosting 35 or 40 people in their home on a weekly basis (I understand that, especially if they're taking up all the parking and blocking the streets.) But we have brothers and sisters in Christ all around the world who have to meet in absolute secrecy, sometimes in the dead of night, and are OVERJOYED for this opportunity. That's definitely something we take for granted here in the US.

Third, being a part of a small group is just wonderful. Obviously God is the whole point of going to church, but being connected to a small group is so important. How strong is your church if it is just made up of people who show up for an hour each Sunday, sit anonymously in a pew, and then leave? How strong is the church if the members of the body aren't connected with each other? Small groups mean connection with other believers, and they allow for discussion and exploration of the Word that you can't really get just showing up for the sermons every week.

Lastly, I am so incredibly thankful for my Bible study group. I am thankful for the group of women I meet with on Tuesday nights, to talk about the week's "homework" and share prayer requests and praises with each other. It is so nice to have a group of friends that are excited to see you, and that you get to see regularly. It is so nice to know that if you need prayer, as I have so desperately needed several times in the past few weeks, they've got your back. It is so nice to sit in a cozy room full of people you care about and who care about you. I love my Bible study group. I am so thankful that it exists. We are an ever-changing group: some people have had to sit out entire studies, some folks miss a few weeks here and there, some people are there every week. I wish everyone could be there every week, but it's ok if they can't be; those who aren't present are dearly missed. Dearly so.

Let me tell you about some specific people in my Bible study group. Once upon a time, everyone was connected through the Christian bookstore where my mom works- there was my mom, a couple of her coworkers, her boss's wife, and me. And then the group grew, and shrank a little, and grew some more. We used to meet in each other's homes, but our group is too big now, and reserving a classroom at my mom's church is more accessible anyway. My mom is kind of the leader of our group (it didn't start that way, it just happened.) I'm glad I'm able to attend Bible study with her. There's Mary Jane, who has worked with my mom almost forever (since I was little) and has just a ton of Biblical knowledge. There's Helen (who works with my mom and has for some time) who knows everyone and is the most hospitable person I have ever met. There are her two lovely daughters, Amanda and Joanna. Amanda is currently serving in Japan, teaching English there. Amanda and Joanna are both really sweet and friendly, and I love talking to them. There's Darlene, who is one of the sweetest people I've ever met, and is such a crafty person- she has brought me so many ideas and supplies for crafts to sell to raise money for our adoption efforts. There's Pat, who knows every song about God ever written, and is basically the best pray-er in the universe. There's Betty, who is such a dear, sweet lady, and I like to share my sponsor kid's letters with (and we both love animals and share cute animal pictures with each other!) Bekah is hilarious (and a bad influence on pets- Glitter and Cupcake are from her house and they are wild.) Ashley and I think so much alike; she has shared some really great authors/bloggers with me and we care about so many of the same things. My wonderful mother in law Denise joined us over a year ago, and I'm so glad she comes. I'm glad I get to spend extra time with her, and I'm glad that she and my mom are friends- they probably wouldn't know each other very well if it wasn't for Bible study! Liz is perpetually cheerful and fun to spend time with, and Jamie, who was pretty quiet the first few weeks she joined us, usually has the deepest stuff to say! Blaire joined our group three studies ago or so, and she is so enthusiastic and fired up- it's refreshing and I wish I had her energy. She's so friendly and kind, and has brought several new people to our group, including her aunt Michele, who is so sweet, and other family members and friends who have visited for a few weeks here and there. Leah joined us a week or two into this study, and she is warm and friendly (and helpful- she and Blaire both gave my mom some crazy shoulder rub last night which really helped her with a lot of this intense pain she has been experiencing lately.) We have had others come and go, and I'm sure our group will continue to evolve and grow in the "semesters" to come. I look forward to making new friends, and I hope that our old friends are able to join us when we start a new study in January.

We finished our last study about a month ago, and are technically taking the rest of the year off because most of the members of our group work in retail (many of them at the same place), and it can be a really crazy time as we approach the holidays. We reserved a room at church one day in November and one day in December so we can still get together and have fellowship before we start a new study in January. I'm glad we are having these evenings of fellowship. It refreshes my spirit and just feels good to see friends when I spend all my time either at work or puttering around my house by myself. We all got together for a Thanksgiving dinner. We had crock-pot turkey, crock-pot stuffing, broccoli salad and broccoli casserole, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, two kinds of rolls, and pumpkin cheesecake. Everything was delicious- no exaggeration, no polite "this is so yummy" white lies. : ) It was all amazing, and we even got to Skype with Amanda in Japan (she was having oatmeal for breakfast- not nearly as exciting as  casseroles and cheesecake, if you ask me!) I am so thankful for my Bible study group and the opportunity to grow in my faith alongside them.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

30 Days of Thankfulness- Seasons

I have misplaced my list of the things I was going to post about this month. I know that this topic wasn't on my list, but I still think it's a good one, and I'm glad it popped into my head this morning. I am thankful for the changes we have in the weather, and I'm also thankful that I live in a place that has all four seasons!

I know a lot of people don't even stop to think about it, but quite a few places in the world only have two seasons- wet and dry. In Kentucky, and most of the rest of the country, we have four.

Winter is my favorite season, mostly because I like blankets and Christmas. Winter can be annoying, when your hands are cold and you have to scrape your car before you go anywhere in the morning, but it's really nice, too. Winter will be a nice break from the excruciatingly hot summer we had. In the winter, you don't have to worry about watering your plants outside, or mowing your grass. You can put pretty decorations all over your house, even if you don't celebrate Christmas- there are plenty of sparkly winter decorations out there I'd like to put up in November and keep on display through February! Winter is fun because there's snow. Most of my sponsor children have never seen snow! One said "but we've heard about it and saw it in a movie." I know there are places in the US that don't get snow, either, but at least those people are probably more familiar with it. Snow is exciting, if you don't have to go anywhere. And of course Christmas is the best part- I love baking things and giving presents and making people happy. I bake things for people all year long to make them happy, but there's just something special about holiday giving. It's exciting.

Autumn is a nice season because you just had hot, nasty summer, and you remember how nice it is to wear long pants and jackets. Autumn has pumpkin-picking and hay rides (which make my nose bleed), and pretty leaves on the trees. Autumn has apple cider, which is heavenly. Autumn is back-to-school time, which, for students, is exciting for about five seconds. I like that time of year, though, because I like all the cheap school supplies and crayons and thing. I like looking at school supplies and back packs. When I am a mom, I will enjoy back-to-school shopping (even if my kids are home-schooled.)

Summer is ok. Summer is not the most fun season for me because I have a lot of trouble breathing in the heat, and I have more problems with my stomach. I can't go out in the middle of the day because it makes me sick. But summer has good points, too. If you're a kid, summer is great because school lets out. Summer vacations are fun (not that Brandon and I ever take them, but someday we will.) Summer means ice cream and tank tops and sandals, all of which are things I like. And summer usually means that allergies are alleviated and scary weather comes to an end, but unfortunately that wasn't true of this summer.

Spring is nice because after a while, winter starts to get annoying and you miss green grass and flowers and not having to wear a coat all the time. Spring is nice because that's a really good time to visit the zoo (exception: spring break), which is one of our favorite things to do. Spring means bunnies in the yard, and Easter, which, even though the ways we celebrate are weird (still celebrating the pagan aspects while getting all gussied up for church), it really is the most important holiday because of what it celebrates. Christmas wouldn't be important without Easter. Easter is the whole point. Easter means the good guy wins. Easter means victory over death, and hope for the future. Easter means heaven someday, reunions with our loved ones, and meeting the creator of the universe face to face. Spring may mean scary weather (tornadoes) and murderous seasonal allergies, but spring has a lot of good to offer, too.

So there is my un-planned post. I am thankful for the seasons. I'm thankful I get to see the brilliant orange and red leaves on the trees, and see the frosty patterns on my windows, and feel the warm sun on my shoulders, and see the pretty blue and white flowers in my flower beds. Yay for seasons.

This is from the ice storm we had in 2009. We didn't really have any snow last year- hopefully we will get some this year!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sweet Greetings

On Mondays, blogging Compassion sponsors often post the letters they may have received during the week. From now on, my posts will be entitled "Sweet Greetings", which is a signature Tasya often writes at the end of her letters! I am linking up with Blogging from the Boonies- please check out Michelle's lovely blog and the wonderful Compassion-related resources she posts there.

This week we received a letter from Said, our boy in Tanzania. Said's letters are always enthusiastic, and he usually sends a drawing or two with his letters. He is such a talented artist! Said wrote to us last fall and said his family travels to Kilosa to help his grandmother with crop planting, after they have finished their own planting. I found last year's letter and it said "we all just love crop planting!" Oh, that I could find such enthusiasm for my housework and responsibilities!

May the name of the Lord be praised. Praise the Lord Jesus. My family and I are fine. How are you and your family? I hope you are doing well. The aim of this letter is to let you know that we are now on leave and the school will be open on 10/9/2012, it was a good thing! Class seven we didn't close, but we continued with studies as usual for class seven examination preparation to complete primary school on 19/9/2012. After completing school I will go to visit my grandmother at Kilosa in Morogoro region. I am praying for you and your family, and your work and your studies. I ask you to pray for me on the completing class seven day. Please go on praying for me always. 

May God protect you. 

30 Days of Thankfulness- Education

While I can't say I have always had the best experience with school, I can say that I am thankful for the education I have received and the opportunities available to me, both because of the time and the country in which I live.

I attended four schools in my lifetime- five, if you include college. School was tough for me sometimes. My first three years of elementary school (a public school) were OK, except for being picked on by girls bigger than me, and being physically attacked by a boy with behavioral problems who ripped out my earring (which has healed over and been re-pierced twice, and it's never going to be the same.) The second school I attended was a very small private school set in a Baptist church. I had anxiety issues every day (this was shortly before I was diagnosed), but for the most part I got along with everyone, and for two out of the three years I was there, I had a decent teacher. The second year I was there, we had an awful teacher. She spit and threw ice chips at us, and had her favorite students pick at her grey hairs while she examined a mole on her face with a pocket mirror. EVERY DAY. It was very weird and she should have been fired. But I digress. After that, I had two years at a public middle school, which were just terrible. I was mercilessly bullied, harassed by TWO members of the faculty, I didn't learn anything, got jumped one day after school, and a kid got stabbed in a classroom two doors down from my homeroom. After that, I got moved back to private school again- and that's where I finished my schooling. I was at that school for five years, the longest I stayed at any school. I was bullied some for the first two years or so, and sometimes the faculty didn't do the best job of handling it. I had some really good teachers, and just a couple of teachers who didn't do the greatest job (they are no longer at that school.) I did learn, unlike my previous school, which is good. And that environment was definitely safer than public school, for which I am grateful. My last year there was a pretty good one- I made good grades (except in math), and directed the fall play and starred in the spring play. So that was pretty cool. After graduation, I got over three years of college under my belt before I left because of the extraordinary cost. On paper, I'm still a junior. Maybe some day I will finish up my degree so my experience in college wasn't a total waste of tens of thousands of dollars.

I'm thankful for the educational opportunities I've had. I'm thankful I got to go to private school- I don't know how I'd be or where I'd be today if I didn't get those 8 collective years of private school education. I'm thankful that girls in America today are encouraged to finish their educations and to even attend college. It hasn't always been that way! I'm thankful for the scholarships I did receive that allowed me to go to a private college, which was easier for me to cope with on so many levels- and I was able to attend a well-respected university with some fabulous professors (and I got to go to school with Brandon!)

While my country- and ESPECIALLY not my state- doesn't qualify as the absolute best country in the world, and while there are issues with our educational system (I'm looking at you, teacher's unions), no one has ever thrown acid at me for trying to go to school. No one has ever tried to assassinate me for daring to get an education. We have a lot to be thankful for, as ladies in America. Our girls may struggle with self-esteem and bullying, but most likely no one is going to try to kill them just for trying to learn.

This is what Senior Year apathy looks like. Superhero Day, Spring spirit week, 2006

Sunday, November 11, 2012

30 Days of Thankfulness- Veterans Day edition

You know, I actually wrote a list of what all my posts would be before November started. When writing my list late one night, I couldn't remember what day Veterans Day was, so I was going to incorporate veterans into my Election Day post. When I wrote that one, though, adding an additional topic took away from the flow of the narrative. So I will be changing my list a bit, and today's post will be about veterans, and peace, because everyone else is writing about Veterans Day today and I don't want to seem ungrateful.

Veterans Day hasn't always been known by that name. It was originally Armistice Day, a day to commemorate the day World War I ("the war to end all wars", a misnomer, unfortunately) ended. Armistice went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. So November 11th was Armistice Day, a day for parades and picnics and originally an end of business at 11 a.m. Kind of like a break for everyone. What a lovely idea. When President Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day in 1919, he said "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us, and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations..."

I guess part of the reason "Armistice" was changed to "Veterans" was to recognize those who fought in all wars and conflicts, and not just in the first World War. I think that along with the change, though, we have forgotten a little bit of what the holiday (or observance, if "holiday" is too festive a word) was originally about. When we think about Veterans Day today, we acknowledge those who have fought and died, and those who fought and lived, and those who are currently fighting. I heard recently that in some people's eyes, the switch from Armistice Day to Veterans Day switched the focus of the observance from peace to conflict.  Online, we post nice statements about how thankful we are that others have done the fighting for us, and we are thankful for our freedoms, but I think we forget to mention our gratitude for the wars that have ended, the peace that has been brought to nations, and we very seldom hear anything positive anymore about "the councils of nations." Especially with the conflicts our country is currently facing (the war in Afghanistan coming to an end, fighting in the middle east, the attack in Libya, the fact that some angry person is seemingly always burning a flag or cursing the country somewhere halfway around the world), I hear a lot about how wrong other countries are, or how wrong our leaders are, or how we should bomb this country or stop aid to that country. Perhaps when remembering our veterans today, and thanking the ones who are still with us, we can also say a prayer for our country, and for the nations who take issue with us, that we will all remember the original intent of the national holiday, and will be proud to live in a sympathetic and justice-minded country that does care about what happens to people around the world, and does seek peace and freedom for every nation, and does value being in those councils of nations.

I am thankful to live in a free country, and I am thankful for the sacrifices made by all veterans so we can have those freedoms we take for granted. I am thankful for my friends and family members currently serving in the military and the reserves. I am thankful for the organizations that work hard to support our veterans, picking up the pieces where our government has failed them. Happy Veteran's Day, and Happy Armistice Day, too.

More giving opportunities! Here are some top-rated charities who help our veterans. 

National Military Family Association

Hope for the Warriors

Homes for Our Troops

Wounded Warrior Project


Saturday, November 10, 2012

30 Days of Thankfulness- Brandon

I'm thankful for my husband every day- this just happens to be the day I'm writing about it!

I have known Brandon for a long time. When I was in 9th grade, we shared a homeroom. Brandon never talked. I thought this was funny. Everyone did. Not talking didn't take away from Brandon's social standing, though. Everyone liked him. They thought he was funny. Even though he never talked. He had a more active social life than I did, even after everyone stopped hating me sometime around the end of 10th grade. We didn't really spend much time together, other than sharing an elective here and there, and sitting across from each other in the limo on the way to Junior/Senior Banquet (my alma mater's version of prom.) A series of well-timed events led to us getting in touch after his graduation in 2005.

I had this friend that I used to spend a lot of time with in high school. When this friend graduated, and I still had a year to go, this "friend" (now referred to with quotation marks because this person was a really awful "friend") cut off contact with me completely. I just really wasn't interested in being a part of this "friend's" new lifestyle. That was a pretty sad summer. One day, when school started back up again, I sent an email to a very kind friend from the same graduating class, and somewhere in the conversation we ended up discussing the folks she kept in contact with after graduation. One of those people was Brandon- or B Jones, as everyone calls him. Seriously, if we run into someone from high school, they will yell "B JONES!" and shake his hand, and about half the time there will be a nod in my direction. But I digress. I asked for his email address because I thought it would be funny to email this person who never ever talked...and he emailed me back. And we sent lots and lots of emails, and in the weird, passive-aggressive way that many high schoolers manage to form relationships, we figured out that we liked each other and would like to go out together and probably get married (side note: what is the point of dating if you don't like the person enough to possibly stay with them long-term? Get to know them, THEN go out. Serial daters confuse me.) Brandon wanted to wait until he was finished with the spring semester of his freshman year of college before he officially asked me on a date, though, because he was pretty bogged down with school and I still had a few months to finish up my high school career. But he came to the homecoming game to sit with me, and came by my parents' house before my friends and I left for Banquet that spring (he didn't want to go) and came to my performance in Pygmalion, too. Regular boyfriend stuff. It was nice.

We were dating for about a year when Brandon proposed, and we got married about two and a half years later, on January 2, 2010.

I am so thankful for Brandon. He is funny and he makes me laugh. We are both tremendous nerds- we love Star Wars and Batman and superhero movies. We love watching movies together (we are working our way through this book we got from the library called "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", in addition to watching movies we want to see or ones that look interesting from the descriptions on the library website.) We both like to read, and our house is full of books on multiple bookcases! We love animals and love to go to the zoo together. We believe in the same things and have similar outlooks on life. He works so hard at his job so we can pay the bills. I am thankful for all his hard work. I am thankful for his friendship, and I'm thankful that he's my husband, and I'm thankful that I get to spend the rest of my life with him!

At my cousin's wedding in 2007

On my grandparents' Ohio River anniversary cruise

At my dad's company picnic thing at the zoo

At Brandon's cousin's wedding in 2009

Our wedding day

PDA! Please divert your eyes.

On our honeymoon at Disney World!

Earlier this year, at the zoo. It was hot and bright. My funny faces are not amusing him.