Monday, December 30, 2013

days 26 & 27: walks in the snow and warm boots.

Many years, when we come to visit my family for the holidays, there's no snow on the ground. This year, there had been an ice storm a few days previous, visible in the trees and wires coated in clean crystalline ice and covered with fresh snow.  El Bandito and I wandered through the fresh snow, threw snowballs, made snowmen.  Enjoyed a brief bit of actual winter.  Grinned like a fool.

And the winter boots that I bought prior to the trip have proved worthy.  Warm feet and good traction. Grateful to have that option.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

day 25: the family gathering

Despite the way my sister and I push each other's buttons, despite the grumbles and the rolled-eyes, I love that I get to spend a few days each year in warmth and tradition. And gratitude to El Bandtio for putting up with the hassle and talking me down when I get a little riled-up.

clear roads and easy travel: gratitude day 24

A fun final day wandering the Windy City with El Bandito before picking up the rental car and heading off to my family for the actual holidays.  Grateful for smooth travel, a convenient car rental and upgrade, grocery stores with good take-out sections to make the drive more palatable.

day 23: the lake in winter

There's something about the icy great lake that always fills my heart with joy.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

day 19: connection. reconnection.

If you've been following along at home for the last few years, you already know that I started this December 30 days of gratitude because of an inspiring, but physically distant, friend: Jote.
That we'd reconnected in the ether with social media allowing us to have found each other and giving glimpses into our lives.

But we hadn't seen each other in almost 15 years.

I mentioned that I went to Austin in December.  I was wrapping up a year of travel, of exploring, and of doing things I've been saying for years I'd do.  That happened to include visiting my friend E. and his lovely family.

And it was also an excuse to see Jote.  With a little trepidation... despite the world of social media, our lives are so different than those unformed college days.  What if she didn't like me as much anymore? What if she wasn't actually excited to see me, but felt obligated to make time in her overwhelmed December pre-holiday schedule because I asked, and it had been so long?

When I opened E's door to head off with the lovely Jote for a cold morning walk, and she bounced her excitement at me... All that was dispelled. This was Jote, and her essential, quintessential, Jote-ness still speaks to my heart.

A couple years ago, I wrote about Jote "Older. Wiser. More bad-ass."  So true. She's a woman with a generous heart, an impeccable sense of what's needed, a snarky sense of humour in a very loving way. She's found a community of women friends that suits her, but I'm glad I'm still among them, even remotely.

So thankful that that connection is still there. That reconnection.  Here's to more reunions and more adventures, Jote. More walks along the water with touching public art displays. More conversations roaming from old to new to future.  And thank you for being so very you.

furry faces: day 18

(although this is being posted later. intended earlier. started, not finished, while I looked for a photo...)

 These furry faces are so very very helpful. Inquisitive.  Demanding. Ridiculous.

I have always been a dog person, but I can't have a dog currently -- I'm not home enough to be fair to the dog yet. Someday.  I'm also a cat person.  A lot of people are one-or-the-other.  Not to say that cats aren't time-intensive, but there's a little less structure to it.

These guys are devoted and have us well-trained.

There's something about having a completely relaxed critter sprawled against you, lacking all dignity, that's incredibly soothing and relaxing.

They force us to sit down and chill out sometimes. and that's a bonus.

And they leave huge pawprints on our hearts.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

day 22: wandering in the city

As much as my face lights up in the mountains -- El Bandito lights up in the city. Oh, he's grown to love the mountains too; I see that same expression on his face in some of the most remote and beautiful places we go together.

But he grew up in the city, and he loves exploring neighborhoods, revisiting favorites, and finding new haunts.

I love wandering with him, that we can just stroll for hours without specific destination or plan, and still enjoy ourselves. And I happen to love the Windy City on its own merits, but that's a different post.

I love that we can find joy in each other's favorite places, even though they're so very divergent.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

day 21: gratitude in the face of sadness

I don't have a beautiful photo for today's post.
I have a lot of sadness.
A friend of mine suffered an incredible, sudden, and devastating loss.
It's not my loss, but I am absolutely gut-wrenched for her.

It's hard, in the face of such things, to find anything to be grateful for, although I've had a lovely day with El Bandito, who holds my hand when the sadness rises through.

And yet also, this is when gratitude is the most important.  To cherish the moments, the friends, the community, the relationships. To appreciate the phone conversations sharing the sad news -- that we all care enough to inform, discuss, mourn together. To reach out to her, and each other.

Life is short. And fleeting. And things change unexpectedly.  If you're reading this, go hug the people you love. And be grateful for them.

the late night plumber: gratitude day 20

days 18 and 19 are yet to be posted though I've held the grateful thoughts.
but tonight we came home to pack for a trip and discovered that the bathtub and sink both had a few inches of standing water in them. Gross, murky standing water that hadn't been there this morning. And didn't respond to plunging or the short snake we have. not the situation you want when leaving the house to a house-sitter...

so today, I'm grateful for the plumber who came out on a friday evening and faced a more cunning and nasty blockage than he'd expected. grateful also for El Bandito, who talked to our landlords who drive me crazy, and cleaned up the mess the (very apologetic) plumber left behind when he finally succeeded in clearing the pipes. grateful that we're in a position where we can pay for an after- hours plumbing visit (and also that we can deduct it from the rent).  And that I can shower before hopping on a plane...

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

days 16 & 17: getting a little holiday spirit

There's something about living in this beautiful city by the bay that makes it hard for me to believe the holidays are nearly here. I've been having some serious grinch moments -- I love giving my friends and family gifts; I hate having a time frame. Because we travel to see family, we don't decorate the house (see also: the cats, one of whom is nicknamed Destructor)

I want more time to wander through the holiday-lit scenes, to go ice-skating in the public outdoor rink, to maybe attend a holiday party or two.

But I keep filling up all my evenings and weekends. With fun things, generally, but not "holiday" things.

A couple of days earlier this week, though, I managed to slip in a few things that make me love this time of year: a walk through the crowded holiday lights downtown on our way to dinner, and a trip to the Nutcracker with a couple of friends, getting our ballet fix.  Although I have to say, I'm glad I found circus rather than reconnecting to dance.

And now, most of our holiday shopping is done (by internet, primarily, although I managed to support some of our local businesses in the process. that's important to me, but so is not having to carry large heavy things across the country).  Tomorrow after work, El Bandito and I have a date for champagne and snacks, and then we start the holiday travel soon thereafter.

So I'm glad I've gotten a few minutes, a few hours, here and there to stop and enjoy some tradition, without feeling too overwhelmed.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

el bandito; gratitude project day 15

I keep getting stuck starting this, because El Bandito deserves just the right words. I'm always grateful to him, even when we're bickering about something stupid. So this will get posted late, but not because my gratitude is insignificant. Overwhelming.

He adds so much laughter to my life. Ridiculous, hysterical, can't-breathe-it-hurts kinda laughter. After all these years, it's the inside jokes, the raised eyebrow, the sideways look -- he know just how to crack me up.

And yet he's also supportive and understanding and ... my safety net.

I declared 2013 to be my year of adventure (though honestly, I'm not planning on slacking off much for 2014).

So I headed off to Eastern Europe to meet a friend for a whirlwind week.  and then met her again in the late spring for a few days of mountain hiking. And went paragliding for the first time.

All of those adventures had El Bandito's encouragement and approval.
Sometimes, he adventures with me.  Eight beautiful days of mountain hiking in the fall -- and he even tried paragliding with me. For someone who is not fond of heights, that's a leap, no pun actually intended. And I love that he's willing to test his own boundaries to come explore the world with me.

When two of my circus friends invited me to go to Myanmar with them, his reaction was "It sounds like you really want to go. We can make this happen."  And it did.  It was wonderful, and I missed him mightily.

Sometimes he restrains me lightly, makes me consider the options, tells me something's a crazy idea. But he's always there, ready to encourage me, celebrate my achievements and catch me if something goes wrong. To hold my hand when I'm nervous before a show. To bring me coffee in the morning. To kiss me on the forehead.  To be there. It's amazing to know.

He'll be there.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

hanging around upside down: gratitude day 14

This was the third show I've performed my static trapeze in at the Circus Center.  The easiest, in many ways, and certaily I felt the most confident about it this time.

And always grateful.

For the opportunities to perform, certainly.

But more for what trapeze has brought in to my life.

The confidence.
The desire to perform.
The satisfaction of learning new skills, of perfecting the challenging ones.

The fitness.  I work damn hard to be able to do these things, but it's also so incredibly fulfilling. And I'm in better shape physically than I was 10 years ago... Probably even than 5 years ago. Or two years ago.  And it made me take up running.

The people. The friends and acquaintances.

Circus family is just that... they bicker, they cheer, they have horrible breakups (I'm thinking of a partner-act or two...) But the support and the excitement for novice performers is pretty awesome, and the joy people express when you nail a trick you've been struggling with is heartfelt.

Along the way, I've made some very good friends. People who have shared hard times with me, people I laugh with and who have cried on my shoulder.  People I have travelled with, in completely non-circus related journeys.

Trapeze has shifted a lot of the focus of my life, for better or for worse. Mostly for better.  It eats up my evenings, sometimes my weekends. Some nights I'm tired and don't want to do my shoulder exercises, even though it's been 5+ years since the shoulder surgery that made it clear to me just how important this is to me.  Some days it seems it would be easier to skip my time in the gym and go have a drink with friends.  But it gives me so damn much in exchange for all the hours put in. So damn much.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Gratitude day 13; a quiet evening at home

Getting home after a long week of work and trapeze training.  A simple dinner.  Both of us reading. The cat complaining we're not ... whatever is it we're not doing to his satisfaction.  A little down time ... not for conversation or communication, or doing all the things we need to do (holiday presents? what? It can't possibly be 11 days until Christmas.).  but just being. together. lazy (although El Bandito has done quite a bit of house-cleaning earlier in the evening).  down time. (in which I might possibly have been researching more crazy adventures. maybe. just maybe.)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

family. gratitude day 12.

Today is my mother's birthday.
She's pretty darn awesome.
I called her this morning to serenade her in my best off-key Happy Birthday song (El Bandito assisted). We often catch up on Thursdays by phone anyway, since I work at home and have a few minutes to grab a phone call without time zones being prohibitive.
The fact is, I enjoy those phone calls with my mother.
With each of my parents, though it's often a little overwhelming to talk to them simultaneously.
But I like that that they call; I like to call them. I genuinely enjoy talking to them.
They're friends; they're family, and they're my parents.
Too many of my friends among my peers have awful relationships with their blood family, through no real fault of their own.  Others have lost a parent, or both parents, or grew up with only one. A number of my friends have commented that they envy me the relationship I have with my folks.

And yes, I can see them aging and it's rough.  Making more visits home, fitting in the phone calls. Because *I* want to talk to them, to hear their stories, their goofiness, their wisdom.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

day 11: generosity of friends and social media

El Bandito had a lousy evening tonight.  The kind that isn't life-alteringly bad, but just kind of grinds you down.  His evening commute home involved the usual Wednesday veggie box pickup, mostly according to plan -- until he continued on by train and the train hit a car.  Sounds like nobody was hurt, so again: inconvenience and annoyance.  And he walked the rest of the way home carrying a very full backpack.

To discover that he'd left his keys (and at some point he'd already discovered: his kindle) at the office. At least that was his hope.

And I was off playing on the lyra and not noticing his texts.  He did the sensible thing -- grabbed the bus over to a favorite restaurant, got some dinner and a drink and waited for me to end my classes and come home.  Which I eventually did, feeling a little chagrinned I hadn't noticed his texts.

But the grumpy facebook post he made was greeted with both sympathy and offers of help: one friend with keys to our house was willing to drive across the city to let him in if necessary.  Another woman we don't know as well offered him her spare room if he needed a place to stay.

So yeah, it was kind of a bummer of an evening and all that. I don't think he's feeling that grateful, though he's a good-humoured guy and will soon dispel the grouchy.  But I loved the reminder that sometimes, you don't even have to ask to have people offer assistance.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

gratitude day 10: a simple hot cup of tea

I was feeling a little under-the-weather today, not helped by the lack of temperature control in my office.

I thought about a mid-afternoon walk to go get a coffee, but that wasn't quite what I wanted.

And I looked over and saw my mug, purchased on a trip to the Canadian Rockies last fall, and realized that a cup of tea (or several, perhaps) was exactly what I needed for the day.

Having this reminder of our trip and the beauty that surrounded it? That's exactly why I bought the mug to take to work.  A hot beverage and some warm thoughts to brighten my afternoon.

Monday, December 9, 2013

random radio-induced nostalgia; gratitude day 9

I don't drive all that often these days; it's often almost easier to get around by public transit, work shuttle, or bike -- and I like to walk places too.
Mondays are an exception, since I drive to one of my circus gyms after work and then home, not wanting to stand waiting for a bus in the chilly darkness. The bus ride home from there takes about 3 times as long as driving, and I sure don't have the energy to bike it after that workout.

So Monday mornings El Bandito and I carpool; I drop him off and continue onward.  Today, I got tired of the callers on the NPR show and changed radio stations to find myself almost immediately singing along to a song I didn't think I'd heard in ~25 years. Such an incredibly fast recall of the lyrics and I found myself humming the Stray Cat Strut all day long. Brought a little lilt to my step.

And on the way home, the same station hit me with another burst of nostalgia and provoked me into sending a note to an old friend to say "hey, I miss you" -- and only she will know why that song made me think of her, and our early teenage years.

Sometimes, you get unexpected gifts if you just take a few seconds to notice them.
Even if they don't provide a good photo hook for blogging :)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

airports and transportation, gratitude day 8.

Not all adventures begin by getting on a plane.
But some do.
And many of mine this year have.
This little jaunt wasn't a big adventure.
Except that I got to see old friends.
Including one fabulous lady I hadn't seen in almost 15 years.
and see a little different part of this country.
and travel with El Bandito, which I always enjoy.
and a beautiful sunset sky.
smooth flights.
and coming home again.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

day 7: gratitude may not involve armadillos...

But it does involve Texas, and this was a photo of a tea towel for sale at a craft fair we attended while visiting old friends; we hadn't seen them for several years (I don't know that El Bandito had seen them in the last decade, although I was lucky enough to reconnect in person a couple years ago).  We spent the day hanging out and doing mostly their normal weekend activities: juggling kids' schedules, errands, some lazy relaxed breakfast time.
When you're not directly involved in the sibling bickering and pre-teen dramatics, it's pretty hilarious to watch. Especially when the affection in the family is also totally obvious.

Friday, December 6, 2013

gratitude day 6: views around every corner

I'm more a wilderness gal than an urban one; I'd rather be hiking in the mountains or wandering a trail than playing in a city. But given that, I can't really complain about this beautiful urban area I live in, and I realize how incredibly lucky I am that squeezing in a lunchtime run also means taking a moment to catch my breath and appreciate the beauty of the manmade as well as the startling clouds.  My favorite cities are the ones with hidden alleys, amazing vistas, and open space; this one does it all.

the kitten windows; gratitude day 5

Every holiday season, the Macy's in the city by the bay teams up with the local SPCA for an awesome outreach and adoption event.  They turn 5 of the store windows into showcases for local cats and dogs (mostly kittens and puppies) in need of homes.

Every year, I make it a point to get downtown at least once to wander past and appreciate the adorable critters, though our two cats wouldn't welcome an interloper... or would they?

I haven't made it down there this year yet.

But several times today, my phone chimed with messages -- a few from El Bandito, one from another friend who'd passed by. They both knew that I love these displays.

While I wish I could take all the cute and cuddly home, I am grateful for the photos, the thoughts behind them, and the good homes being found for critters in need.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The weekly vegetable box. Tasty goodness, fresh from the farm. Not pictured -- the amazing eggs. 
I feel spoiled by this weekly -- and by all the tasty things El Bandito makes me from the produce. I am, however, completely uncertain how we're going to fit this all into the fridge full of soup goodness. What a great problem to have!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

one foot in front of the other; gratitude day 3

When I got home from work today, I was feeling sore from last night's circus workout. My elbows ached; my hamstrings were cranky. My neck was stiff.

The last thing I wanted to do was go for a run. I just wanted to stay home, watch my husband play with pattern-making, cuddle the cat, finish the escapist novel I was reading.

I procrastinated. I might have even whined a little bit. El Bandito might just have laughed at me a bit.

I said "I want to have run. I don't want to run."

But I've got a couple running-related goals. I'm running a 15K in January and I haven't done more than 8-9K in months, and with holiday travel, who knows when or how I'm going to bank the mileage to make that not hurt too much.

And more immediately, sometime back in 2011(?) I set myself a goal of running a minimum of as many miles as there are days in the month -- I can run more, but not less. and I've managed to maintain that despite crazy vacations and hiking trips, despite illness, despite circus training. So, December's wacky schedule, performance, and travel? Not allowed to interfere.

That's usually sufficient to get me out the door, although early in the month it's harder when the days stretch open with possibility in the calendar.

I got outside and shivered and continued to grumble.
And then I got the rhythm. My mind wandered, as it does when I run. I thought about my trapeze act; I thought about the sequences I worked last night on the hoop. I thought about gratitude. I thought about the fact that I'm going to Austin for the weekend on Friday. I thought about needing to rehearse my trapeze act before performing it on the 14th, and about the fact that I was glad I wasn't performing on El Bandito's birthday, as looked possible. And about the fact that he would have supported me if I was. And of the gratitude I have for him, to be more explicitly mentioned later.

And somehow, this late evening on a work-night, run-of-the-mill, grumble-fest of a run turned into one of the best runs I've had in a few weeks. Nothing spectacular, but solid and comfortable and done. And I remembered why I love my runs.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Goose, or gratitude day 2 involves ice cream.

Sometime along the line, I declared 2013 to be the year of adventure. Hopefully, I'll get the energy and motivation to share some of those stories -- it's been a year that included fairly spontaneous trips to Eastern Europe and Myanmar, of all places.  Hiking. Paragliding. Kayaking. Performing.  So much adventure, and it just fills me with more wanderlust.

In June, I grabbed a long weekend and met a friend in Jackson Wyoming for a few days of spring mountain hiking.  She's actually the same friend I flew to catch up with in Eastern Europe.  We were debating whether we can call each other college friends; we finally figured out sometime in the last two years where and how we'd met, because while her ex-husband was Bandito's best friend in college, we knew that wasn't the only connection but we couldn't recall when we'd met. But our friendship has grown over the last two decades, despite living in different states.

She's helped inspire me to travel more independently, to not require El Bandito's company for an adventure although I enjoy it.  She's fueled my wanderlust (the gal hit a lifetime "countries visited" of 40 for her 40th birthday trip; I feel so parochial).  She's supportive. She makes me laugh.

We often finish each other's sentences, and it's somewhat uncanny how often we're on the same wavelength.  Our travels together have been fun and relaxed; we're easy companions and that really simplifies things.  Sometimes, when El Bandito is grouchy with me for not finishing my thought before jumping seven thoughts ahead, I realize how lucky I am to have a friend who makes the same leaps.  I just wished she lived a bit closer.  In the meantime, we'll continue to meet in not-our-homes. And share a pint of ice cream sitting on the roadside after a hot mountain hike, even if we couldn't finish it.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Gratitude, Soup. Day 1.

I wouldn't be surprised if I revisit this gratitude throughout the week, as I open jars and throw together quick and tasty lunches.

But I appropriated Jote's idea (which is another reason this is an appropriate opening day gratitude) and hosted a soup swap tonight.

It gave me a chance to hang out with some of my favorite people.
And now my fridge is filled with jars of tastiness.

I left the guidelines open -- we had a vegan, a vegetarian, some omnivores, some gluten-free folks, some nut allergies...

But In this photo are:  Tuscan Sausage & Kale, Turkey Chili, Hungarian Mushroom, Curried Pumpkin, Parsnip & Leek, Tomato Chickpea, Coconut Red Lentil, and Curried Split Pea.   It makes me happy, even though there are a couple in there I won't eat...

tap tap tap

Is this thing on?

I knew it had been a long time since I sat down and wrote things here, but hadn't realized that 11/12ths of the year had gone by already.

But it's December, y'all, and that means it's time to revisit Jote's lovely idea of 30 days of gratitude.

And man, am I grateful for so many things this year.  Stay tuned...