gratitude: hey, Alexa

Alexa’s living in our kitchen now and she’s a delightful houseguest. She’s knowledgeable, well behaved, entertaining…adding both enjoyment and enlightenment to our mornings. Plus Alexa never plants big fat paws on my counter to steal food, so she’s got that going for her.

We welcomed our Echo right after Christmas, and she is a dream. Here are just a few things I love about her:

** She keeps me in the know.

I’m multitasking like a beast in the morning, so scrolling through a news app isn’t in the cards. Some days it’s a miracle that everyone eats and I get my coffee (plus, you know, dressed), so a device that shares news from NPR, CNN, and Reuters? Yes, please. Plus Alexa will stream stations like NPR or CNN. Score!

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gratitude: pass me that damn yankee candle

I have a serious thing for candles.  No, not birthday candles, and as an aside I have to say I’ve always thought those trick candles you can’t blow out are just a little bit cruel.  I mean, the whole point of birthday candles is getting to blow them out and make a wish.  Plus the cake.  Everyone wants to get to the cake.  But there you are, puffing away, and the damn things just keep relighting in front of you while everyone stares…but I digress.

No, my love affair is with those large jar candles, the ones with names like Red Raspberry and French Vanilla.  (I’m a purist when it comes to fragrance.)  Enveloping a room in a comforting smell changes everything.  Work may be stressful, life might seem overwhelming, but it’s really hard to freak out with the smell of Coconut & Vanilla Bean wafting up from the coffee table.  Just saying.

Sometimes people ask me what things are like now that the kids are older, and I have to admit this has its perks.  I can sleep in without thinking they might stumble out into the street because a dog walks by.  They can feed themselves, which is great ’cause they’re hungry, like, a lot.  They’re fun to hang around (okay, sometimes they’re fun to hang around), but they also crave time with their friends so I get my alone time, too.

And now that I know they won’t grab the pretty fire, I can light my precious candles.

gratitude: gracias, grazie, danke

Post its, every color, every shape.  Capturing thoughts, reminders, chores, shopping lists.  Dotting the kitchen, the car, the bedroom…what do people do if they can’t tape up reminders around the house?

Ah, the magic of a Sharpie.  A rainbow of colors, visible from across the room, capable of labeling anything from file folders to mason jars.  God bless the Sharpie.

Dogs sleeping in yoga positions.  Yes, this is an actual thing – Phoebe can sleep on her back, legs stretched out in four different directions, neck twisted at an unnatural angle, all the while snoring away.  Nothing’s gonna make you smile faster than that.

Amazon Echo.  That’s right, we’ve been bit by the Alexa bug, and I love this thing.  It tells me the news when I ask.  It plays music for me, tells me the weather, and will even play Jeopardy if I’m in the mood to feel trivia-dense.  Alexa will even set alarms and reminders for me which is super handy when my hands are wrist deep in dinner and I can’t write a post in note.

Gracias, grazie, danke.

gratitude: splish, splash, ahhh…

There’ve been a few things in life that brought me sheer joy.  The kinds of things that drop me to my knees in gratitude, kissing the ground because…well, because why not, it’s something people in the throes of joy do.  Things that swept me off my feet in terms of my word, this is life changing and I will never forget this moment even if I live to be 105.

Finishing our bathroom remodel was one of those moments.

I know, I know…it’s not curing cancer or finding a solution to hunger, but it rocked my world.  There.  I said it.

I fully own that these are first world problems because hey, any indoor plumbing at all, can I get a hell yeah? But finding that moldy and rotting subfloor beneath our shower’s tile was beyond distressing.  There was the psychological factor of omg, how long has it been like this, and how long is it going to take to fix, and how am I gonna live anything resembling my real life while they do.  Then there was the physical trauma – how long had I been breathing crap into my lungs, the illnesses I lived with while they tore out and removed the bathroom materials, how my body reacted when I passed through that space to get something from my closet during demo and construction.

Compared to all that, sharing a bathroom with my 13-year-old son was relatively painless.  Although I don’t know if he’d say the same.

At any rate, after a number of blips and blunders (all of which were fixed by our second contractor, a group I shall forever refer to as The Saviors of Our Master Bath) the remodel was finally complete at the end of November.  Yep, you read that right.  September, October, November, plus those two weeks in August – three and a half months of insanity in our house.  It’s kind of a miracle we all made it to the other side.

But when we did…my word.  I stand in this room now and am blissfully, ridiculously, unbelievably happy.  It is my peaceful space, and I am ever so grateful for it.

gratitude: not everyone has a grownup tree

I’m not surprised people feel a special fondness for Christmas trees.  They’re beautiful and often wrapped in a lifetime of fond memories, family and friends and nostalgia galore.  Some of them are actually gorgeous – grown up trees with a theme and coordinated colors, ones that make you stop and gaze in awe.

My tree isn’t a grown up tree, never has been, but I surely do love it.

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gratitude: safe travels

Roads, rails, and airways are crowded with people moving from here to there right now.  Holiday travel, they call it, which makes sense.  Sort of.  It is winter break for students and teachers, and folks do like to see their people around the holidays.

Except not everyone is in school, and not everybody celebrates a holiday in December…so why are the roads and airports so freaking crowded?  And, I must say, crowded with people often on the edge of losing their sh*t.  I don’t have firsthand knowledge of the train stations but I’d imagine they’re just as nutty.

Regardless.  I’m grateful for safe travels.  With so many loved ones going place to place, we need our guardian angels in overdrive.

gratitude: “though she be but little, she is fierce”

We grow up compiling images of brave people.  Firefighters.  Police officers.  People in the military.  People fighting for justice.  But the older I get, the more I see acts of bravery all around us every day.

It’s in the friend who holds your hand quietly while you deal with a loss.  The kid who shows up every day no matter what they get called at recess.  Adults who speak out when somebody tells an off color joke and stand strong when they see someone treated without dignity.

Teens who fight the urge to fit in, no matter the cost.  Kids who make friends with the outsider.  People who speak truth in even the hardest of times.

Brave comes in all shapes and sizes.  And thank goodness for it.

gratitude: Thanksgiving, a prelude

Half a step past Halloween and we’re solidly into NovemberDecember.  I’m calling it this from now on because there’s no point in kidding ourselves – November isn’t some sweet spot in fall when leaves slowly change as we sip hot apple cider.  December isn’t a leisurely waltz into winter either.  These two months combine into the holy grail of activity as families revolve around each other.

Yep.  Welcome to NovemberDecember.

On the way home from school last week Bear asked me which holiday was my favorite and, like a typical mama, I turned it around on her.  And she told me – wait for it – that most of her friends say Christmas is their favorite because of gifts (duh), but that her favorite is Thanksgiving.  Because Thanksgiving makes her think about being together with everyone she loves.  Thanksgiving is about family and good food.

It may or may not be because we’ve started watching This Is Us, but that answer?  That one made me just a teeny bit weepy.  It’s all the feels.