Thursday, November 28, 2019

In Gratitude We Trust

To quote my friend Alexander, today (November 1st, the day I'm scheduled to begin writing in my gratitude journal) was "a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day". While wallowing in sorrow, frustration, and anger, I often wish that days like today wouldn't happen...but the fact of the matter is that they do, and that we need them, because without them we wouldn't appreciate the wonderful, awesome, no bad, very good days. 

Days like today are exactly why I write in this gratitude "journal" throughout the month of November leading up to Thanksgiving. Finding the good - and a hint of gratitude - in the midst of a swirling tornado of the complete opposite is hard, but so worth the effort it takes.


November 1
I am grateful for my gym and the fitness classes it offers as part of my membership.

Working hard physically - and at times mentally, while trying to keep up with choreography - makes me feel strong and in control.

November 2
I am grateful for friends who always listen, even when what I have to say is nothing more than venting pent up frustration, and who love me through the messiness of parenting, marriage, and growing old up.

November 3
I am grateful for this reminder that I'm not completely screwing up my children.

November 4
I am grateful for Monday afternoons.

After four years of packed Mondays, this year our Mondays are "light", with only one soccer practice at 7:30pm. Starting the week by getting ahead on homework, tackling small to-dos around the house, and going to bed early (well, at least Hallie goes to bed early) makes the rest of our week go more smoothly.

November 5
I am grateful for my - for our collective - right to vote.

November 6
I am grateful for early Christmas presents!

My friends and I like to buy each other Nutcracker-themed Christmas presents, and because we want to be able to enjoy our Nutcracker goodies during Nutcracker season, we start our holiday gift giving the first week in November. 

November 7
I am grateful for a husband who saves his Stroopwaffles while traveling and a coffee mug with a Stroopwaffle-sized rim.

I don't want to wish away my favorite time of year - I love Thanksgiving and Christmas - but I am ready to wrap up 2019. There's no doubt 2020 will arrive with its own baggage and its own roller coaster of ups and downs, but I need to close out this chapter. All that to say that today, like the first day of the month, was another tough day. And when I was feeling low, coffee in and a Stroopwaffle on my favorite mug came to my much as Kroger donut house coffee and an airline-issued breakfast treat can rescue anyone.

November 8
I am grateful for free champagne.

Interestingly, I was grateful for free champagne on the first day of Dance Rev last year as well.

November 9
I am grateful for diamond art.

This ONE project kept her busy and content for more than NINE HOURS when she couldn't dance at Dance Rev. Thank you, Jenn!

November 10
I am grateful for Tom and Will for holding down the fort during our trip to Dallas.
Tom and Will showered, brushed their hair, dressed (up) in non-
athletic clothes, and went out for sushi (since Hallie and I don't like
it). Who are these men and what have they done with my boys?! 

They vacuumed a few rooms, started a load of laundry, changed a lightbulb, unclogged the bathtub, wiped down the bathroom sinks and mirrors, brought down the Christmas tree (which we put out for the trash because we're worried its malfunctioning lights could start a fire), and took out the trash.
This photo makes me laugh, because it perfectly captures how
Tom and Will take care of the house in my absence. They clean
and tidy up, but there are always little details they miss. 😂

November 11
I am grateful for all those who have served our country, and for the opportunity to honor these brave men and women alongside my children at their schools' Veterans Day assemblies.

November 12
I am grateful for my girl's resilience.

The extracurricular path she has chosen has dealt her many a blow this year. She has experienced a couple of "wins", but for the most part, these last few months have felt to her like one long landslide to the bottom of the mountain. She too is ready to start fresh in 2020...  

November 13
I am grateful to have discovered Yamuna (thanks, Mom!), which has allowed me to treat my plantar fasciitis as well as a variety of other aches, pains, and injuries. The process is slow, but well worth the time!

Not familiar with Yamuna? Google it or let me know if you'd like to know more!

November 14
I am grateful for The Piano Guys, whose Christmas album is my absolute favorite and my starting point for Christmas music every year.

I intended to wait until November 22nd - my birthday - to start listening to Christmas music. I didn't make it.

November 15
I am grateful that Dance Mom Appreciation Week has come to an end, and that I made it through tap, jazz, modern, company, and contemporary without serious injury!

I enjoy dancing with Hallie, but this year's Dance Mom Appreciation Week was particularly tough because 1) Hallie's knee-related physical limitations put a damper on her spirits, and 2) we JUST returned from Dance Rev and I would have liked a week "off" before having to jump into another intense dance experience.

November 16
I am grateful for a slower than normal Saturday smack dab in the middle of a crazy fall semester. No soccer game, one shorter-than-usual dance rehearsal, shopping for new orchestra and basketball shoes with my boy, a walk with my girl, and an evening at home.

November 17
I am grateful we only have one more week of school before our nine-day Thanksgiving break!

Will and Hallie love school and I enjoy my days spent working and volunteering, but because all three of us can't stand getting up with an alarm clock - and all three of us require one on school days - we look forward to school breaks and when we can turn our alarm clocks off.

November 18
I am grateful for my flexible work schedule, without which I would not be available to shuttle my kiddos to and from school and appointments.

Already today I've taken Hallie to her sports medicine appointment, to school, to her physical therapy appointment, back to school, and then home, and it looks like I may also be taking Tux to the vet this afternoon. But I am grateful I have the freedom to handle all of this for my family members. 

November 19
I am grateful for a day - the first of three in a row - spent creating in the kitchen.

I used to bake EVERY Friday. My schedule hasn't allowed me to do so lately, so being "forced" into the kitchen (Tom signed up to bring gingersnap cookies to his Thanksgiving luncheon on Wednesday, I committed to making two pans of brownies for a staff appreciation event on Thursday, and I always bake miniature banana breads for Will and Hallie to give to their teachers on the Friday before Thanksgiving break) was exactly what I needed.

November 20
I am grateful for a friend who reached out at exactly the right time and knew exactly what I needed to hear in that moment.

November 21
Oops. I missed this day.

November 22
I am grateful for 41 years on this earth.

"Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many."

Edited to add: I am also grateful for cancelled plans. 😂

November 23
I am grateful for a week-long Thanksgiving break, and that while today was a CRAZY day (two soccer games, two dance rehearsals, a holiday ornament workshop, holiday shopping, and a food fundraiser pick-up), it was our last crazy day until December...and then all bets are off.

November 24
I am grateful my Christmas decor and tree are set up!

I try to wait until after Thanksgiving to start decorating for Christmas, but Thanksgiving is far too late this year. Had we not put Christmas up/out today, I would have had to wait until December 1st, and that's just ridiculous.

November 25
I am grateful for an alarm clock-free morning.

November 26
I am grateful for safe travels.

November 27
I have grateful for time spent with my extended family, especially my nearly 88-year-old grandma.

November 28
I am grateful for my family members and friends. I am grateful for my and their relative health and financial security. I am grateful for amazing moments and awful moments and all the ordinary, mundane, and routine moments in between. And I am grateful for all of you, who make writing about life here on Chasing Roots matter.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! See you next Tuesday!

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

It's November, Round Nine

On this Tuesday, I present the 9th installment of one of my favorite annual posts. Here is "It's November", courtesy of my Hallie Claire.

November 2011

November 2012

November 2013

November 2014

November 2015

November 2016

November 2017

November 2018

November 2019

Slow down, Father Time.

I still can't watch the 2011 version of this video without tearing up. I miss that sweet, spicy, pleasantly precocious two-year-old… 

Also, bless her heart, for continuing to humor me by making these videos. 

Friday, November 22, 2019

High Five for Friday (11.22.19)

Today is my 41st birthday. My 41st year - so basically 2019 - didn't exactly live up to my expectations, but I have high hopes for my 42nd year and 2020. As I end one chapter and begin another, I am tremendously grateful to be (mostly) healthy and (mostly) happy, to have a roof over my head and food on my table, and for my family members and friends.

I love me some Board & Brush, both because it involves creating something beautiful with my own two (less than crafty and relatively impatient) hands and because it allows me to spend time with friends.

I also love holiday shopping events that bolster small businesses and support nonprofit organizations on a local level. This year I found lots of goodies for family members, friends, and teachers at one of my favorite events, the annual Jingle Bell Market...which is why I can only post pics of what I purchased for myself. 😉
 I needed a new keychain, and the beaded designs
from Four the Love of Wood really spoke to me. 
Nutcracker OBSESSED!

My girl, y'all. She's working so hard both physically and mentally to get back to 100% after a knee injury sidelined her from dance. Two physical therapy appointments each week, physical therapy and Yamuna exercises on her own once - sometimes twice - a day, ice and ibuprofen twice a day, sitting out at recess, and trying to memorize and practice her five Christmas dances while not actually dancing, or worse, watching from the sidelines. I'm so proud of her.
Rockin' her new pink camo knesiology tape.

Happiness Highlights
Sweet boy really wants to be a part of family game night, but he can
never fully relax with all the yelling and laughing going on around him.
Polichinelle hair! 😍
Tom and Hallie put up our outside Christmas lights last weekend!
A perfect Saturday morning...
When you get all of the 5th grade math problems
right...using your old school methods rather than
the new-fangled methods used by kids these days. 

Happy weekend, friends!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

In Heaven There is No Beer

In Heaven there is no beer,
That's why we drink it here.
And when we're gone from here,
Our friends will be drinking all the beer.

We sang this song, loud and proud, while tailgating before Iowa Hawkeye football games, and it seems fans still feel this committed to their beer 20 years later. On September 14th, Iowa State's Carson King, having run out of beer, held up a sign on ESPN's College GameDay that read, "Busch Light Supply Needs Replenished". He included his Venmo handle on the sign, and within minutes the money started rolling into his account.

When it became clear that everyone felt this committed to their beer (and King had received enough money to purchase a few beers and then some), King announced he would donate the excess funds raised - everything minus $15 for his case of Busch Light - to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital. And then the money REALLY started rolling in.

Donations from individuals were matched by major corporations - Venmo and Anheuser-Busch included - and as of earlier this month, King had raised nearly $3 million with matching donations For The Kids. A month after King's moment in the ESPN College GameDay spotlight, he returned to Kinnick Stadium to take part in the newest Hawkeye tradition: The Wave.

Last fall I wrote about The Wave, which also benefits - emotionally, rather than financially - the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital. And a few years ago, I wrote about For The Kids, which holds a special place in my heart, and its connection to the same hospital.

I share this story today because sometimes I want - no, I need, and I thought you might also need - to read a feel-good story...even if it's about beer. Cheers to turning a unique situation into an opportunity to make a difference in one little corner of the world!

I couldn't find a single tailgating photo of Tom and me, so you get these photos of our little Hawkeyes - 6ish years ago - instead.

Friday, November 15, 2019

High Five for Friday (11.15.19)

We survived Dance Rev. I had planned to write a lengthy post about how the past three conventions we've attended have been both amazing and challenging, and how this year's event followed suit. But while last year tipped the scales toward amazing, this year swung back in the opposite direction, throwing a wrench in my writing plans.

So today, in place of my original and now scrapped high five, I'm throwing up a high five for crossing last weekend off of my fall to-do list. I'm also sharing a handful of pics of the good moments, because I'm not completely empty inside. 😉
We made two requests of the hotel because of Hallie's
knee injury (a room on a lower level and with a refrigerator
 to keep ice cold) and not only did they deliver on both fronts,
they left a sweet note for the girls and treats for all of us.
Thank goodness for Mandi's mom (who we all call Nonny), who kept the
girls entertained so we could relax for an hour before the chaos began. 
Hallie couldn't take classes (that's right - we spent three days at a dance
convention and Hallie couldn't participate in a single one of the classes),
but she stayed busy with a diamond art product from my friend Jenn. 
Sweet smiles.
Ready to perform! Our studio's companies did an amazing job.
Hallie had to sit out of two dance parties and nine classes, but we let her
perform in the showcase. She hadn't danced at all in more than two weeks,
and the joy she felt when allowed to once again do so was written all over
her face. This isn't a good picture (I'm hoping the professionals also
captured this moment), but if you zoom in you can see what I mean.

Because we needed a little more dance in our lives, this week was Dance Mom Appreciation Week. I participated when I could, and didn't pull any muscles! (After a horrible hamstring pull during Dance Mom Appreciation Week a few years ago, I consider any class I make it through without injury a colossal success.)

First thing Monday morning I headed up to Will's middle school for what turned out to be a well orchestrated and truly moving Veterans Day assembly. Many veterans attended, and students in orchestra, band, choir, and theatre performed and presented.
You can always find Will by his hair.

Last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Will tried out for his middle school's basketball team. He has attended a couple of summer basketball camps and messes around with his friends on the basketball court at the park, but he hasn't played on an actual team since right after his fifth birthday...and that season did NOT go well. Here's a little blurb from a blog post I wrote back in March of 2012:

As a reminder, Will didn't touch the ball AT ALL during the first three games. (Because he cried and ran away from the ball.) And aside from Will's very first soccer game, his third basketball game was the worst athletic hour of his (and maybe my) life. There was ice dancing. On the basketball court. 
Look how small he was compared to his teammates!
(He's still this small compared to his teammates...)
Someone told Will that he should defend with his arms raised, so for
the remainder of the season he ran around with his arms above his head.
"There's no crying in basketball!"
Oh yes there is...

I expected Will's athleticism, competitiveness, and general affection for sports of all kinds to carry him through the first round of cuts, but I didn't expect him to actually make one of the teams...and then he did.

I'm so proud of him, because I don't think he was offered a spot based (at least solely) on his basketball skills. I think he was offered a spot because he has a positive attitude, demonstrates leadership on and off the court, and works tremendously hard. It has taken him YEARS to harness his potential in these areas, and while he still has room to grow, his progress is beautiful.

You know what? Today I'm calling it at four high fives.

Cheers to the weekend, friends!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Resolutions Return

For the third year in a row, I started my New Year's Resolutions in September and with the intent to tackle one resolution each month, rather than following the more traditional route of kicking off on January 1st and attempting one or two resolutions over the course of the year. I choose resolutions as they come to me and according to what I feel I need to work on as each new month rolls around, and in the name of accountability, I touch base here at the beginning of every month to report back on how the previous month went and share what I plan to work on that month. Here we go!

I've made this my November resolution for quite a few years, and because I love intentionally documenting one thing for which I am thankful every day between November 1st and Thanksgiving Day, I plan to keep this tradition alive.

This year, when compared to at least the past few years, has weighed heavily on my heart. Injuries, illnesses, and health concerns - not life-threatening, but signifiant enough to cause worry and anxiety - have plagued those in my immediate family as well as those in our extended families and our friends. It seems like almost every day I hear about a new diagnosis received by or trauma dealt to someone we know, and every time I turn on the news I feel overwhelmed by the pain, suffering, cruelty, injustice, and ignorance found across the world, throughout our country, and even in my own community.

So this November in particular feels like the perfect time to focus on the good. The little good, like getting to sleep in on Saturday morning or finding a pair of cute AND comfortable shoes. The big good, like peace between nations or complete healing after injury or illness. And all the good in between. Want to join me?


And for those of you who would like to updates on past months' resolutions, here you go!

October Resolution:

How did it go?
I know a couple of Debbie Downers, and whenever I spend time with them, I'm reminded that my energy impacts those around me - especially my children - and that I need to regularly commit to decreasing my negative and increasing my positive energy. These encounters and conversations fueled implementation (and now maintenance) of this resolution, and I worked really hard to keep my complaints about the weather and the bugs to myself last month. I can't say I won't stop complaining about the weather all together - I am a Wisconsinite living in Texas, after all - but I hope to carry my slightly improved energy with me throughout the remainder of this year and into next.

September Resolution:

How did it go? 
This resolution remains a challenge, but I am making slow and steady progress when it comes to separating myself from my phone and my social media accounts. On one day in October I had to be on - or at least near - my phone and/or computer from 6:30am until 11pm. During Brazos Valley Gives, we were posting photos, videos, commentary, stories, donation requests, and updates on our nonprofit's social media pages; posting personal photos and testimonies on our personal social media pages; following along with the event's overall progress; and checking in on our nonprofit's progress...ALL.DAY.LONG. When 11pm finally rolled around, I couldn't wait to put my phone away - my eyes were tired and my brain was fried. And since that day, I have done much better at leaving my phone alone for longer stretches of time and checking in on social media fewer times a day. I still struggle with having my phone out while watching Liv and Maddie with Hallie though...that show, while quite pleasant, just doesn't require 100% of my attention. 😂

Did you resolve to change anything about yourself or your life this year? Last month? This coming month? How are those resolutions going?

Friday, November 8, 2019

High Five for Friday (11.8.19)

A couple of weeks of high fives are covered here today - thanks for understanding my swap out (Halloween fun in place of a High Five for Friday post) last week! 

This morning Hallie and I leave for Dallas for our 4th Dance Revolution Convention.
Dance Rev 2018
Yep, they're in the ballroom of a hotel at
11pm at night in their matching pajamas.

In the past I have used the adjective "whirlwind" to describe the Dance Rev weekend, and I anticipate that when we arrive home on Sunday night I will choose that same adjective to describe this year's event. But if I'm willing to dig a little deeper, beyond just an adjective, I can come up with a comparison to help you better understand Dance Rev: Dance Rev is like giving birth. There are bright lights and loud noises and SO MANY PEOPLE coming and going. There is organized chaos, followed by hours and hours of waiting, and then organized chaos once again. Emotions are amplified and everything is intensified. There are highs and lows and highs and lows. There is laughter and there are smiles. There is yelling and there are tears. There is joy, and there is pain (though not as much much physical pain as childbirth). When all is said and done, and when we pull back into College Station in two and a half days, I'll say to myself, "I can't believe I survived Dance Rev. I don't know if I can do it again." And yet, here we are, doing it again, and feeling somewhat excited about what's to come.

Here's to Dance Rev 2019!

At the end of October, two friends/committee members and I coordinated Ballet Brazos' participation in Brazos Valley Gives, a community-wide day of giving created around strengthening nonprofits, empowering donors, and building community. I hadn't flexed my fundraising muscles in many years, since my time with the American Red Cross in Iowa and Michigan, and it felt good to use that part of my brain again. I also enjoyed learning about how the nonprofit world has changed since I walked away and better getting to know the organizations that make up the Brazos Valley's nonprofit network. We look forward to participating again in 2020!
What we looked and felt like at 6am.
What we looked and felt like at 11pm.

Between a pajama day fundraiser prize, a sock hop day prize, a soccer "spooktacular", Halloween, and Red Ribbon week, the last couple of weeks have involved A LOT of dressing up. While I'm ready to go back to the kids just "getting dressed" in the morning, I think these events are lots of fun.
50s Day on the 50th Day of School
Pajama Day
Twin Day (But isn't every day Twin Day?)
Crazy Hair Day
Soccer Spooktacular
Will planned to wear Hallie's butterfly wings, but minutes prior the
event was rained out. He would have rocked that butterfly costume.
Costume Day
They were bummed to have to wear pants and shirts
under their costumes, but it was 36 degrees outside.

I don't usually go out and buy new outfits, costumes, and/or accessories specifically for these special dress-up days. We have accumulated lots of each over the years though, so we do what we can with what we already have. (Halloween is the exception, and I should give another shout-out to Grandma Brenda, who made Hallie's poodle skirt and all three of the girls' baker costumes!)

Speaking of Halloween... Tom missed out, having to spend the holiday in Seattle for a conference (what kind of insensitive conference organizers plan a conference the week of Halloween?!), but the rest of us had great fun with friends at our annual Halloween gathering.

Happiness Highlights
New cleats for the birthday boy! He's reached a level of play
at which he wants/needs higher quality cleats than we can buy
in College Station, so new boots means a trip to Houston. 
Hello, old friend...
Happy birthday, Natalie!
Round #2 at the pumpkin patch!
Painting our teal pumpkin in honor of her brother.
So many late nights up watching the World Series. 

Happy Friday, friends!