Grasping for Gratitude

We are one week into 2019 – though, as a stay-at-home mother, I contend that things don’t REALLY begin anew until today, the blessed day when my kids are back in school. Glory, glory, Hallelujah! 

But a little over a week ago on December 31, I rang in the New Year in grand style…. if by “grand style” you mean wearing pajama pants and scanning my Facebook feed while rolling my eyes at people’s mostly rose-colored reviews of 2018.

Me? Well…

2018 was one for the record books, in the worst of ways. Most notably, it’s the year I lost my mom. It’s a year that ended with illness affecting three out of four of us in my house. Throw in a great deal of work stress for my husband and big struggles for my autistic son as he started a new school year, and… well, I went to sleep at 10:15 on New Year’s Eve. Suck it, 2018, I literally said to myself as I curled into bed. 2019 can’t get here soon enough.

I’ve always been enamored with new starts. I LOVED going to school, and so it’s no surprise I grew up to be a teacher. I was the kind of teacher who, as early as October each year, would start thinking about what I would do differently the next school year. But I woke up on January 1st feeling pretty hopeless. Life gets that way sometimes – when so many struggles happen so quickly, it’s easy to believe that only more catastrophes lie ahead. Or at least that’s how it had come to feel for me. What could I look forward to other than more out-of-nowhere-shitshows-because-honestly-isn’t-that-always-how-it-all-seems-to-happen-for-us-anyway?

Super healthy perspective, obviously.

But if anything can interrupt a pity party of mine, it’s a new beginning that involves school supplies. So i kicked off a rendezvous with a new pack of Flair pen and my new 2019 planner. As I started to fill it in, I noticed this planner includes a box for daily gratitude reflections.

Hmmmmm, new day planner. Maybe you’re onto something.

I decided to think a little harder about 2018. Because yes, when things were bad, they were really, really bad. But they couldn’t have ALL been bad. I challenged myself to really find things about which to be grateful from 2018. I knew to look where we all post the Technicolor version of our lives: Facebook.

So I scrolled back through 365 days of posts. Here are some highlights:

  • I hit a milestone of 100 boot camp workouts. (Did I maintain that effort? NOT SO MUCH, mmmmmmkay?)
  • My son had another great season of Special Olympics track that included support from many of my friends in sales, who made donations to support fundraising efforts.
  • I turned 40 (meh), but had a fantastic weekend getaway with my Momma Tribe.
  • WE WENT ON A DISNEY CRUISE. Thanks to booking through Autism on the Seas, we enjoyed incredible support. It was a magical week…. and beyond. This fancy schmancy Cinderella dress from the Bippidi Boppidi Boutique carried the magic through Halloween! 
  • My daughter had her Pre-K graduation and dance recital, which in hindsight are that much sweeter because my mom was able to attend.
  • My kids had a phenomenal experience at a Kanakuk day camp at our church.
  • My son had an opportunity to attend a two-week clinic where we received support and instruction on how to help him overcome disordered behaviors. Also, it was FREE thanks to the generosity of a huge grant.
  • My daughter’s transfer to my son’s school was granted… at the buzzer. Not only does this mean she can enjoy the amazing and supportive community my son has for the past four years, but also, and most importantly: I get to have two years of a single-school drop-off and pick-up location. There are not enough praise hands. 
  • My son’s longtime special education teacher left… but was replaced with another fantastic teacher whose been a tremendous blessing this school year.
  • My husband worked tirelessly throughout the year and earned opportunities and recognition because of his efforts.
  • Countless friends and loved ones showed up in ways big and small in the days leading up to and following Mom’s death.
  • Santa brought my son an amazing bike – thanks to the gift of a fantastic charity.
  • My son won the Star Student of the Month Award for his class. This is amazing in any case, but following the struggle of the first three months of the year, it was a special gift and delight.img_0229.jpg
  • My daughter did NOT get lice after trying on this, right out of the Wal-Mart bin.

The thing is, when I really look back – REALLY look – God put angels in our midst all. the. time. In the form of teachers, tutors, friends, principals, family members, strangers, nurses… in what has been one of the most difficult seasons of my life, I’ve never been alone. God’s been there.

So…. to be honest, I wouldn’t do 2018 over again. But I can look to 2019 with hope and trust. God is faithful.

And on a more practical/tactical note: I decided that my family will be doing this again. Check it out! It’s a great way to record those blessings and then review them without the agony of going back through all of your Facebook posts (and everyone else’s, obvi).

2018 felt like a harsh one for many of us. I hope that 2019 is gentler, and, when it’s not, we have eyes to see the good around us. Happy New Year – may there be many opportunities for gratitude!

Beto-Cruz Bingo

A little over three weeks ago, Texans watched the first of what were to be three debates between Senate candidates Beto O’Rourke and incumbent Ted Cruz. This race has garnered national attention recently but has captivated Texans for months now. Despite it being during my children’s witching hour, I was able to pay decent attention, and I made a bold proclamation on my Facebook page:

They were supposed to debate again but rescheduled due to an assumed conflict for Senator Cruz with the would-have-been Kavanaugh vote*. This evening, the two will debate again. Naturally, my intention to follow through with making bingo cards did not turn to reality because… well, my children. And a nasty upper respiratory infection. Life, man.

*Dear Lord, this day and age… though I know that was not quite two weeks ago, it feels like it’s been approximately 735 years since then. Please tell me I am not the only one with news fatigue. 

BUT…. I know my dozens and dozens of Facebook friends do not remember I even said anything about this so don’t really care, probably would not want to be let down. So, in a pinch, I present to you the best I can do before tonight’s 8 p.m. CST start time…

  1. Print your own blank bingo card(s) at this site.
  2. Use my carefully-prepared** checklist to fill in your card(s). I don’t recommend making this a drinking game. You’ll probably die of alcohol poisoning within the first ten minutes.
  • “hold your applause”
  • “I was visiting <everyday common folk>, a(n) <blue collar occupation> in <small town>”
  • “my truck”
  • “taking God out of schools”
  • 254 counties of Texas
  • Abortion
  • Antifa
  • Bernie Sanders
  • Border security
  • Donald Trump
  • Dreamers
  • DUI
  • George Soros
  • Hillary Clinton
  • Immigration
  • Impeach
  • Incarceration of African Americans
  • Jobs
  • Kavanaugh
  • Khashoggi murder/Saudi Arabia
  • Liberal agenda/mob
  • Medicare
  • Me Too
  • Nancy Pelosi
  • NFL/anthem protests
  • NRA
  • Obamacare
  • Partisan
  • Path to citizenship
  • People of Texas
  • Political action committee
  • Reference to Cruz’s 2016 presidential bid
  • Reference to fallen police officer(s)
  • Reference to Santa Fe shooting
  • Russia
  • Second Amendment
  • Socialism
  • <Speaks Spanish>
  • Supreme Court
  • Tariffs
  • Taxes
  • Thoughts and prayers
  • Troops
  • Veterans
  • War on Women

In the not-at-all unlikely chance that something cataclysmic happens between publication and the debate, feel free to add your own items to the cards!

**For what it’s worth, I did legitimately prepare this list shortly after the first debate and update it every few days. I just didn’t have time to make multiple copies of cute and varied Bingo cards, mmmm-kay? 

That’s all for now, friends. Here’s how my DFW friends can watch. Apparently it will air across Texas on local stations, and CSPAN will televise the debate to a national audience.

Texas forever, y’all!

What’s going on here?

It was not-quite four years ago that I started this blog.

This will be something for meI thought. Because you see, at that time, I spent my days at home with my toddler while my autistic kindergartener was at school. I obeyed God’s call to “let go” of my career as a teacher.

[And side note: while I usually find those folks who proclaim, “I could hear God tell me_________” creepy, it happened to me that June afternoon. What do you do  but listen?]

I naively believed at that point that I would have SO MUCH DOWN TIME compared to the hustle-and-bustle of teaching. I’ll write. I’ll create. I’ll finally get healthy and lose all the baby weight, maybe 5-10 lbs more. I’ll get this house straightened up. It was going to be glorious…

…and if by “glorious” I somehow meant “a complete and utter roller coaster of chaos, boredom, drama, and angst,” then yes, I nailed it. So I amended my thinking. When both kids are in school all day – that’s when I’ll really start my blog. 

And so I would daydream during the dull moments. Would my blog focus on raising a child with autism? Raising a daughter? Losing weight (or aspiring to)? Finding my identity in a life-phase that found me playing every role but that of the girl I used to be? I would think, plan, make mental notes. I felt like I had to have a singular focus for this would-be blog… and a clever name and URL, obviously. Could I have started writing in this in-between time? Certainly… but I believed, as most perfectionists do, that unless it’s just right, it’s not worth doing. And thus my dreams stayed on a shelf, in a back corner of my mind – but ALWAYS there. SomedayWhen the kids are in school. 

And four years passed, and both of my children were at school EVERY WEEK DAY from 7:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Thank you, Jesus! I revisited the pages in my journal I had titled LISAPALOOZA where I jotted down all that I would do now that I could. What I would watch. What I would read. What I would WRITE!

Life has begun! 

…except for the fact that four days after that first day of school, my mom lost her three-year battle to cancer.

There are paragraphs and pages and volumes to write about how I’m processing that.

Four weeks have passed since Mom died. They’ve passed in a flash; they’ve crawled along in agonizing fashion. I find myself conflicted. I want to check out completely, grieving, crying, sleeping. And just as powerfully, I want to bulldoze ahead. Grieving and sleeping aren’t going to get the house picked up, the to do list completed, the kids to school and cleaned and loved on. I mean, dammit… it’s supposed to be Lisapalooza. 

As is usually the case in life, the answer lies in the middle. Or that’s what I’m finding anyway. I sure can busy myself with pointless crap for days on end, only to collapse into snot-bubble crying sessions that last for hours and wipe me out for a solid day or two. And I’m learning that there isn’t a right or wrong way to grieve.

Or live. Or write.

So…. what’s going on here? 

It’s time to figure that out.

Teacher Appreciation Week – Advice from an Ex-Educator

It’s early May, which in high schools across Texas means the final testing push. For the next two weeks, AP testing occurs, but more pressing and stress-inducing than AP exams are the STAAR end-of-course exams. This time a year ago, I was in my eleventh year of teaching high school English. I recall vividly how draining this time of year was for my colleagues and me. With every week that had passed since Spring Break, our teenage scholars grew increasingly deserving of repeated punches to the throat apathetic and whiny, and come testing time, they were OVER IT. I taught at an outstanding, safe school, but even in such a strong campus, the inmates were running the asylum… and if we teachers answered sincerely, 90% or more of us might prefer a sanatorium to the daily grind. (I joked often that caffeine and simple carbs were all that kept me from snapping and winding up on the 6 o’clock news in an orange jumpsuit.) I suspect the exhaustion wasn’t isolated to the secondary ranks; the elementary and middle school staffs were just as drained this time a year ago, and I would bet my home that 99% of teachers feel this way right now as well.

What else falls in early May? Teacher Appreciation Week! While there are a few rock star moms who have been waiting ALL YEAR and crafting precious gifts for their babies’ teachers, most mommies reacted probably the same way I did now that I’m in the SAHM ranks: “Oh $h!t, that’s here already?!?!” We’re just as fatigued.

But

My friends, my time as a teacher compels me to get my act together to appreciate my kindergartener’s teachers and to exhort you to do the same for the teachers in your life. For over eight months now, these teachers have planned lessons, given benchmark tests, attended professional development meetings, handled tornado, lockdown, and fire drills, given more benchmark tests, attended more meetings, served as referees between students, counseled parents, given more tests… you get the idea. And we know they don’t get paid enough…

…but you might not either. If your kids are little, you may feel like it was just last week you gave $10 for Miss So-and-So’s birthday. If your kids are older, you may wonder how the heck you can afford to buy gifts for all 6-7 of your child’s teachers. If your child has special needs, as mine does, you’re looking at 8 people to recognize – and that’s not including the nurse, the principal, etc. But here’s the great thing: you don’t need to spend a lot of money. I promise. What you can do is give a gift your child’s teacher has offered selflessly and constantly all year long: TIME.

After over a decade in the classroom, here are VERY INEXPENSIVE or even FREE things you can do to show your teachers some love:

  • Give him/her a heartfelt, handwritten note of thanks. My desk was strategically messy – to the untrained eye, it looked like a disaster, but there was a method to my madness – but I kept a cute fabric box in which I stored letters students and parents wrote me. On rough days, I would open that box and soak in the words of gratitude and encouragement. Counterpoint: I did NOT keep fully-spent gift cards in that box (though I won’t lie – a $5 Starbucks gift card can turn a crap day a whole LATTE better! Get it?). So my point is this: never underestimate the power of kind words.
  • Email a heartfelt note effusively praising the teacher to her, God, and everybody. From experience I can share that this time of year teachers are exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally. They’ve spent months giving and giving and giving, and far more often than not, they feel unrecognized and unappreciated by their superiors. So consider that in addition to writing that teacher a note of gratitude, you could write her boss(es) an email singing her praises. (And for heaven’s sake, carbon copy her on it!) A parent did this my second year of teaching, and it meant the WORLD to me. From a career standpoint, I’m convinced it led my principal to see me in a better light and afforded me leadership opportunities I might not have otherwise had. From a personal standpoint, it offered a much-needed affirmation that maybe I was making a difference to at least one kid. At a minimum, you can email your school’s principal. If you want to be particularly amazing, also copy the teacher’s curriculum director, heck, even the Superintendent if you want. Trust me that your child’s teacher will be moved beyond words!
  • Teacher or not, if someone at your child’s school warrants appreciation, do something to show it! As I mentioned previously, my child has special needs, so he has three teachers (two general ed and one special ed); a speech therapist; an occupational therapist; and three para-professionals who support him throughout his day. I would give them all hundreds of dollars if I could, but my new gig as a stay-at-home mom pays $0/year. 🙂 BUT I mention this to call attention to the fact that there are so many people besides teachers who enrich the lives of your children while they’re at school. Don’t forget counselors and principals who are particularly supportive (especially since when they hear from parents, it’s usually complaints). And PLEASE show your thanks to the administrative assistants and office staff members. Where I taught, these were some of the finest ladies you will meet anywhere, and talk about a labor of love, because they are not paid anywhere near commensurate with the value they provide to the campus. So, same rules apply as above – write them personal notes, email their superiors, etc.
  • Don’t knock the healing and restorative power of a $5 gift card. I know not everyone can afford to do this, and that’s okay. But I mention this only because in some places and at some ages, I imagine teacher appreciation feels like another spin in the doom loop that is Pinterest One-Upping. Please don’t worry about that for one second. Not once did I think, “OH MY GOSH, I cannot believe Luke’s mom only gave me a $5 Target gift card when Sally’s mom made me heart-shaped handmade crayons.” My thoughts were more like, “HOT DAMN! FREE TARGET MONEY! WHEEEEEEEEE!” I assure you every teacher feels the same way.

Some closing thoughts on how you can appreciate society’s most noble people:

  • Teacher Appreciation Week is every week. If your child’s teacher does something amazing and it is not at a time typically designated for recognition of gift giving, recognize them anyway. (I went to the Dollar Spot at Target and put together little bags of Halloween pencils for L’s teachers, and they were nerdily excited about it. Ooooh, another tip: teachers loooooooove school and office supplies. A kid would have my heart forever with a set of these pens. *swoon*)
  • Teacher Appreciation Week doesn’t have an expiration date. What I mean is that it is never too late to recognize a teacher. Is your baby about to start high school, and you realize more and more that she writes so well because of that third grade teacher that was persistent in her grammar instruction, even though the kids haaaaaaated it at the time? Are you, now decades away from being in a classroom, seeing what a special person your Calculus teacher was? For heaven’s sake, we have Facebook and Google, the most effective stalking agents of our time. If you don’t know where they are, find them, and write them. When I resigned last summer to stay at home with my kids, a student I had five years earlier sent me a Facebook message: “I just saw that you’re no longer going to be teaching, but I just wanted to say thank you for pushing me and for piquing my interest in writing. I’m sure that I was a little shit. {For what it’s worth: he wasn’t.} Thank you for putting up with me. I know that my passion for writing and communicating would not have come into fruition without your AP English class my senior year and your PAP English class my sophomore year. I just wanted you to know that both you and your teaching style are much appreciated. I wish you all the best!” Best teacher appreciation gift ever. I just cried all over again re-reading it. No matter how many years a teacher is in the classroom, he or she remembers everybody. Don’t underestimate how much a note from yesteryear will mean!
  • Your kids don’t age out of Teacher Appreciation Week. I know it’s hard when kids get older and go from having one teacher to 6+ (and that’s not including coaches, advisors, etc.), but please keep on loving on your kids’ teachers when they are big kids. Trust me. Those teachers need to feel they’re valued just as much, if not more so, than their elementary-school counterparts.
  • You don’t have to age out of Teacher Appreciation Week. Even if your nest is empty, you can still show teachers some love. Volunteer. Be a mentor. If you have money to spare, find out how you can support the campus, either through booster clubs, websites like DonorsChoose.org, or just showing up and ask: how can I help you out? Teachers spend so much of their own money to do things for their students’ benefits. If you’re in a position to help alleviate that burden, they would appreciate it.

In conclusion: RELAX! You don’t need to rush out and buy crafting supplies and/or gift cards! But please do take a little time this week to let the teachers in your life know how much they mean to you and your family! The minutes you take to write your words of gratitude will provide years of encouragement to these special, selfless, talented people!

Running My Race

The back of a church parking lot is about as unremarkable as a location can be, but when I pass it, I remember a moment of brokenness that I still haven’t shaken off completely.

It happened sometime in May of 2011. About six months earlier, we had gotten the diagnosis. Autism. I think I had known it for many months before the doctor told us, but the word, the reality, reverberated constantly. Even as I was able to sleep again, even as we found hope in supportive therapists and interventions – I saw how far he had to go in a world that seemed like too much for him. I put on a brave face, but I was afraid all the time.

In an effort to do something for myself, I signed up for a month-long fitness boot camp. The very first day I attended, the trainer had us run laps around that church parking lot. There were five of us… and I was last. Well, last except for a woman at least 20 years my senior who I suspected would be passing me if her knee wasn’t injured. As I saw the gap between me and the athletes in front of me widen, I was overcome with tears that grew into sobs.

The blessing and curse of loving literature is that every moment becomes larger than itself. Reason would have said: You’re out of shape, so of course you’re last. You can get better. Keep trying. But my sensitive, symbol-seeking mind saw a deeper meaning: This is just like my boy’s whole life is going to be. He’s always going to be so far behind everyone else. He’s starting there now, and the gap is only going to widen. What can I do? How can I save him? In a fleeting moment of strength and necessity, I realized sobs weren’t all that helpful from a cardiovascular standpoint, so I cut it out and pressed on. I finished last. But I finished…

…but I also didn’t see the boot camp through to the end of the month. I could deal with the grueling physical challenge of it all, but the heaviness of being last, particularly in the context of Monkey’s recent diagnosis, was too much to bear. So I proceeded with my coping mechanism of choice: pushing down the feelings that might swallow me whole and moving ahead with day-to-day life.

Since leaving the teaching profession for stay-at-home motherhood, I’m realizing that approaching my struggles by bulldozing through life’s to do list without dealing with my emotions may seem productive, but there’s an unhappiness, an ever-present fear that stays even as I mark through tasks I’ve completed. While being a full-time mommy is by no means easy, the gig offers a less-cluttered task list, and it’s given me time to see some things about myself. This holiday season and all its craziness have hastened the realization that I’ve been a slave to measuring results for a very long time. When I was a student, I could determine my merit with report cards, transcripts, and essay scores. But once professional life hit, the metrics weren’t so clear. I just found myself thinking this way: I should lose weight, or I need to do this at work to grow professionally, or, after looking at friends’ Facebook pages, I should be as _______________ as _______________ (organized; crafty with my kids; outgoing; the list of adjectives I “needed” to emulate is infinite). The literature-lover in me thought of these words from Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man:

“It took me a long time and much painful boomeranging of my expectations to achieve a realization that everyone else appears to have been born with: That I am nobody but myself… [but] my problem was that I always tried to go in everyone’s way but my own.”

I had run myself ragged pursuing “success” at work, interviewing for positions I never got (thank God) but went after, in small part, because they were steps up, signs that I was climbing the ladder and getting “better” (even if maybe I was already a good teacher to begin with). I have beat myself up for years for not looking a certain way, being a certain size… no peace there. And really, as fruitless as trying to measure up is for me, it’s a toxic pursuit for my family. My sweet family – whatever “normal” is, we aren’t. If I’m always looking at where Monkey “should” or “needs” to be, I’m going to be anxious and stressed out for the rest of my life. If my girl sees a mommy who always beats herself up for not being good enough, I’m setting her up on the same path of fear and stress. If I’m shell-shocked emotionally, I’m not the wife and partner my husband needs and deserves. Constantly being afraid of measuring up – what good is that for me? For my family? It’s no way to live, that’s for certain.

Psalm 34:14 says we are to “seek peace and pursue it.” This is my New Year’s Resolution. Not to lose weight, or to read more books, or de-clutter the house, or any myriad of items on my to do list. I just want to pursue peace in each endeavor by choosing to do what makes me feel more peace. On a family level, pursuing peace means that I quit trying to fit our square pegs into round holes. I am nobody but myself, and we are nobody but Mr. Robs, me, Monkey, and Cat, so screw the curated Pinterest life – we’re going to make our own way of doing things and create our own awesome traditions. 🙂 And on a personal level, pursuing peace means I try to make the choices that feel like I’m doing what’s right for me… and not because it makes someone else happy or means that I lose x pounds, read y books, make z Pinterest projects, etc.

Maybe this “a ha” moment is sticking, because I’m facing an old fear: boot camp. On January 5, I started a four-week boot camp called Camp Gladiator. (It’s worth mentioning that it is from 5-6 a.m. and that the temperature has not been higher than 35 degrees any time I’ve gone. DEDICATION… or INSANITY? Well, that’s a whole other blog post, I suppose.) I know it’s not coincidence that on New Year’s Day, this verse jumped out at me while scrolling (what else?) my Pinterest feed:

“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” ~Hebrews 12:1 ESV

This verse has become my mantra during boot camp 2.0, particularly when I’m in the back of the pack during a run, or struggling to do a fifth rep of an exercise when someone next to me is cranking through the movement like an Olympic athlete. I’m not the skinniest or the strongest or the fastest out there. But you know what I am? OUT THERE, at 5 a.m., in near- or below-freezing temperatures, enduring, getting a little stronger every single time I try. It’s not easy at the time, and I’m for dang sure hurting later on, but there are moments of exhilaration,  because dang it, I’m out there giving it 100%.

And I guess that’s where I’m seeing boot camp as a metaphor for life. For my boy, school is boot camp. The way I feel about burpees, he feels about sitting still, or reading out loud when he is just OVER it, or speaking to others when it doesn’t come naturally at all. I see him struggle – and yes, it still breaks my heart. But I also see his elation when he does something new and we just heap praise on him – his smile is priceless. His pride and ours in even the smallest of wins – well, by God, if autism has taught me anything, it’s that every victory is sweet, however “minor” it may seem.

For me, boot camp is… well, it’s boot camp, yes. But instead of telling myself I’m lame when I can only jump rope 10 times before I trip on the rope, I just think, okay – so this time jump eleven. (But, side note, did I miss the day in P.E. when you learn how to jump rope like Rocky Balboa? What the what?) And I hope that as I continue to go, I grow stronger and feel proud of each small improvement. Baby steps. My pace. My journey – no one else’s. Progress, not perfection.

So, in 2015, my little family will focus on running our race. We’ll persevere through tough times, because they’ll come, and we’ll celebrate our successes. And with that I pray I’ll feel the peace that comes from facing a challenge head-on and giving my best effort. Because ultimate victory comes not from making a certain time or meeting a certain standard, but from trying, taking step after step in the right direction.

Christmas 2014: Vomit, Anxiety, and Other Plot Twists

It is December 28, 2014. Team Robs is two days removed from the fifth and final family function of the Christmas season, and I can sum up the holidays with this review:

THANK GOD THEY ARE (ALMOST) OVER.

I really hate to be a downer. That I have a large family with members who like each other enough to get together is a true blessing. But contrary to the rose-colored Facebook posts I keep seeing, I’m convinced I’m not alone in thinking there has to be something we’re all doing wrong with our overbooked and over-the-top Christmases. The constant rush to do all the shopping, wrap all the presents, take all the pictures, see all the people, cook all the foods, and just DO ALL THE THINGS takes away from what we’re supposed to be celebrating in the first place: the holy night, the newborn King, the light of the world. Continue reading

Gratitude

Today is November 30, which means I am 4.29 weeks late to the “Days of Gratitude” series of posts on Facebook. You know the deal: for the month of November, Facebookers post one thing per day for which they are thankful. I’ve made similar posts for at least three years but abstained from doing so this year. No, it’s not because I’m an ungrateful hag in 2014; I think it’s just that I grew weary of giving thanks every day (and publicly) because it felt obligatory, cheesy, too intimate, and/or one-uppity.

However, with the kids now in bed, a glorious Thanksgiving break in the books, and the peace that comes from sitting on the couch in a dark living room – save the gleam of Christmas lights and a laptop – listening to Christmas music, I’m feeling quite thankful. Here are my expressions of gratitude – simple, profound, earthly, heavenly, and in no particular order. (And possibly repetitive. I mean, if you’re scrutinizing my gratitude list, please go read/eat/watch something that makes you happy, stat.)

I’m grateful…

  1. To have a husband who understands how critical it is for me to have some alone time to restore my sanity, and who ensures that I get the opportunity.
  2. For my Monkey – for the strides he has made, for the purity of his soul, and for how much he teaches me every day.
  3. For my Kitty, who makes me laugh (and sometimes cry) every day and helps me grow more patient multiple times per day hour.
  4. That our Christmas decorations, indoor and outdoor, are all up.
  5. That my fantasy football team pulled itself together in time for the league playoffs. (I acknowledge this is lame. Know what’s more lame? There is no prize for winning other than bragging rights. Seriously. Also, I’m a girl, so I’m not supposed to care about this at all!)
  6. That Starbucks is doing a little punch card thing where if you get five holiday beverages before Christmas Day, you get a free grande. I’m embarrassed that I’m 60% to that goal.
  7. That Facebook enables me to keep in touch with former students, particularly in this season in which I’m no longer an active teacher. Seeing my “kids” out of college and in the world doing incredible things to make it a better place – well, it beats a paycheck, that’s for sure.
  8. For the community of moms of children with autism that I’ve found via Facebook and Monkey’s school. Whether it’s when times are tough and/or when milestones are to be celebrated, I’m so thankful to have a group of mamas who “get it”!
  9. To have best friends who are a text and phone call away when I need to get something off my chest – or even just flat out lose it. They keep calling me back and replying to my texts… how blessed am I for that?
  10. For the chronological Bible study my cousin leads. She gives of her time and opens her home to help my cousins, sis-in-law, and me deepen our knowledge of God’s word and character, and the girl time with these ladies makes my week, even if it means I’m out too late. (Yes, the LRobs of 10+ years ago would NOT have believed she’d be tired from a late night out at Bible study!)
  11. That Mike Schur decided to write TV shows. If you didn’t watch The Office, and if you don’t currently watch Parks and Rec and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, get on board now. You won’t regret it!
  12. For concealer and caffeine – you’re the real MVPs.
  13. For babies in the tummies of dear, dear friends! (I can snuggle with your littles when they arrive and get my fix, because the Robs family zoo is full!)
  14. For the Timehop app. Seeing posts from the past makes me laugh, makes me thankful, helps me see God’s hand in my life, etc.
  15. For the helpers in Monkey’s life. God answered my prayers for people with both the heads (knowledge, skills, professionalism) and hearts for their jobs. His teachers, therapists, and paraprofessionals are the very best!
  16. For quiet time and devotionals that bring me eye-popping, dear-Lord-where-have-those-words-been-all-my-life?!? verses, including…
    1. James 5:16
    2. Ephesians 4:29
    3. Proverbs 22:3
    4. Isaiah 43:18-19
  17. For local rec centers. Just got a membership to our city’s for a great price. Stoked for Monkey to get the wiggles out in their heated swimming pool!
  18. That I’m letting go of the “have tos” and “need tos” in my life. Do I have to or need to do an item for each day of November to prove I’m grateful? I’ll say not. 🙂

In conclusion: for every sweet snuggle session with Kitty that made up for a day’s worth of tantrums; for celebrating ten years with my soul mate when not even a day with him is promised or guaranteed; for playful moments of togetherness and the excellent eye contact I got with every round of “If You’re Happy and You Know it, Tickle [Monkey}”; for every time I connected with a friend or loved one and felt less alone in this crazy life; for the ways God is developing my character through the challenges I’m facing in this new SAHM world; and for dozens of things I can’t think of right now – I’m thoroughly, humbly, and overwhelmingly grateful.