Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Smile, smile, smile....

Mother Teresa said a lot of beautiful things about smiles, and here are three of my favorites:
“Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love."

“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”

"Peace begins with a smile."

Driving home from getting my back cracked on Monday, I found myself to be ultra-attentive to the people in the cars around me.  I don't really know why, as I pass hundreds, if not thousands of people on the roads everyday without a second thought (that sounds kind of sad to me for some reason).  But for some reason, I was feeling observant and connected to the people around me.  I sat at a red light and looked at the middle-aged man sitting in his truck next to me.  He look stressed or annoyed at something, but as I thought more about it (and creepily stared at him) it appeared his face might have just been in a permanent scowl/frown.  How does that happen?  Was he born frowning, or has his face  and its many muscles trained themselves over time, due to his general disposition, to rest in the frown position?  I started thinking about myself, trying to casually glance at myself in the rearview mirror to see what my 'resting face' looked like.  (This obviously did not work, as I just 'happened' to be smiling from ear to ear.)  I remember being in high school and thinking about this same phenomenon, that some people seem to always be smiling or grinning, and others seem to be caught in a perpetual frown.  An influential teacher and minister in my life when I was in high school had pronounced lines on the sides of her eyes.  I now know they are called 'crow's feet', but at the time, I thought of them as smile lines.  It was as though she was always taking in the wonder around her (I was usually with her in the context of prayer and retreat experiences) with an open heart and a sense of awe and gratitude. When I reached 'middle age', I wanted to have smile lines, too, and hoped to greet the world with awe, wonder and gratitude. 
I've been obsessing about this idea of smiling since the yoga teacher meditated and challenged me on it last week.  Like, when I am pushing myself on a run and feeling the burn in my lungs, to smile... and give a spot of thanks for the ability to run.  When the driver (I thought was letting my into his lane and gave him a wave out the window) gives me a 'thumbs down' sign (at least it wasn't another hand gesture...), I smile and hope to soften the tension between us.  Actually, I laughed out loud.  Ooops.  Or when I encounter someone who seems stuck in a perpetual scowl, to affirm them and try to give them reason to smile.  One of my colleagues shared this youtube video with our department last Christmas.  (the next time you have 15 minutes, you must watch this... and invite people to watch with you!  Seriously, it seems a little goofy in the beginning but it is AMAZING!)  It has become one of my favorite resources in the classroom, and even inspired a collaboration between my seniors and a freshman class to, together, wallpaper our lockers at school with notes of affirmation and beauty.  It makes me smile just thinking about it.  What if I made it a point to greet every morning with a smile?  It's easy in these summer months when my schedule and workload is a bit more flexible and low key.... but as the school year commences, I hope to celebrate with a smile.  But maybe the greatest challenge is to maintain that smile, or at least appreciation, as the day goes (or drags) on.  In the Happiness Project, one of the questions she considered focused on whether some people are just intrinsically happier than others or is it a conscious choice in how people react to situations in their life?  There are various arguments and viewpoints on either end, as well as many who think it is a combination of both.  What I've found true in my own life is that there are many things outside of my control, but one thing within my control is how I react to situations.  It's often a battle against my emotions, and it can be challenging, but being mindful, prayerful, reflective and intentional can allow us (or at least me) to choose how we react.  It takes time, to step back from situations, even if it just taking a deep breath after the guy gave me a thumbs down on the road, instead of reacting with frustration or annoyance, and laughing at the situation and his funny gesture.  Honestly, it makes me feel better to laugh or smile than to complain and fill myself with tension and frustration.  So, smile smile smile!  (you'll find that song sticks in your head after you watch the video... or maybe it's just after watching it a million times like I have)! 
Or, you could take W.C. Fields' approach:  Start every day with a smile and get it over with.  
I don't suggest it, though :)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Living locally

One of the overarching themes that are guiding my desire to live with intention is about building and sustaining community.  A lot of the various goals I set for myself fall under this larger theme, and I've found living in my new neighborhood to lend itself to focusing on community.  I started my weekend out with an evening of yoga and meditation (despite the thunder claps and torrential rain outside) at the neighborhood yoga studio.  Feeling connected with the women sitting next to me, even though I didn't speak to all of them, in our shared practice and focus on smiling refreshed and energized me.  It has been a wonderful opportunity to push and challenge myself- but within community instead of on my own.  Although I've loved running and training on my own (and hope to continue to up my distance in the coming weeks), there is something empowering and even humbling about stretching and pushing yourself physically alongside other people.
After picking up some rations at the market on Saturday, I spent a good portion of today cooking (while Ryan brewed a yummy Saison).  I made some (low fat) chewy granola bars, some oatmeal bread, rosemary flatbreads that I smeared with fresh goat cheese, pesto and sundried tomatoes, and then we had some fresh edamame.  I'd only ever had edamame from a frost-bitten bag before (and remember being troubled a couple of years ago when Trader Joe's took it off their shelves... when I asked why, I was told that they were getting it from China so they wanted to find an importer that had higher, um, standards of their exported products) and they were delightfully fresh after I got all the dirt and grime off of the pods and removed the stems.  Purchasing food from the people who actually lifted it out of the ground, or buying salmon from the couple who actually live in Alaska for 6 weeks a year (yes, I want their life) and then transport it to various markets and shops in PA, made the system of relationships that brings food to my table quite tangible.
As I prepare for the new school year and pick up some clothes, I feel compelled to consider these same themes as I buy clothing and shoes.  Whose hands will contribute to making my clothes, from the cotton growing in the fields to the driver of the truck to my local Kohl's?  And how much of my payment will go to repay them for their labor?  If only the farmer's market sold clothing, this might be a whole lot easier to expand my local lifestyle to my clothing.
What if I considered this every time I made a purchase?  As we face a global economic market that is just barely staying afloat, maybe there is something we can all learn from the chic phenomenon of buying local.  An Iowa-based nonprofit recently released a study about the huge (positive) economic impact that farmers' markets have on local economies.  Now I am no economist, but I imagine if the federal government focused some of its funding and subsidies on these farms instead of giving the majority to large-scale industrial farms who mostly export their products, the result might just boost our local economies.  Those are my wonderings on living locally, courtesy of little old me :)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Duty to Delight

I just finished reading Gregory Boyle's Tattoos on the Heart (just in time for the start of school, since I did assign it for my summer reading group...) and found myself laughing, crying, and being moved as I turned each page.  This was one of those 'can't put down' books that was wrapped up within a 24 hour period- but it will continuously be picked up again.  Fr. Boyle is a Jesuit living in LA, known for his work with gangs that have plagued the community for decades through his organization 'Homeboy Industries'.  His ministry started out as a parish priest, working to keep the peace in the midst of two of the most dangerous rival gangs through dialogue, compassion, and aligning himself with the kids in the gangs.  He dove in head over heels, particularly early on in his time within the community, riding his bike through the neighborhoods at all hours of the night, nearly missing some drive-bys through the years.  As he listened to the 'homies', he heard a theme: they needed jobs.  And as he says, sometimes you can understand why they might not be getting jobs.  He describes a young boy, recently released from prison, who is frustrated that he can't get hired anywhere.  Fr. Boyle imagines him ringing up an order at McDonald's as mothers scurry their children out of the store sans hamburgers: the boy's forehead is tattooed 'F--- the world'.  So, in addition to creating job opportunities and training, Homeboy Industries provides tattoo removal.  Most of the homies have gang-affiliations tattooed all over their body, so this is an important step in their movement beyond the gang lifestyle.  The jobs span through various industries and Homeboy Industries themselves have a screen-printing business, cafe and bakery among others.  I could write for hours about Fr. Boyle, but I will let you read for yourself.  Pick up the book while you're at it!  Right here!
Amidst the heartbreaking stories of young men who turned their lives around and were still gunned down, or the kids who couldn't shake the gang and drug-filled lifestyle, there is endless humor and irony, as well as redemption and new life.  It is a very sacramental book and threads themes of birth and death throughout.  Fr. Boyle quotes Dorothy Day, who quoted Ruskin, that we all have a duty to delight... "an admonition, really, to be watchful for the hilarious and heartwarming, the silly and the sublime.  This way will not pass again, and so there is a duty to be mindful of that which delights and keeps joy at the center, distilled from all that happens to us in a day (Boyle, p.148)."  He tells two hilarious stories to illustrate this concept.  Fr. Boyle is being interviewed on air at a local radio station in LA.  A caller is brought on the line, and he recoginizes the name as one of the homies working for him.  As they take the call, the boy explains that he can't make it to work today.  He calls out from work... by calling into a radio talk show.  Um, okay.  Kind of hilarious.  But really, the best story... another young man called out (to the office) from work one day and told the woman who took the call that he was suffering from anal blindness.  What is that?  Oh, "I just can't see my ass coming to work today."  I will have to remember that the next time I need a mental health day!  Love it!
Even in the midst of a frustrating day, moments of despair or uncertainty, we have a duty to delight.  To laugh at ourselves or the hilarity of life...  Like as I was walking out of yoga last night feeling very zen-like as the rain drops fell, and I approached the crosswalk, clearly marked with signs to yield to pedestrians... and one, two, three, four cars fly by.  I wave my hand, like come on guys!  GRRR!  And then I laugh, at myself and the irony of being at peace and centered, and letting the littlest thing fire me up.  I relished and delighted in my humanity, my imperfections and my beauty.  The focus of the yoga practice for the evening had been to smile, and I had the biggest, most genuine smile on my face when I (finally) crossed the street.
How necessary it is to cultivate a spirit of joy. It is a psychological truth that the physical acts of reverence and devotion make one feel devout. The courteous gesture increases one's respect for others. To act lovingly is to begin to feel loving, and certainly to act joyfully brings joy to others which in turn makes one feel joyful. I believe we are called to the duty of delight.  -Dorothy Day

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Back to school!

Almost two months ago, I posted about my participation in the Jesuit Collaborative gathering in Philadelphia.  This experience challenged me to look at my perspective about faith and community at work.  I was overcome with jealousy when I heard about the different 'Ignatian Leadership Programs' at some Jesuit schools for faculty/staff, students, and even parents (all separate gatherings) and the faith sharing and prayer groups focused on the spiritual exercises.  And I pondered the question: Do I jump ship and find a job where these amazing programs are already in existence and thriving, or do I consider taking the risks involved in fostering that culture (which may already exist) and similar opportunities at my current school?  I made the commitment and choice to look into creating it at my school.  So, it's time to hold myself accountable.  Where have I gone with that?  Other than a few dreamy conversations with friends in the field of ministry, with Ryan, and even with a few former students, I haven't 'done' anything.  And, the clock is ticking as our first back to school meetings are in just two short weeks.  AHHH!!  I ended up with a surprise day off from babysitting today, and I will spend the day doing some back to school planning and conversing with colleagues.  Keeping myself grounded in a positive and open attitude is most important...  Imagine the possibilities and embrace the growth.  I am truly blessed to be in a school that is full of people who are vibrant, passionate about the school and the mission, and who have a lot of fun together, too!  I just get a little nervous whenever trying something new that puts me in a vulnerable position.  I guess that's human, but I am sick of it holding me back from taking the risk and letting the spirit do the rest.  There's not much time left to ponder, it's time to start taking some action steps!
"Beautiful is the moment in which we understand that we are no more than an instrument of God; we live only as long as God wants us to live; we can only do as much as God makes us able to do; we are only as intelligent as God would have us be."  -Archbishop Oscar Romero
I end with this quote as one of my former students departs for El Salvador today, for a semester abroad.  I am inspired by her faith and commitment and courage! 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Focusing on the positive

One of the goals I set out at the beginning of my "last year as a twenty-something" challenged me to spend more time, energy and thought on the positive in all aspects of life (relationships, work, life, faith, community, etc.).  A beautiful and somewhat over-used phrase, 'focus on the positive' reminds me of my dad giving me advice about sports... when I felt frustrated that I didn't get to play long in a game, he encouraged me to focus on the positive of being a part of a team with such great friends and coaches.  When I turn this timeless wisdom over to my personal life, it is a little bit more difficult to practice.  It's like a phrase you'd see on a greeting card for 'encouragement' or under a generic picture in a gift shop.  But as I've been reflecting on this theme over the last few days, it has become much more real and life-giving in some of the relationships in my life.  Now if I asked the people involved in those relationships, they may not have noticed a difference in me and/or our relationship.  However, I have felt a difference, in my heart and in my affection towards other people (whether it is expressed through action or merely in how my heart feels when I think about them).
There are often moments when I am around certain family members that I just feel disconnected.  Perhaps I assume we have little in common, or that if I tell them what is really on my mind they won't understand or appreciate what I say.  Often it has to do with differences in communication.  I am talker, a thinker and now, a writer.  I try to be expressive about my feelings and emotions and find it sometimes difficult to relate to people who don't share this way of being.  I talk to my parents at least 3-4 times a week, and they tend to know what is going on in my daily life (like what I had for dinner, who I saw over the weekend, etc) in addition to knowing how I'm feeling emotionally and spiritually.  Ryan does not have that same relationship with his parents, although he and I do have that type of relationship with each other (thank goodness!) but what I have learned is that it does not mean they love Ryan (and I) any more or less than my parents.  Instead, they express their love and affection differently... but the feeling of love is not any less than what I have with my parents.  This was so obvious to me a couple of weeks ago when Ryan and I were moving.  As the move came up suddenly and it was a dreaded weekend in the summer in Philadelphia when most people who can run for the beach, we found ourselves struggling to find friends to help with the move.  Ryan phoned his parents, who had offered to help, and asked if they wouldn't mind coming.  Initially they would just meet us at the new place to unload the truck but as the move got closer we realized we'd probably need them to help load, too.  Thankfully a couple of friends were able to help as well (you rock!) but we would not have been able to do it with their help of carrying things, and Ryan's dad's expertise in loading a moving truck (going back to his high school days as a mover in the summers).  Not only that, but after we unloaded the last item from the truck, Ryan's mom unloaded rations from her car... still warm homemade fried chicken, an array of delicious sides and chips, even plates, napkins and utensils.  The thoughtfulness, generosity and kindness brings a tear to my eye as I write this.  When you're in the middle of transition (and will likely not be able to cook for a series of days- which, if you know Ryan and I, is pretty miserable) there is really nothing as great as a home-cooked meal.  That is love.  Expressed differently than I was used to perhaps, but it is love.  My parents, on the otherhand, chuckled when I asked them when they'd be in town to help move.... but their love was shown through several phone calls (sometimes in one day) to encourage, or let me vent about the massive amount of stuff that still needed to get done, etc. etc... and they will show their love by taking us out when they fly down to visit once we are all settled!  I should mention they don't leave MA in the summer- the time of the year when they truly love living in New England :)  Lucky them! 
Focusing on the positive, being open to and receiving something as it is instead of wishing it was something else, is a mantra that I hope to maintain in all of my relationships.  I was sharing this thought with my friend (previously mentioned, the amazing woman with her second set of twins keeping her busy... as well as the 2 year old boys) and she told a story that just hit it on the head for me.  Her sister-in-law was described as an 'ultra-conservative' who, as my friend described, sounded like someone who was not open-minded and would be difficult to have a conversation with unless you agreed with her viewpoints.  My friend does not agree with her, and said she would not necessarily choose to be friends with her.  But, her sister-in-law will randomly call her up, and just say something to the effect of: "You are amazing.  You are doing such a good job with your children, and I admire you for all that you are doing."  Though they might not kick back with a glass of wine and share the state of their hearts with one another, the essence of that phone call is love... true, unconditional love.  That is what we should hold on to.  Instead of doing what I sometimes do, wishing that a relationship could be different.  This might mean with a friend, wishing we saw each other more often, or wishing I kept better in touch with my friends who live far away, beating myself up for what I haven't done to maintain relationships.  Though there is merit in seeing ways we can improve our relationships and communication, sometimes it is most important just sit back and, focus on the positive.  It leaves me in a much better mood than when I focus on the negative, and that's got merit in my book. 
One last thought...  last night, Ryan and I got together with a friend and her two friends from work.  Ryan was the only guy present (and though he did do a double check on the way there to make sure he wasn't crashing a ladies' night) and it just made me sit back in gratitude for what an amazing man I've married.  I left the party for a moment to powder my nose, and I just thought to myself, I am so freaking lucky.  Ryan is hilarious, kind, open-minded and considerate.  He was the first to jump up to wash dishes, the first to laugh at himself when I started sharing embarrassing stories of our last fight, engaging in stories of pregnancy & fertility (one was pregnant, one is trying- not us on either count!), relationships and just being himself.  Though I definitely wouldn't say I focus on the negative in our relationship, I don't always celebrate the positive as much as I should... perhaps I take things for granted.  What a graced moment, to be a witness to what an amazing husband I have.  Okay, enough of the gushing.  But seriously, let's just focus on the positive!
I had to share a cheesy inspirational poster to round it all out:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Give yourself permission

Last night I indulged myself in trying out the 'live music' yoga class in my new 'hood.  My father is a regular yoga practitioner, attending classes like clockwork three times a week for several years now.  I've taken a few classes with him when our schedules have allowed, but I have never caught the passion for yoga quite as he has.  I think part of my reason for that is that I think of yoga as an indulgence... it costs money to have a 'good' yoga teacher.  There was a time that our local gym had an awesome teacher, but since she moved to NYC a couple of years ago, I've been unable to find someone I like (and who teaches classes in the evenings).  I'd never considered a yoga studio before, though I listened to some of my friends talk about it and it sounded like a heavenly experience.  When I saw the sign for 'Friday night live music yoga' for just $6, I figured it would be spending less than if I went to happy hour so I might as well give it a try!
In the last few weeks, I've been internalizing a bit of frustration over some issues with my back.  Getting some x-rays this week (just to have, as the doctor said) and spending an excessive amount of time at the hospital where I got them done led me to enter what I may call panic mode.  I watched people go by with canes or in wheelchairs and I wondered if/when that would be me.  I felt pangs of guilt associated with these thoughts, as I told myself I should be grateful that I can even walk, see, talk, etc.  I wondered when I'd be able to run again (I have a 10K mud run coming up to celebrate our second anniversary of marriage- romantic, I know).  I thought about how sick I am of going to get treatments on my back 3-4 times a week, and that they seem to be set back by things out of my control (like having to give my dog a bath after she rolled in poop on our walk earlier this week... lifting a 45 lb dog into the tub- twice since she escaped the first time- is something I used to be able to do easily) and then I was berating myself again for being so selfish, feeling sorry for myself when really, my problems aren't all that bad in the end. 
As I sweated, stretched and deepened my mindfulness last night at yoga, the musicians played an acoustic rendering of Bob Marley's Three Little Birds.  The refrain, 'every little thing's gonna be alright' warmed my soul.  I literally felt an air of peace, acceptance and surrender come over my body, my mind and my heart.  The tension in my shoulders, my jaw, and my lower back loosened.  As the yoga practice wrapped up and I lay on my back, I considered how healing and challenging this past hour had been for me.  I realized that I needed to give myself permission to practice yoga or to find other things that helped my back and my spirit cope with whatever is going on in my body.  Most importantly, I need to stop dismissing my concerns or holding them up against the concerns or problems of others to somehow prove their worthiness or unworthiness. 
As Ryan pointed out to me last night, yoga will be a way for me to not only release the tension and challenge myself physically... it will also be a way to center myself and release the tension I hold related to stress, anxiety, and everything else.  Who knows, that just might be part of the problem with my back in the end.  Either way, I am giving myself permission to indulge and do something for me... no altruism here, just self-care.  And that's not a bad thing.   

Friday, August 12, 2011

"And a little child will lead them"

Over the last couple of weeks, the news has been overwhelmingly drab about the financial crisis, S & P ratings and stock market losses.  I'm trying not to pay too much attention or allow myself to worry more than I already do about money because I remember the wisdom of a billboard on the PA turnpike just as you are heading into NJ: Hysteria feeds recession.  Chill out.  I love it.  So I am trying to chill out and keep things in perspective... and then this little girl named Rachel has popped up on my radar, providing the leadership, perspective and 'reality check' that we all need.
Rachel was a young and spunky kid who, in lieu of her ninth birthday, asked friends to donate $9 to a project that provided clean water to kids who didn't otherwise have that access.  She couldn't believe that people didn't have clean water, and so she wanted to do something about it.  This spirit of philanthropy and compassion started years prior when she learned about Locks for Love at age 5, and insisted on cutting her long hair to donate for kids with cancer whose hair fell out due to chemotherapy.  She did it several times.  Until a couple of weeks ago, when Rachel was in a car with her family that was hit by a truck and she was critically injured.  Her story circulated, and according to an article in the NYTimes, contributions continue to pour in, having raised over $850,000 to date for clean water efforts.  The selflessness, courage and consideration of this young girl and the challenge that her short life provides to all of us worried about credit ratings and interest rates is multi-layered.  On one level, she acted- she didn't just think.  How often do I see a story or a foundation and think, I should donate or volunteer?  But really, how often do I actually do something?  On another level, Rachel's life is not about building up our level of security and comfort for ourselves.  Rather, she lived for others, making sacrifices and giving freely without seeking anything in return.  There is something pure, authentic and yet so challenging about her life.  I wish our political and economic leaders could read her story and have a little reality check.  I know it helped change my perspective a bit.  Thanks Rachel, you are a leader in the truest sense of the word.  Rest in Peace.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What motivates us to be kind to others?

This question has been bouncing around in my mind over the last few days.  What are the motivations for acting kindly and doing generous acts for others?  In the psychology of happiness theories, doing things for others has a direct correlation with a person's happiness... it makes us feel warm and fuzzy.  But for me, it also makes me feel connected with people.  I like the concept of being a part of a community, however local or global it may be.  Doing things for others often helps to build that community and foster relationships within it... whether it is by holding the door for someone at the post office or helping to build houses for people on the other side of the globe. 
Speaking of holding the door open for others, let me share a little story that took place in my new neighborhood.  I got home from work at 4:15 to find a note in my mailbox that a package was waiting at the post office.  After a quick check on the post office's website, I determined I had about 12 minutes to make it to the post office.  So I grabbed the dog and got in the car, fingers crossed that we'd make it in time despite the afternoon traffic.  I pulled up just at 4:26, happy that I'd be able to get the big package today.  When I showed the slip to the kindly postal worker, he explained the slip was filled out incorrectly, and the package won't be available for pick up until tomorrow.  For some reason, this annoyed me.  It's not as though I was awaiting anything important, but rather some medicine, treats and a new litter box for the animals.  Nonetheless, I was frustrated and unsure of when I'd be able to make it to the post office again this week during normal business hours.  As I harumphed my way out of the post office, a woman was walking up the stairs armed with a box of packages to be mailed.  I waited for her, holding the door so she could ease in just as the clock struck 4:30.  When she passed me and entered without saying 'thank you' for my kindly act, I found myself saying 'You're welcome' after her.  Harumph.  When I got down to the sidewalk, a man approached me explaining that the woman who'd just gone in the post office dropped this package out of her box.  And, he was walking his dog so he couldn't bring it in to her.  Would I mind?  Why, I'd love to, almost getting a smug sense of satisfaction of 'killing her with kindness'... she couldn't say thank you, and I will just go one step further and help her out some more.  I trotted into the post office, handed her the package, explaining she had dropped it outside, and she motioned what I recognized to be sign language 'Thank you'. 
Oh.  So it wasn't that she was ungrateful for my act of kindness by holding the door open to her.  What is wrong with me?  I saw her walking in again after I'd left the post office carrying some more packages, and so I went over to her car and helped her carry in the rest of her packages.  It was my penance, whether she even realized it or not, for my selfishness and false assumptions.  It got me thinking... why do I expect that people thank me for things I do like open the door, let a car into my lane or offer to help a friend move?  If I didn't receive this gratitude, would I stop giving?  And, most of all, who am I to assume that someone is ungrateful or rude if I don't hear the verbal thank you or receive a note in the mail? 
The wisdom of my high school english teacher rings true...  When you assume, you make an ass out of u and me.  Whoops.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


These last two weeks have been a whirlwind of packing, sorting, unpacking and organizing...  and it looks like we are totally settled here in our new place.  The boxes have been emptied and broken down, and the guest bed even has sheets on it (just in case anyone wants to come visit, hint, hint!) but most importantly, it has started to feel like home. 
As I think about what I've learned these last two weeks both in the experiences I've had of moving and in the great book I've been reading (thanks to Liz for lending me 'The Happiness Project') one word stands out the most:  Perspective.  Often we take for granted the things that make us happy and comfortable because we've become accustomed to them, and forget that they aren't 'givens' or something we are entitled to because of our mere existence.  Embarking on this next journey of my life in a more 'suburban' existence and lots of modern conveniences, my eyes have been opened to appreciate many things that I might have otherwise taken for granted.  Ryan and I have been in awe of the fresh air, the clear(er) skies at night, the soothing rhythm of cicadas and crickets... the rustling of the leaves in the tree outside our window (yes, a tree!  hooray!) and the ability to bake in the summer, comfortably, thanks to central air.  Now that we are totally unpacked, I've been on a bake and cook-a-thon, making some rustic whole wheat bread, granola bars with cranberries, nuts and dark chocolate, corn muffins, bison-meat chili and a peach & blueberry crisp.  The joy of meeting the farmers who produced the majority of the items used in my recipes at the farmers' markets this weekend (even the cornmeal was produced at a local historic mill that I will obviously visiting in person soon to participate in their monthly tours and participatory sessions) makes the cooking and baking more holistic.  I already feel very connected to this community, and see the many things I have to be grateful for as a part of it.
I was able to chat with one of my aunts this week and filled her in on the new digs.  I was laughing, telling her about the many things I love about our new area that I never thought I'd want/appreciate... that I'd pegged myself to be an urban, 'hip' gal (where the idea that I hip came from, I don't know) and she laughed at me and said frankly, you're turning 30... you want different things.  I guess that's true.  I also appreciate different things, and hope I don't start taking those things for granted once the newness wears off.  Staying mindful of my blessings is really what living intentionally is all about at the end of the day.
Moving, not having internet, and being forced by the workhorse husband to finish unpacking forced a break in my blogging.  I've missed it, and I am glad to be back :)