Sunday, November 27, 2011

Giving Thanks

It's strikes me that Thanksgiving is the forgotten holiday.  I feel as though every year Thanksgiving fades a little more into the background as Christmas preparations steal the limelight before we've even eaten all our Halloween candy.  Not that I don't look forward to the Christmas season, because I look forward to Christmas all year.  But I also think Thanksgiving has an important part to play in our yearly holiday season, and I'm not talking about Black Friday shopping, football, or having turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie.  Not that I don't love those things, because I do.  I'm the first to admit that it's all to easy to get caught up in those things or forget the whole reason we have a holiday that literally means Giving Thanks.  I meant to write this post on Thanksgiving Day, but I admit, I was too busy eating turkey, watching football, and planning my Black Friday Shopping.  (-;

But perhaps it's better that I write about what I am thankful for today, a few days after Thanksgiving, because I need to be reminded to count my blessings year round, not just on the day that's set aside for it. 

I am blessed, and I know it.  I have a loving family I was born into, and one I married into.  I am especially thankful this year for my husband's family because this is my first holiday season that I have been an "official" member of their family.  I have lived away from my immediate family for years, but I always get especially homesick for them around this time of year, and Jimmy's family have really been my adopted family for the last five years.  They have accepted and loved me as their own, and I know I am a lucky girl to have in-laws like that.

Of course none of that would be possible if I hadn't walked into Hollywood Video six years ago, and I'm so thankful that I met the man of my dreams that night.  I had no idea at the time, but God orchestrated our lives so that we would meet at the right time, and I will be eternally thankful for that.  I have a husband who is my best friend and I am so excited for the next fifty years we get to experience as an adventure together.

In this economy, I would be remiss if I did not say how thankful I am to have a job that not only pays my bills, but I also enjoy going to each day.  I have the nicest group of coworkers and a wonderfully supportive boss, and a job that can be both challenging and rewarding.  This combination is not as common as we would like to think, so I know I am so blessed to have my job.

I could go on and on.  I have loyal and kind friends.  We have a lovely little condo that my husband graciously let me decorate, a  fun-loving puppy, and so much more.

So, friends, if this post doesn't inspire you to make your own list of all the ways you are blessed, then shame on you.  Because not only should Thanksgiving be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of each November, but the other 364 days of the year too.  Let's call every day Thanksgiving, and then maybe the day won't just mean turkey and football anymore. (-;

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Life Lessons from a Dog

On May 21, the day before I turned twenty-five (again, wink, wink), my husband and I drove out to Madera and picked out a nine-week-old lab puppy.  We knew we wanted a female yellow lab and had already decided on the name Cadence. When we met her, with her pretty green eyes, big floppy ears, and the way she seemed to bounce instead of walk, the name fit her perfectly.

My family always had dogs growing up, and my roommates had them in the house I lived in before I got married.  However, it's been a while since I've had a dog that was truly "mine."  Now that I do, and I spend a considerable amount of time training, walking, running, and playing with this puppy, I am reminded of how much animals can really teach us about life.  A dog's perspective of life is refreshing - most of the time she seems thrilled simply to be alive.  It's as though every part of life is a fascinating adventure to her.

When we first got Cadence, we let her sleep on the floor in our room.  Sometime between 4 and 5am each morning, we would get woken up - often by chewing noises or panting, sometimes a crash (uh oh), but usually by a little brown nose right in our faces, and a pink tongue licking our faces as Cadence strained to reach the top of the bed standing on her hind legs.  Her entire demeanor seemed to say "Guys!  It's a new day!  Come on, wake up!  It's time to play!"  All we wanted to do was keep sleeping and avoid the day ahead for a couple more hours, but she couldn't wait to tackle it head-on! 

She absolutely loves life.  Going for a run is an adventure all to itself - so much to see, so much to smell!  I am constantly reminded that though she's just a member of the canine species, she is in at least one way more wise than I.  As is the tendency for us people, I tend to focus on all I don't have.  Little Cadence reminds me that life is a gift.  She isn't concerned with money, possessions, appearance, or ego.  She loves the simple things in life - a ball to chase, a nap, water to play in, a belly rub, a tasty bone, a word of praise from her master.  These things are all she needs to be content.  And even when you take all of that away, somehow she is still just happy to be alive.

A couple days ago I came home from a mentally exhausting day at work, wishing I had more hours in the day, more money in the bank, a car with air conditioning, a cleaner house...the usual grievances.  And then I saw my dog.   She got spayed last week, so she has painful stitches down her middle and a swollen belly.  She can't run, jump, or be in water (everything she loves) for two weeks after the surgery.  To top it all off, she has to wear an Elizabethan collar cone around her neck to keep her from licking or biting her stitches.  This makes it hard for her to do basic things that she usually does like hold a bone in her paws while she chews it.  And she keeps knocking into things and accidentally hitting things when she walks around because she's not used to having something around her head that takes up so much space.  It's pretty pitiful.  If I were her, I'd be hating life. 

Yet, none of this seemed to bother her as she bounced over to me and lay her (cone) head against my leg.  And suddenly I felt very silly for allowing any kind of complaint to occupy my mind.  Who was I to wallow in self pity when this little creature was still content just to be alive and with me?  She could do nothing but lie on the ground wearing a lampshade and yet still she had a big puppy grin and her face and a wagging tail.

So my dog is somehow teaching me a life lesson - to count my blessings (and there are many!) and not the things that I don't like about my life.  The funny thing is, that when I start to count my blessings instead of my complaints, I find that I have so many more to fit in the first category.  I guess Cadence really is on to something.

Philippians 2:14-16
 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure,children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Changes, changes...

I haven't blogged in a few months.  Those of you who are close to me know that a lot has been going on in my life.  I spent the end of January, February, and March moving my belongings (You never truly realize how much junk you have until you have to move it all!) into our new condo.  I have lived in a total of 12 houses, two apartments, and one dorm in my life (so far!) so I think I am an experienced mover.  It's a pain.  Hopefully Jimmy and I will be in this condo for awhile.  We fell in love with this place when we first saw it on New Years Eve ane I fell so blessed to make it our first home as a married couple.  Yes, I said "married."  More about that later. (-:  I have always lived with a lot of other people - my parents, brothers, and a loooonnng list of roommates, but this is the first time having my "own" home.  Decorating has been a blast, and somewhat of an addiction for me.

So I haven't been logging as many miles these days with going to school and then in the beginning of March I found out that I had gotten a promotion to ECOE.  (Bank lingo - basically I take supervisor calls and assist bank branch associates with trouble shooting, bank policy and procedure, etc instead of taking frontline customer service calls.)  I was really concerned about applying for the promotion and almost didn't apply for it because it required six weeks of intense training starting March 14, and I was supposed to have a week of vacation prior to our March 26 wedding, not to mention that Jimmy and I had already booked our honeymoon for spring break, also during that period.  But my boss basically gave me a kick in the pants and told me to apply anyway.  She has always encouraged me and believed in my abilities.  I knew that these oppurtunities only come along once in awhile, so I applied and hoped for there would be some way to have my cake and eat it to.  I had my phone interview and in person interview, and then got the call from the recruiter...they wanted me.  I brought up my plans, and the recruiter was wonderful in expressing Bank of America's desire to work with their employees.  She said they had picked me for a reason and proceeded to jump through half a dozen hoops for me.  Amazingly, they had two training classes, so by joining the second class for the second portion of training I'm still able to go on our honeymoon. (We leave for Hawaii on Monday - so excited!)  So far I'm loving the challenge and extra brainwork required in my new position.

As for the wedding I just took one day off for the wedding, the day before.  I was surrounded by amazing people who helped me and it all just worked out beautifully.  Three of my five bridesmaids are married women and you know it wasn't these girls' first rodeos!  Somehow, with all the behind-the-scenes details, they made everything go off without a hitch on The Day.  Even the rain held off, just long enough for the outdoor ceremony and pictures.   I took my sweet dad's arm and went down that aisle, declared my undying love for my best friend in front of all the people I love and then partied the night away!  It was the perfect day.

So now for the real adventure...married life!  I get to add WIFE to my list of hats, and I am convinced God created me for this role along with the others.  I plan to live up to that as best I can, though I think I have it easy because I get to partner in the life with a man who is easy-going, forgiving, sweet, and without a fail can always make me at least smile and often laugh.  I have no doubt that he is exactly who God planned for me to marry, long before I had any idea there was a red-haired boy growing up in Fresno, California, who would one day steal my heart.

But that story is just beginning.  To be continued...

Monday, January 17, 2011

World Vision and Venice Beach

I collected 13.1 more miles yesterday morning.  I ran the World Vision Half Marathon in Santa Monica.  World Vision is an incredible organization that gives us a chance to make a difference in the lives of children in third world countries around the world.  I first learned about World Vision as a child because my parents would support a child.  For twenty dollars a month, it is possible to actually pay for an entire month of a child's food (I don't know about your grocery shopping, but twenty bucks wouldn't even get me through a week here) and education.  I remember as a child reading the hand-written notes that our little boy in Ethiopia would send us, thanking us for giving him the chance to learn about Jesus and meeting his medical needs.  I don't mean this as a plug for the organization, but if you ever feel a pull to make more of a difference in the world, why not start with one needy child?

Running along the boardwalk and Venice Boulevard with thousands of other runners, I was again reminded of one of the things I love about running - the sense of community I instantly feel with people I have never met before.  Something about putting in the work and dedication to prepare for, and the perseverance to finish a sporting event like this  bonds us all together.  I can't tell you how many times I heard my name cheered for from other runners along the route (my name was on my bib, or tag, that I wore pinned to my shirt) and surprisingly, even from the homeless people lined up along the side of the road, all their belongings in stacks or shopping carts beside them.  Seeing these people, with so much less than I have, content to cheer for a stranger running by touched my heart. 

Afterwards, exhausted and with tight leg muscles and blisters, we walked down the beach, by the shops selling "medical marijuana" (wouldn't it be "medicinal"?), henna tatoos and the real thing, beaded bracelets and artwork, I watched the people around me.  There were people from all walks of life, young and old.  The exhausted runners like myself, making their way to their cars to drive back to their middle-class lifestyles, volunteers who worked the charity event, tourists and vacationers playing volleyball on the beach, surfers, the hippie-types selling their art, the drugged-out and the mentally ill transients, and those who live that lifesyle by choice.  Sometimes it's good to get out of my corner of the world and see other parts of it.