Good Things Thursday: My Joy in Pictures

This week has been a tough one, both personally and politically. It’s easy to focus on all the horrible things because they stand up and scream at us, while our joys can be a little less flamboyant. But if I focus on the bad all the time, how could I ever find the energy to get out of bed. So I’m going to show up for joy.

I’m first off grateful for my little phone because now I can snap pics of things when I need to. They aren’t great pictures, but they don’t have to be, do they?

The time change. Yeah, I hate the time change, but if we hadn’t set clocks ahead, I’d have missed this view when I opened up the building at the start of my work day.

gratitude

Old window, new day.

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what does radiated tortoise eat

Meatball takes over the sedum snack and polishes it all off. Go, Meatball!

K-brew coffee Knoxville

Coffee and yearbooking with a friend. Thanks, K-Brew!

Phelsuma klemmeri easy to breed

Second generation breeding of my Neon Day Geckos, a critically endangered species. Look at how big those eggs are!

flour beetles, fruit flies

Insect cultures! ALL the feeder insect cultures! I will get my frogs to BREED! I had my water bottle confiscated by TSA, but they somehow missed my feeder insect cultures in my suitcase.

giant tortoise diet

Making good use of found objects. I gave my giant tortoises a 400lb stump. Anderson (pictured in the back) likes to scratch her bum on it, but it’s also great for tucking greens into so they really have to work for their food. Sometimes I have good ideas.

crotalus molossus in zoo

Crotalus molossus. I am training on venomous snakes, and I only have one more session with this snake until I am checked off on this level. It is very exciting and not at all scary because my lead keeper is an excellent teacher. But don’t tell him I told you that.

And my latest joy is that I expect to receive a shipment of tadpoles today. After losing our cat on Monday, I slipped straight through the first stages of grief and onto the lesser-known Order-tadpoles-off-the-internet stage of depression. I’ll let you know if they get here alive. I am doubting it at this point because it is so cold, but there is still hope.

And new surprise goodness, I am off to have lunch with a friend. It might even include FALAFEL!

What is your joy this day?

50 Happy Things: Because Gratitude is Contagious

There’s a whole lot of grateful going on out there on the interwebs. I just happened to catch the wave of it when Dawn over at Tales FromThe Motherland started a whole gratitude blog party. The gist is simple. Write down as many things I am grateful for as I can in 10 minutes. I had to start this a couple of times. First time around, I came up with “sticks,” and “trees.” Because apparently there was too much pressure, or I am a squirrel. So I tried it again. None of it is in any particular order

Stuff I’m grateful for:

My computer. It takes me places.

My husband. We were meant for each other. At a recent Christmas party white elephant exchange, a gift was opened, our eyes locked, and we both knew without speaking that we had to have it. When it was my turn, I took it for our own. We high-fived. It is beautiful.

It's a redneck plunger. It's beautiful. It goes perfectly with our Leg Lamp.

It’s a redneck plunger. It’s beautiful. It goes perfectly with our Leg Lamp.

The Girl-child. She is home for the holidays, and without getting all maudlin, I’ll just say that I forget how helpful and funny she is. It’s good to be a family of five again.

The Padawan. He’s a funny one, and he always makes me laugh.

Squish. He made me late for work. Because he needed to put on a fresh roll of toilet paper.  I have passed on the sacred knowledge.

NaNoWriMo. I made some real strides this year. I needed the prod back into writing, and it has taken my students to places they never thought they’d go.

Gas range. Which I guess officially makes me a boring grown-up. I’m okay with that. It cuts cooking time in half sometimes.

Tech savvocity  I never used to think of myself as tech savvy, but I  am now. I can hate on Windows 10, not because I am afraid of new things, but because it has actually given up functionality.

New things that hatch. Images are borrowed mostly from previous posts, which is why the captions are weird, but I’m almost out of room for photo storage here. Click to enlarge.

My job. I love going to work every day. Who wouldn’t?

My camera. I take thousands of photos every year. I love to catalog stuff.

The blogosphere. Referring specifically to the wonderful people that have come into my life because of blogging, in person sometimes.

Pesky cats. I don’t have words for the weird little fuzzy things that share my space. Pixel is such a kids’ cat. She hears a crash and is off to see how she can help stir things up further. Loki is her spirit-deity.

Maturity My new computer has something wrong with the display, and I had some things stolen from the mailbox at Christmas. But it’s just one of those things, a series of inconveniences, not tragedies like they might have been two years ago. 

Grocery shopping  Don’t get me wrong. I hate grocery shopping because it’s a chore, but it is also a privilege not everyone has.

Holidays. Family fun time is the best time.

Humor. I like to laugh. I NEED to laugh. I discovered The Bloggess this year. I approve. She even retweeted some of my tweets in her awkward fest a few weeks ago.

Good books. There is nothing better than losing myself in a good book. What’s the best book you read in 2015? My e-reader is hungry.

Writing. If I don’t like the world I am living in, I can write myself a new one. I need to do that more.

My friends. They keep me grounded AND encouraged.

Music Trite, but true. Sometimes somebody else sings the songs of my heart. This year I discovered Poets of the Fall.

Free books  My used bookstore has a free bin out front. I find all kinds of treasures in it, like a hardcover Lord of the Rings. Also? Kobo store has some free gems now and again.

E-readers.  I got a new one for Christmas – shiny, back-lit, glorious. I love tree books, but e-readers mean that when my sad hands get all crampy and useless, I can still read.

Getting rid of crap. After Christmas, I try to get rid of at least as much stuff as I brought into the house. I aim for more this year.

My faith. It pulls me through hard times.

My blood family. They’re weird and funny and nutty and wonderful.

My church family. See above. Family is family.

Iwako Erasers. If anyone wants to send me a bag of fifty, I’ll give them a good home.

Harry Potter. This book series has brought much joy into my life and some incredible people. It is made of magic.

SPP. The best little online game that you’ve probably never heard of. I met wonderful people there, some of whom are sisters from other mothers IRL.Also, the first time I had to come to terms with the fact that nothing lasts forever.

This is also the place where I learned that people will complain about ANYTHING. It was a giant education in a little, fun game.

SPP. This is also the place where I learned that people will complain about ANYTHING. It was a giant education in a little, fun game.

My school. I can be in the worst mood ever, but the moment I walk in, I feel the love and joy. My school feeds my soul.

Toys. I like fun. I am naturally attracted to toys.

Lego sets This morning, Squish spent several hours putting together his Mystery Machine Lego set. So I got to sleep in and then READ.

My Chemex. I’m not a hipster, but I do appreciate good coffee. I can’t go back to auto-drip now that I’ve used a Chemex.

Old dogs that can learn new tricks, like how to use a Chemex.

Storage containers As a kid, I dreamed about what Santa would bring me for Christmas. As an adult, I dream about putting it all in clear plastic boxes.

When my kids read my blog and laugh.

Being a recommended humor blog. I think that ship has sailed, but I was on WordPress’s nice list for a nice, long stint.

Good movies

The ability to like what I like without caring what anyone else thinks. This ability was a long time in coming, but better late than never.

Used bookstores.

Wool socks If it ever bothers to get cold again. It’s just after Christmas, and it’s over 70 degrees.

Family photos, especially the ones that hold family secrets. We have a hundred years’ worth of photos, and they are priceless. 

Blogs. My lunch hour is spent reading blogs. Some of my faves are The Middlest Sister, The Kitchens Garden, and 2 Brown Dawgs. I read dozens. There are more, I’m just running out of room here!

Good customer service. The champs this year – Lego Store, Chuck E. Cheese, JCPenney, Mostafa at Hewlett-Packard, and Shutterfly.

New editing tools on WordPress. And also the ability to write in the old admin format. The new one is too minimalist for these eyes to read. So thanks for looking out for us old-timers, WordPress.

Punctuation. I know it doesn’t seem like it from looking at my list, but WordPress wouldn’t play nice with punctuation and formatting today.

There are forty-something on here, I think. The numbered bullets went all nutty when I added images, so I removed them. Too much to do tonight to spend longer than twenty minutes wrestling with the formatting. Want to join us? I hope you do!

Instructions, copied and pasted from Dawn’s blog:

If you’d like to join in, here’s how it works: set a timer for 10 minutes; timing this is critical. Once you start the timer, start your list (the timer doesn’t matter for filling in the instructions, intro, etc). The goal is to write 50 things that made you happy in 2015, or 50 thing that you feel grateful for. The idea is to not think too hard; write what comes to mind in the time allotted. When the timer’s done, stop writing. If you haven’t written 50 things, that’s ok. If you have more than 50 things and still have time, keep writing; you can’t feel too happy or too grateful! When I finished my list, I took a few extra minutes to add links and photos.

To join us for this project: 1) Write your post and publish it (please copy and paste the instructions from this post, into yours) 2) Click on the blue frog at the very bottom of this post. 3) That will take you to another window, where you can past the URL to your post. 4) Follow the prompts, and your post will be added to the Blog Party List. Please note: the InLinkz will expire on January 15, 2015. After that date, no blogs can be added.

 

Pretend this is a blue frog and click here to join the party.

One Step Ahead

Fall is beautiful and wonderful. It’s filled to the brim with family hikes, delicious foods, the incredible smells of fall. And it’s also the time of year I struggle. I don’t know why, but there it is.

I thought that this year I might be immune. My fall is packed with good things. I’m meeting up with people I adore for a whole weekend, I am going to my first out-of-state professional conference for the first time since I had kids, and I may even get to take a challenging eight mile hike I’ve never completed before. Depression can’t bite if I’m in my insulated happy-suit, right? Wrong.

For some inexplicable reason, it sneaked up on me early this year. Maybe it got a peek at my calendar of awesome and knew that this time in the waiting was its only opportunity. Depression is a sneaky little you-know-what. Anyway, it got me. Suddenly yesterday I found myself tangled like a bug in that all too familiar web of self-doubt and despair, all my personal failings both real and imagined playing in a continuous loop.

But I’ve got a secret weapon; stubbornness. This time I refuse to play by the rules. Just because it’s got me doesn’t mean it gets to keep me. There is still good in my world, even if it wants to hide itself behind a mask of inconvenience or disappointment.

I went shopping for a new book but didn’t find anything I wanted to buy. Instead, I found a book in the free bin at my favorite used bookstore.  It was a book sj has mentioned a time or two, but I had never read it.

It rained on Saturday. Poured for hours, knocking outdoor activities off the schedule. Instead, I spent my day in bed reading my free book. And said book turned out to be my first five-star book of the year. It is also on my personal top 10 ever. Ever. It made me cry, it made me think, it made me wonder.

This morning I woke far too early with a sudden, jump-out-of-bed illness. After such a jolt of adrenaline, going back to sleep was impossible. So I canned eight jars of pumpkin butter and did three loads of laundry. After taking Squish to school, I dug in to my afternoon chores. Now my floors are steam-cleaned, laundry is finished. By 10am, all my chores for the day were done. Now I get to start a project I’ve put off for a while, and I get to play.

There weren’t near enough jars for all of my pumpkin butter. A breakfast of hot pumpkin butter, coffee, and fresh bread is divine. And I can do it again tomorrow.

Some of the photos I took last year and had high hopes for are unusable. But the contrast between my old camera and my new are vast. My new camera has incredible capabilities, and I have just scratched the surface of what it can do. There are tortoise books in my future. Plus, by clearing out the bad photos, I’ve made a bit of room on my computer.

I know that positive thinking isn’t a cure. Depression is not exactly a choice, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a choice to be made. I can focus on what’s good and try to stay afloat while I ride out this storm, or I can give in and sink. For today, I am stubborn. I am counting those blessings as fast as I can see them. For today, I’m one step ahead.

 

 

*Update – As I tried to publish this post, Chrome and all its extensions crashed, taking part of my post with it. Depression is a sore loser.

Attitude of Gratitude

I am tired this morning. Not the “Looking forward to a nap” tired. More like the “Wait, why am I wearing my socks in the shower?” kind of tired. I worked back-to-back overnight programs and got very little sleep. It was a long weekend, but I know that I am a lucky girl.

My first group this weekend was a school that visits us every year. I’ve worked with them many times, and without a doubt, they are my favorite group. Not only do they look forward to learning what we have to teach, these eight-year-olds delight in teaching us. The first few weeks of school is spent on zoo stuff. Every subject builds them up for their visit. In Science, they research animals. In Language Arts, they write up the report. Math has them adding and subtracting bananas to feed the monkeys. In Reading, they focus on animal-themed stories. One year, they memorized “Wild About Books” and performed it for us at bedtime. And after their visit, they write the most wonderful thank-you notes. Every student. Did I mention that their teachers are creative? The school is at the top of their state in test scores, and it’s easy to see why.

These kids are a joy. Every single year, they are well-behaved, eager to learn, and greet each opportunity with enthusiasm. The school is tiny, and the teachers know and love each child like they are their own. They aren’t afraid to mete out discipline if necessary, but it rarely is. There’s a level of respect that isn’t often seen in schools these days. The kids behave often because they don’t want to disappoint their teacher.

One more thing I should mention about the school. A sponsor in their community makes it possible for the kids to come for their Overnight, as 60% of them or more live below the poverty level. And some of them live way below. Like, the teachers worry that school lunch on Friday will be the last thing they get to eat until they come to school on Monday morning. Many of their thank-you notes voice appreciation for the food we provide. They are poor, but here’s the beauty of it. None of them know it. In their world, they have a loving adult at home, teachers who adore them, a community who supports them, a sponsor who cares enough to give them a once-in-a-lifetime experience. To their minds, they are rich. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

So if a kid who has so little in the way of material possessions can feel so full in spirit, what about me? Today, my post is about being grateful for what I have.

This weekend, I earned some extra Christmas money.

My sweet husband wrangled the toddler yesterday afternoon so that I could relax and read a book. 

I have enough food in my cabinet to feed my family for a couple of weeks.

The temperature dropped significantly this weekend. I flipped a switch, and I have heat. 

I have an amazing church and church family, and great things are happening. 

I have friends. People I can count on if I need them. I am not alone in the world. 

My littlest one just interrupted my work again. To hug me.  

My daughter, whom I typically have to drag into thrift stores, asked me yesterday if I would take her shopping. At thrift stores. And afterwards, she uttered the words “Thrift stores are great!” I may have wept with joy. 

We found enough modest long-sleeved shirts and sweaters for fall and winter for under $25. Way under. And one of them was “Nightmare Before Christmas.” 

Our 16 year-old cat is still with us, and she has gained some weight since her oral surgery.

My husband helped our middle son clean out and rearrange his room. It looks so great!

I have shelves of good books to read, and blankets to curl up under to read them.

My son still lets me dress him like this: 

Made the wand himself and yes, that's a Gryffindor crest on his shirt!

And what about you? What are you grateful for? Share with me. In your blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, in my comments, anywhere. That’s your challenge, should you choose to accept it. And I hope you do.