Sunday, July 31, 2011

More tomorrow...

Upon my mom's request, I changed up the font on the blog, since she found it hard on the eyes (and perhaps others did, too.)  I will write and put up pictures about today's events some time tomorrow, since I'm pretty tired out.  But I have to say that today marked one momentous occasion: I wore some of Sarah's clothes!  It only took 15 years, but I can finally raid her closet!  Yes!  She's also taller than me now.  I knew that would happen, though.  I always predicted she'd be 5'9".  She's probably 5'8" right now, I'm guessing, and at 15 she has time to grow still.  It's great to see her!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

In St. Louis!

It's 11:17 PM local time, but my body is two hours behind, so I'm still feeling awake.  That's pretty remarkable, though, given the short and choppy nature of my sleep last night.  I don't sleep easily before big events. Poor Allen is at home in Oregon: being a working man, he doesn't have the chance to take a lot of time off, so it is just Ruby and me vacationing out east.
I promised him that I'd write about it every day, so here it goes.
Ruby woke up wayyyy too early this morning (5:30) and was getting tired by the time that Andy and Alishia dropped us off at the airport...not auspicious.  I had decided against bringing a stroller, but if I ever travel with this age/size baby again I will go ahead and bring one!  She's too big to wear in a Baby Bjorn, but she can't be trusted to stick by my side and walk the whole way either.  Carrying her and trying to manage purse, tickets, and rolling carryon was a bit of a handful, to say the least.  Still, we made it through all of the usual hurdles just fine.  We were flying Southwest, which lets you choose your own seating.  We went during family boarding time.  I got aisle seats every time.  On the first leg of our trip (PDX to SAC) there was no one in the seat next to her, so this facilitated her falling asleep in my arms.  She slept through the end of the flight and the time when the Sacramento passengers deboarded and the new passengers got on--AKA a good time to use the bathroom on the plane and stretch--and awoke as we were taking off.  Thankfully, air pressure changes didn't seem to bother her ears too much.  On some of the take-offs and landings she was drinking from a bottle, but not all.
On the second leg (SAC to LAX) there was a woman in the seat next to her, so stretching out didn't work well.  Thankfully that was the shortest leg of the trip.  The woman didn't have much to say positive or negative about being next to a baby, so it was okay.  We were supposed to stay on the same plane for the whole trip, and at the end of the second leg, I was just preparing to use the bathroom, change Ruby's diaper, and get her lunch out, only to hear the pilot announce that they needed to do a plane swap and we all had to rush to Gate 2.  So I did, not without some chaos (and almost forgetting my purse on the plane!  Thank you God for the alert flight attendant who stopped me).  Mercifully there was a bathroom right next to Gate 2.  But Ruby did pull one of her old tricks and peed while I was changing her, so she got part of her clothes wet...and I had NOT (as I thought) put in a fresh outfit in the carry-on.  Oops.  Luckily she only got herself a little bit wet.
I made it onto the new plane for the last--and longest--leg from LAX to STL.  Having a baby in your lap is a great way to keep people from sitting by you, by the way.  The people who ended up being near us were a really lovely mom and teen daughter who were fabulously kind and patient.  Ruby took a liking to the lady right away and kept touching her arm and definitely getting into her personal space, but the mom didn't mind.  Over the course of the flight she ignored Ruby's flailings, shared some Apple Jacks cereal with Ruby, and let Ruby play on a coloring book app on her iPhone.  Pretty awesome.  It would not have been as good a flight without her!
The most frustrating part was that my carryon had to be stowed overhead, where it was a big pain to get at.  The ride was bumpy for much of the time, so we were supposed to stay buckled a lot.  All of Ruby's food, toys, and diapering things were hard to get at, so it was harder to keep her entertained.  But all in all, I think she did really well.  She didn't have any major meltdowns; just a bit of fussing when she was tired.  She practiced waving at other passengers, and the flight attendants said she was very well behaved.  Perhaps they are just flattering me, but they've probably also lived through worse.
Mom and Sarah were waiting for me at the airport.  It was great to see them!  I hadn't been to St. Louis since Allen and I drove out in June 2009.  When last hear, the house was still under major renovation and didn't have a functional kitchen.  Now it's been beautified for quite a while, and it is very pretty. It is SO different from what it was like when we were all growing up!  No nasty carpet, 3 full bathrooms instead of one (although one less bedroom because of that), new furniture, totally different layout of one side of the house.  A lot of the old foliage in the yard is gone too, which makes the house a lot more visible than it was.  It looks really good.  Dinner was great.  Everyone was thrilled to see Ruby.  I wonder if she thought it was odd to see her Uncle Toby here (he flew out earlier in the week) when she's used to seeing him at home.  Ruby and I accompanied Dad and Ozzie (the huge doofy yellow lab) on the evening walk.  Ozzie was very intrigued by Ruby, and the feeling was mutual, although Ruby was more guarded than Ozzie!  Then again, he probably weighs four or five times as much as her, so being guarded is a good thing.  Ruby was quite tired out and ready for bed, and the rest of us played a fun board game called Telestrations.  I called Allen and chatted with him.  I miss him already!
There you have it: day one of the epic adventures.  Thanks to all who gave advice and prayers for our flight.  We arrived safe and sound and not too frazzled.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A great song

I know my 30 days of songs are over, but here's one that I love: "Do Everything" by Steven Curtis Chapman.
Love the part about picking up the toys from the living floor 15 times today...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Good gracious, time flies!

Wow, I haven't updated in almost a week!  Camp has kept me pretty busy.  Week 1 of Young Authors Society was good.  I had a great student helper, and I'm looking forward to another great helper and another good week.  And then--I can hardly believe it!--on Saturday morning Ruby and I are off to St. Louis for two weeks!  Well, technically we won't be in St. Louis the whole time.  We'll also see Chatauqua.  I'm not sure if I'm ready for the infamous summer weather, though. It was in the high 80s here today and that felt very warm in our little un-air conditioned apartment.
Ruby was born 14 months ago today!  She is growing up so fast.  Here's what she looked like this time last summer:
2 Months old

She LOVED her slinky!
Hey beautiful!
But here she is now!

As you can see, she LOVES to look at books.  I think she spends the majority of her waking hours looking at books and asking us to read them by holding them up and saying, "Da?"  She will forcibly put them into your hand.  She's also learned how to lap sit.  It is pretty adorable.  It's really astonishing how much time she could spend reading.  If we did nothing to prevent or alter the circumstances of the day and we did whatever she wanted, I think we could easily spend two hours at a time reading book after book...or often, the same book over and over.  She even prefers books over TV.  I found "Sesame Street 20th anniversary special" on Netflix (which aired in 1989, mind you!) and I put it on and placed the computer on the floor, thinking that she and I might like to watch it.  Ruby looked at it every now and then, but kept going over to her bookshelf, pulling books off, and plunking them down in front of the computer and saying, "Da? Da?"  Today I could have sworn I heard her say "dook" instead of "book", but I couldn't get her to repeat it.  Drat.  Anyway, it's pretty wonderful having such a bookworm in the house!  
Just finished watching the 3rd Harry Potter movie.  I don't think we'll get through them all before I go, though.  That book was my least favorite because the time-travel part just didn't reckon up right.  But in terms of movie making, I think the director did some really awesome things with it.  It is shot in a very striking way and there are a lot of clever ways to show the passage of time, which is obviously a big theme.  
Bahhh, it's hot and sticky here.  I guess I'd better be off to bed, too.  Got to get up early tomorrow...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (or Philosopher's Stone in the U.K. version) was published in 1997 (although J.K. Rowling had been working on it since 1990!)  I was 14 years old.  I didn't read it right away.  In fact, it came to my attention through my younger brother reading it.  He got really into them, and because he was my 10 year old brother and I was SOOOO too cool to take his advice on good books, I resisted them.  It was probably about a year later that we were on a car trip and we listened to the first one unabridged on CD, (narrated by the fabulous Jim Dale).  I was hooked.  So much for my pretentions and looking down my nose at the book.  It was a riveting story.  I started to keep pace with the stories, always listening to them on audio books though.  In fact, the only one I have ever literally read with my eyes is the last one, because I was too impatient to wait for the CDs to come out.  Okay, I read parts of the 4th one in book form, too, now that I think about it.  All the others I've "read" by listening to them.  The story was just good!
People get on Rowling's case about her writing style being predictable, and at times it is.  But who was expecting her to be George Eliot or Charles Dickens?  Not me!  And in terms of her ability to keep track of characters and details in sprawling plot lines, I think she gives Charles Dickens and George Eliot a run for their money.  In my experience with reading both of those two classic authors, no character is wasted.  Everyone plays a purpose and often will show up again where least expected.  Same is true with Rowling's characters and objects in her wizard world: as I moved through the series, I was impressed that some character that she mentioned early on in the series reappeared with some kind of important role to play or information to add.  I appreciate her work.
The final installment of the last movie came out recently.  I am a bit behind on the times with good old HP movies.  I haven't seen the first part of the movie of the last book yet.  Allen and I decided to work our way through watching the movies from first to last.  We just finished watching the first HP movie.  It came out in 2001, when I was a junior in high school.  I loved the books and movies, as did my best friend.  We were total HP nerds and unashamed: we went to midnight book release parties, did trivia, etc.  It was funny to see how much movie technology has changed in a decade.  Some of the parts of the movie are CGI, and the people in the CGI look obviously computer generated.  Isn't that a funny statement?  Then it was so cool: "WOW!  Computer generated people!" Now we look at it and say, "It doesn't look real, it just looks like it was CGI."  Computer graphics have gotten that good!  Now good CGI doesn't look like CGI anymore.  Rewatching it I remembered what I crush I had on Oliver Wood (seeing as he was actually my age at the time the movie came out)--cute!  The actors for Harry, Ron, and Hermione were all so young.  They've given a decade of their lives to these characters.  I imagine that, like it or not, they will always see themselves as Harry, Ron, or Hermione in some way.  I wish I could see Daniel Radcliffe singing and dancing as J. Pierpont Finch in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" on Broadway right now!  I love that show, and I'd be curious to see him in it.
Well, enough musings for now.  First day of Young Authors Society (part 1) camp today.  This week Devin is my helper, and next week Nicole is my helper.  Woohoo!

Thursday, July 14, 2011


I'll take another one of these, please.  The quiet model.

Today was our second zoo trip of the week with the summer camp I'm teaching, and that place is crawling with babies (ha ha.)  I also saw quite a few very, very new babies: teensy weensy little lumps of cuteness.  I texted Allen that I was having an acute attack of cute baby fever.  He replied something to the effect of "you already have one."
I know. But I want a NEW one!  So small and cute!  So precious!  So BABY!
This happens every few weeks (thanks, hormones) and it is a bit exhausting.  I notice
No, I asked for the QUIET model!  Not the yowler!
every baby and every preggy.  It's like baby-dar or something.  I keep telling myself that I can't have another baby every time I see a cute baby, or I will end up like Michelle Duggar with 19 kids (or is it 20 now?  I don't know.)  I don't have anything against big families; for a long time I wanted to have four kids as a minimum.  But my heavens, they are expensive little things!  19?  They will each have to get their own reality show to help pay for college.
And then walking in the door I get a dose of reality when I see the floor of the living room strewn with all of the books, toys, and paraphernalia of Ruby.  We would have to be in a bigger apartment, that's for sure.
In conclusion, babies are so cute.
p.s. Ruby is playing with her baby doll right now and trying to swaddle it in a washcloth.  Adorable.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A hard thing

I think one of the most difficult things about my job is that I am dealing with the most precious of all raw material: children.  I am thankful for parents who take an interest in their child's education, but sometimes the interest taken can be overwhelming.  As a teacher, little makes me feel worse than unknowingly offending a parent  with a decision that I've made.  It's even worse when they are upset over something that I think is in the best interest of their child and the class as a whole.  After all, who am I to say that I know best for their own flesh and blood?
Then again, I am a professional with experience, and at the end of the day, I have to go with my gut and my training.  But I always feel pretty terrible about it if the family stays upset. Sometimes their instinct is right, and sometimes mine is.  It has happened at some point (or points) every year during my teaching and will no doubt continue, because there will always be differences of opinion.  The education of a child just happens to be a very high-stakes subject on which to disagree!  It's kind of amazing how much time and influence teachers have in the lives of their students.  If your child has a good teacher, then that is wonderful.  If they don't, that must be very hard.  I like to think that I am a good teacher (although with lots of room to improve, since I am still relatively young in the profession, having only taught for 5 years so far), but I am sure that some parents of some of my students have disagreed.  It must be hard for them.  I feel badly for them.  I have thought about how I would act if Ruby were in some of the situations that have led to parent disputes and how I would act.  Being a teacher, I am of course currently biased towards trusting the teacher, but when the rubber hits the road, will I still feel that way?  It's hard to say...
It probably all boils down to me being too sensitive and being a perfectionist :(  I always want everyone to like me and be happy with me, and I always want to do everything just right and never have a fault found.  Unfortunately, I am also human, so none of those fantasies will materialize.  I'm going to mess up.  I have already, and I will in the future.  Something I need to work on is letting go of past mistakes and not continually beating myself up about them.  Right now I'm teaching at Catlin Gabel's summer program.  Being on campus has been an emotional experience: I find myself thinking back to my year teaching there.  It was a one-year contract, since I was replacing a teacher who was taking a year off to be home with her baby (lucky lady!)  They were taking a chance on me, since I was fresh out of Arbor and just so new and green to it all.  I learned a lot and had an incredibly supportive principal and faculty surrounding me, but I still find myself thinking back to situations with kids that I should have handled differently, or curriculum ideas that I think, "Oh, I should have done that with the kids! That would have been so cool!  Why didn't I think of it?!"
That was almost 3 years ago!  I had good moments and not-so-good ones.  I had some genuinely tricky kids that tried the patience of mature teachers, and I was such a novice.  I have improved since then; now I just need to let go of the fact that I wasn't a perfect teacher right out of the gate!  It's hard, though.  I have this file folder in my brain of mistakes made in life, and it seems like that file is much more readily available than the one of "good choices in life," even though I've made far more good choices than bad ones.  It can be hard to get rid of the negative thoughts that want to drag me back into agonizing over things that are in the past.  "Forgive and forget" is a concept that has always boggled me.  I get it in theory, but forgiving myself and then letting go of it is no easy task for me.  But, as a wise man once said, it is a good aspiration to "not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it.  No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how experience can benefit others."  I also heard a great point that self-loathing is actually just a sneaky form of self-centeredness.  You can be self-centered in two ways:  either you think that you're so amazing that the world revolves around you, or you can think that you're so terrible that the world revolves around you.  Neither is true.  The world doesn't revolve around you, period!  It revolves around God, and I can only understand myself properly through His view of me.  What is that view?  A pretty lofty one: worth dying for, but a worth not based at all on me accomplishments or failures.  As a song says, "Not because of what I am, but because of what You've done.  Not because of what I've done, but because of who You are." (which, by the way, is a great example of a literary device called a chiasmus!)
I will tear myself away from my musings, because I hear Ruby stirring from a nap.  But I think I ended on a pretty good note: flaws notwithstanding, I'm precious in God's are we all.


Just for fun...

Saturday, July 9, 2011


A proper blog to follow (heck, a little video blog entry soon to follow), but for now, I'll let the pictures do the talking.

Ruby likes it!

We had some money leftover from the haircut fund, so we dressed up and got dessert at Claim Jumper.

But first, a photo shoot!

I think I look very pretty.  My hairstylist did a good job!

Allen loves this one.

He cleans up good!

My hotte hubbster!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Blog, then bedtime

McDowell Hall, the centerpiece of St. John's College in Annapolis, MD

It's 10:30ish on Friday night, and the DH (which stands for Dear Hubby, in case you're not familiar with the lingo) and I just returned from an impromptu date.  [I must pause here to say that such dates would not be possible without the generous support of good old bro Lowe.  Toby living here makes such dreams a reality...thank you, Toby!!!!!]  We went to KC's Midway Public House, a short and pleasant walk from our apartment. We mostly just noshed on nachos and talked about whatever random things came to mind.  It was mellow and really nice.  We even had a coupon; score!
On the walk home, I got to reminiscing about the "good old days" at college.  They were good days (and, since it's been five years since I graduated, I guess they are getting "old" too).  I learned so much there, met wonderful people, had good times, etc.  I'm thankful, though, that I don't have to look back at that time as being "the best time in my life."  My life now is good, and it contains all of the things that I so desperately looked forward to when I was in college: being married and having a child.  My primary answer to, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" was always "a wife and mother."  I didn't have that in college, obviously, but I spent the majority of my emotional life in college trying hard to find "the One" that was going to help me fulfill my life dream.  My parents met in college and fell in love and got married right after they graduated, so that was going to happen for me, right?  I mean, that's just how it WORKS, right?  Right?
The pain of my college years was that it was about three years straight of crushing on a couple guys (different ones at different times) who were just not that into me, as the book title goes.  But I was soooo painfully into them.  Oh, how much ink and how many tears were spilt in the pages of my many journals about how much I wanted so-and-so to love me the way I loved them!  Melodrama rarely feels like melodrama while it's happening.  I don't want to belittle my feelings completely, either; it really did hurt.  They are called crushes for a reason, peeps!  They will absolutely crush your spirit if you let them ("they" meaning the crush you have, not the person you're crushing on.)  I went through high school with a few crushes here and there, but I was able to withstand the feelings of "no one asked you to a dance, hence you are going to die an old maid" by telling myself, Don't worry, high school guys are immature and those relationships don't go anywhere.  College is where it's at!  Apparently, it didn't occur to me that "college guys" are only a few months removed from "high school guys,"  so I didn't see a whole lot of improvement overall.  But as I said, feeling hopelessly unlucky in love was my constant emotional companion during most of college.  I was afraid that if I didn't leave college with a ring on my finger, then it was never going to happen...because who meets their spouse in "the real world" anyway? I realize, of course, that a great many people meet after college (or never go to college)...but since your parents are your definition of normal, and mine met in college, therefore, I needed to, too.
I did exit college with a serious boyfriend and a ring (but the ring was a family heirloom gift from my grandma, so it didn't quite count) in addition to my degree.  I moved out to Portland to start my teaching apprenticeship and be nearer to him.  We broke up in 2007, halfway through my apprenticeship, but I was definitely in love with Portland and Arbor and wasn't going anywhere.  I honestly had no idea how on earth I was going to meet anyone that I could fall in love with; it wasn't college!  I know that sounds really ridiculous, but it was still rattling around in my brain that I could really only ever love and be loved properly by a Johnny (someone from St. John's), and St. John's was thousands of miles away.
Amazingly enough, I was wrong.  I found an intelligent, articulate, thoughtful, philosophy-loving, quick-witted man (who didn't yet have a college degree...who'd have thunk it?!).  And he liked me; and then he loved me.  Still does, as a matter of fact.
Right now, he's snoozing in a chair.  I told him I was just going to write a quick blog post, so he sat down to wait...and I guess half an hour isn't so quick.  Here's the short version I should have written: I used to think no  man was ever going to love me.  But I was wrong.  It's never been such a pleasure to be so wrong!
Underneath the Gateway Arch in St. Louis (June '09)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Swiffer, you lie!

That's how I feel, too!

Today, in the space of about 5 minutes, I was a butterfingers and spilled fruit juice two times from two different containers.  Of course, that stuff leaves sticky residue after being wiped up with a paper towel, so I decided to bust out my frenemy Swiffer.
I have always prided myself on being a savvy consumer and someone who can see right through the lies of advertisers.  My mom taught us well; she showed us how to deconstruct the Saturday morning ads for toys, cereals, apparel, etc.  All ads work the same way: they have to make you think that your life is deficient in some way and that their product will fill the gap.
I get their game.  I know how it works.  I've tried to teach my students how to see past the lies the materialistic media sells them 24/7.  But I fell--and fell hard--for one of the cleverest ad lies of them all: Swiffer.
To those of you who don't have to clean, this will all be meaningless, but maybe some of you out there who have to clean non-carpeted areas can relate. My mom and dad cleaned floors by getting down on hands and knees with two buckets (a cleaning solution bucket, and a dirty rinse water bucket) and a rag.  It was not pretty, but it got the job done.  But I don't *like* hands and knees cleaning, because it's icky.  There, I admitted it.  It is gross and I'd like to avoid it...and so would millions of housewives and home cleaners, apparently, because that's why the Swiffer was invented.  Just watch the ads: those perky moms and their HUGE kitchens don't even have to bend down.  They just pop out the Swiffer and go over the floor (which, incidentally, never has any dents or scuffs or encrusted food particles or cat hair tufts or anything that is found on my kitchen floor) and in about two minutes, it's gleaming!  I don't normally watch TV (precisely because I hate ads), so I can't even remember when I saw all of these Swiffer ads.  See them I did, however, and they burned into my consciousness.
This past Spring Break, my grandparents visited, and my Grandma took me on a Target shopping spree. I chose a Swiffer WetJet, which has the distinction of spritzing the ground before it with a cleaning solution, and then catching the mess on its little pads.  It looked really great in the ads, and I fell for it. What a dope!  I've used it a few times since then, with middling success.  First of all, I ALWAYS forget to put the pad on first, and therefore spend a few minutes getting the velcro strips on the bottom of the Swiffer soggy because I've been pushing it around without the pad.  Then I remember the pad and start over again; but the results are less than amazing.  Instead of magically picking up all of the grime and mess, it tends to just sodden it and push it around.  Stray hairs go from being dry and tumbleweed-ish into being wet, smeary swirls on the floor (NOT on the pad as advertised!)  That's not helpful; it's just gross (and makes me contemplate trading in my long-haired cat for a hairless one and giving myself a buzzcut).
What is the final solution?  I always end up having to go back and get down low with a rag and wash it on hands and knees, the very thing that I wanted to avoid.  Oh, you labor-saving devices!  You promise to make life easier and more pleasant. But Swiffer, you lie!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dancing with a best friend and the last one...

Today's song challenge (the penultimate one) is name a song you have danced to with your best friend.
I already did "I'm Yours", which is a song I danced to with my best friend/husband.  Let us go back in time to my waltz party days at St. John's.  I had several favorite dance partners, so it is hard to pick a song that went with any specific one person.  I guess I'll go with "Hell" by the Squirrel Nut Zippers.  I know, the name suggests it wouldn't be a very cheery song, but it is very uptempo and has awesome trumpet solos.  My roommate and one best friend Kat liked it; she didn't come to waltz parties often, but when she did, she would dance this one with me.  Jonathan, another best friend, also danced this song with me.  It's a good song for dancing vigorously!
I almost forgot another very special moment and song from St. John's.  In the fall of my senior year--when I was one of the co-archons (co-presidents) of the Waltz Society--we held a '50s themed dance. It was really fun; we got some friends to make milkshakes and wear little "soda jerk" hats that I begged off of the local Red Robin restaurant.  We played lots of '50s and '60s tunes in addition to our usual swing standbys.  Towards the end of the night, we played "Oh what a night" by Frankie Valli, and for some reason, it just felt like this super special moment: several friends were gathered in a circle, dancing, grinning, just loving life at that moment.  I have such fond memories of that party.  

Finally, a song you could listen to all day long:  oh my...all day?  Then it might have to be something that's kind of on the long side and classical.  I'll go with J.S. Bach's "St. Matthew Passion" (another thing that I discovered at St. John's, that wonderful college!), and in particular, "Erbarme Dich"

Saturday, July 2, 2011

"A song you cannot stand to listen to"

A song I refuse to listen (because I can't stand to) is "Judas" by Lady Gaga.  I've read the lyrics, and it's quite irreverent.  There you go.  Obviously, I won't link to it, since I can't stand it!

A fun present!

My mom sent us a care package the other day, and one of the things it contained was a new outfit for Ruby's dolly and some little feeding accessories.  Ruby had a lot of fun with those; here's a montage of Ruby feeding Dolly (and herself!)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Cultivate an attitude of gratitude...

Readers, feel free to accept this challenge (and if you have a blog, you should let me know that you did).  It's always a good day to be grateful, especially if you believe--as I do--that "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" (James 1:17).  Why shouldn't I be thankful?  There are so many good things that I take for granted that I have no control over.  I'm breathing in a healthy body right now; I have relative control over doing things to keep it healthy, but diseases and disasters strike without our say.  That's not my reality today, so why not be grateful and acknowledge that for the blessing it is?
I have gone through times in my life where I kept a prayer journal very devotedly.  I just made it a habit to write in it at least once a day, usually after reading the Bible.  It was my way of meditating on the truths I was reading.  I also, for a time, wrote 5 gratitudes every morning and every evening.  It was a life-changer. It truly changed my way of thinking.  One example I remember was several years back, when I didn't have a car.  I was living in Tualatin and had to ride my bike or take the bus to get anywhere.  On this particular day, I was riding back from Lake Oswego, which entailed riding on the very busy and non bike-friendly Lower Boones Ferry Road.  I went over a train crossing and my front tire got tripped up in the deep grooves of the train crossing; I was thrown from my bike into the side of the road.  What would your first reaction have been?  "OUCH!"  Yeah, that was mine too.  It was gravel and I hit it full force!  But my second reaction differed greatly from what it might have been a year earlier.  My next thought was "Thank you God that I didn't land in the road and get hit by a car!  Thank you that there was no train nearby!  Thank you that I'm not seriously injured! This could have been so much worse."  I assessed the damage: the chain had slipped off, and I was scraped up, bleeding, and sore, but nothing worse than that.  I tried to put the chain back on, but could not.  With tears in my eyes, I looked up wondering what to do...and saw that I was near a Joe's Sport Equipment store.  Surely they could fix it!  "Thank you, God!" I said aloud.  Sure enough, the nice guy there put the chain back on without charging me anything; I was near a bus depot that would take me home, and the bus was due shortly; I had enough money for the bus, and so I got to take the bus back.  My mind just kept going to seeing the "good side" of everything: isn't it AWESOME that Trimet buses have bike racks on the front? Isn't it great that I was near a bus stop?  Yay God!
When I fell out of the habit of writing down gratitudes, my attitude declined to be more pessimistic and "poor me."  It's so much easier to feel like I'm a victim than a beneficiary...but has there ever been a time in my life that I haven't been a beneficiary of God's grace and gifts?  No.  
Well, that was a long introduction, but here goes with 5 gratitudes today:
1.  I have a generous husband who cleaned the kitchen so I would have time to write this and time to scrapbook :)
2.  My daughter is adorable and smart and pretty much awesome.
3.  My brother is really great with Ruby and very flexible; I'm hard pressed to think of a time when we've asked him to watch her, hold her, change her diaper, whatever that he's said no.  It's really great to have him living with us.
4.  I, unlike a scarily high number of Americans, get a paycheck and have a job to come back to when school starts.
5.  I get a break during the summer, unlike most people (including my long-suffering, work-a-day-world hubby)
Hmm, I feel better already.  That's a pretty cursory list. So, dear readers, I challenge you (along with myself) to think of the things you're grateful for.  Start with five, if you can, and see where you are taken from there.  They do tend to multiply!  Think about to what/whom you are grateful, too.  
Almost forgot today's song challenge!  A song that someone has sung to you.  Well, at the risk of embarrassing my husband, I will have to say "For the Longest Time" by Billy Joel.  One night (before we were married) Allen felt lonely to be away from me, and so he called my voicemail and sang this song to me).  I should have kept that voicemail, but it did get deleted, sorry to say.  That song is special for another reason: when I was a senior in high school, my brother Chris (then a sophomore) was in the After Lunch Bunch--a small a capella choir with some guys in the school--and they sang this song.
Here it is: