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43 Reasons


Guess what? Today marks my 43rd birthday! People, I am halfway to 86! Being safely situated in my 40's not only has brought a few strands of gray hair and the inability to read text without first carefully adjusting its distance from my face, but also greater gratitude and wisdom. I like my 40's.

Today, in honor of my birthday, I'm commemorating 43 reasons I'm grateful -- one for each year I've lived on this earth. Some are more profound than others, but this year has reinforced that it's fitting to give thanks to God for even the smallest things that bring joy. What a gift to recall the gifts in my life! Without further ado, here are 43 things I am thankful for.


1) I intend to enjoy a milkshake today. I'm not especially partial to cake, birthdays or otherwise, but I'm a hardcore fan of milkshakes. If I have to place a candle on top of my milkshake to make this an official thing, so be it.


2) My husband.
Joel and I have been married for nearly 20 years, and after two decades, he remains my favorite person. He is steady and kindhearted, funny and smart, generous and positive. I love him dearly.


3) My youngest daughter. She's finishing elementary school and growing up beautifully, yet she's still young enough to play and to let me tuck her in some nights, which I love. Yesterday, we took a walk in the woods to observe signs of spring, and then we traced chalk outlines of each other on the driveway. Her most notable attribute: a genuinely happy disposition. She overflows with joy, spilling it onto others!


4) My middle daughter. After years of perseverance, she's developed into an avid reader. As a seventh grader, she currently enjoys YA dystopian novels, and we bond over the books and then spend mom-daughter evenings watching the movie versions. I love hearing her predict plot lines, analyze characters, and draw out themes. She's artistic, creative, insightful, and clever!


5) My oldest daughter. Next month, she'll turn 16 and get her driver's permit, but for now, we've spent hours over the past few months taking "Covid drives" with me at the wheel. I'm continually impressed with her growing maturity, deft humor, and sweetness. Something about a drive when you're headed nowhere in particular draws out conversation with teenagers. I smile, nod, ask occasional questions, and say, "Tell me more." She does. The future is wide open for her. How exciting to be alongside of her as she explores!


6) Both sets of our parents. I have a wonderful framed picture taken on Fourth of July a few years ago when Joel's parents (who live locally) and my parents (who live over 1,200 miles away) laughed in our backyard during a picnic before fireworks. It remains one of my favorite photos ever. I'm deeply grateful for them all!



7) Good neighbors. You might have good neighbors, but I'm going to be bold and argue that I have the best neighbors. We've seen each other through the ins-and-outs of daily life: picking up each other's mail, picking up each other's kids, and picking up each other's spirits.


8) Our new adopted cat, Peanut. In January, we brought the sweetest and prettiest cat into our home from PAWS. She periodically assists me with my work by standing on my desk, looking cute, and walking across my keyboard to type things like "akhadfzvuzzzzas." I've never had a pet before. I've been missing out!



9) I'm nearly one year into remote teaching. March of 2020 was characterized by an overwhelming barrage of emails explaining Penn State's emergency pivot to remote teaching and learning. One year later, I've learned so much. I'm better at Zoom. I've developed new skills with various online platforms. (Plus, my commute is roughly three steps from my bed to my desk.)


10) Memes. Seriously! Thank God for the comedic relieve from memes throughout 2020 and beyond. Humor is such a gift!


11) Creative endeavors. Occasionally I lose touch with my creative side, but when I rekindle these passions, whether in the form of a a simple craft or an elaborate DIY project, I feel genuinely refreshed. Plus, with the weather getting warmer, we're headed into the season when I can spray paint. Bring it!


12) Peaceful rituals that bring a rhythm to typical days. Whether it's my devotional reading in the morning as I eat breakfast, or sipping mint tea in the evening from my favorite mug, the older I get, the more attuned I've become to the rhythms that make up the nuances of my days.


13) Organization. After floundering for, oh, I don't know, roughly 7 months, I finally hit the stage in the pandemic when I organized All The Things in my house. When I say All The Things, I mean all the things -- drawers, closets, the pantry, the garage. I even offered my Marie Kondo-ish services to my neighbor and helped her organize her closets and bookshelves. I'm not sure if it's weird to derive such delight from a perfectly organized spice rack, but I'm thankful for the aesthetics of well-organized spaces.


14) Freshly painted rooms. In addition to organizing All The Things, over the past months I've also painted All The Rooms including my entire main floor, the master bedroom, and the upstairs bathroom. Bonus: the paint colors are spectacular, which is a gift because you never can perfectly project what a whole room will look like from a tiny paint chip. My favorite is our bedroom: Essex Grey by Sherwin Williams. Isn't it gorgeous?


15) Sunday trips to Goodwill. Each Sunday, our local Goodwill, which is just a few minutes from my house, has a special tag sale when clothes are reduced to 79 cents and housewares to 39 cents. It's a combination of Christmas + a treasure hunt + sustainable living + an opportunity to brag to my family (or strangers, really) about the bargains I found. What a fun way to spend an hour on a Sunday afternoon!


16) The basil plant on my kitchen windowsill is thriving. Every time I wash dishes, I realize how fond I am of my sweet little basil plant.


17) A batch of graded assignments. The past week of work was a doozy with grading, but I'm nearly finished with another batch of assignments. It's hard to maintain pre-pandemic levels of efficiency and motivation now, so each time I finish a challenging task, I'm proud. Crossed off items on my to-do list are hard earned, and I give thanks for times of productivity and effort.


18) Full bookshelves. Our house is filled with bookshelves. I love this! Currently I'm reading Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan for the second time (hilarious!), It's Okay Not to Be Okay by Sheila Walsh (healing and encouragement for the depths of your soul), and the Maze Runner series (see number 4 above).


19) My mother-in-law shares her magazines with me. Every few weeks my mother-in-law, who lives one town over from us, drops off her stash of magazines: Good Housekeeping, Women's Day, Real Simple, and HGTV. While the content is mostly the same (tips for better sleep, more organized life, cute home decorating ideas, recipes for chicken that I think I'll try and clip out, then forget to try and throw away), I never tire of happily flipping through them.


20) Garage sales are coming. I can feel this in my bones. I'm awaiting the day when I see that first bright poster board sign hanging from a telephone pole off in the horizon.


21) My husband won a Roomba in a raffle. Do you own a Roomba? Last year my husband's impressive skill at guessing how many jelly beans are in a giant jar made him the recipient of a free Roomba. My life hasn't been the same since. Oh Roomba, I love you.


22) Cozy pants. Pandemic. Sweatpants. Enough said.


23) Grocery stores. Based on the number of times that I need to head to Walmart because I "forgot something" makes me unabashedly thankful that I don't live during the Little House on the Prairie era when you took one annual trip to the mercantile to buy flour, sugar, tacks, and a bolt of gingham fabric.


24) The Office and Parks and Rec. These shows LITERALLY have sucked away many hours of my life. What a happy suckage of hours it's been.



25) When my children hear a song from the 80's that they're familiar with.
Me: flips through radio channels while driving and stumbles upon "Take On Me" by A-Ha.
Kid (sweetly, yet ignorantly): "Wait, Mom, you know this song? How do you know this song?"
Me: "Ah, young grasshopper.... there's so much for you to learn." 

I love these moments.


26) Modern medicine and caring doctors. After seven horrible months at the onset of 2020 dealing with a serious autoimmune condition, my middle daughter has found great relief and healing through regular biologic injections. During those same months when I struggled to find emotional equilibrium, I've found greater balance through a mild anti-depressant. I'm grateful for caring doctors and modern treatments to help people reach physical and mental wellness.


27) This video by the Holderness Family. Go on, take three minutes to watch this. I've viewed it multiple times and shown it to every member of my family. I can't help laughing the moment he dumps the contents of his backpack on the floor. Classic.


28) Photo albums and journals. Having a record of important people, moments, and experiences, both in visual and narrative forms? Priceless.


29) Sleep. Oh.my.goodness, what an underrated daily gift. I love going to sleep!


30) Mobility. Two years ago I injured my shoulder. After months of physical therapy and cortisone shots, I have nearly full mobility restored. I've even reverted to my favorite sleeping pose: on my stomach with my head turned to the side, one leg bent and the other straight, with my right arm extended above my head. Sure, it resembles the chalk outline of a victim in a crime scene, but I'm happy I can extend my arm again!


31) The snow is nearly melted. Just yesterday, I scraped at the few lingering piles that had crusted along the side of our driveway, breaking up the ice and tossing shovelfuls onto the road so they'd melt more quickly. Grass! We see grass again!


32) Simple comforts: Every day I have access to comforts like hot showers, clean sheets, and temperature control.


33) Modern conveniences: Life still is busy, but what a blessing to have access to incredible conveniences like a washing machine, dishwasher, and safe water from a tap!


34) Before-and-after pictures. Some people have show pictures of their grandchildren to strangers. I show people before-and-after pictures to anyone who will look. DID YOU SEE THIS THING THAT WAS OLD AND UGLY, BUT NOW IS NEW AND AWESOME?


35) Meals when every family member likes what you served for dinner. If you cook dinners, you get this.


36) The Covid vaccine.
Have I mentioned that it's been nearly two years since I've seen my parents? I miss them. I'm so grateful that we'll be able to see each other this summer.


37) Dreams of future road trips. As the world begins to open up, I'm daring to dream that we might again hit the road for a small trip. It doesn't need to be anywhere special, mind you, but the promise of future travel feels hopeful.


38) Daylight Savings Time. Sure, we lose an hour of sleep, but the infusion of energy from extended daylight makes up for it.


39) Neighborhood walks. At the risk of sound extraordinarily middle-aged, I've come to really enjoy my walks around the neighborhood.


40) Happy closure on the swing set era. For a decade we've had a swing set stationed in our back yard. It had been a gift from my brother-in-law after his daughters outgrew it. Every week when we cut the grass for the past ten summers, we've painstakingly mowed around the swing set. This year, our youngest announced that she's ready to part ways. It's time: the swings are too short, and the slide (which once has been exciting) appears dinky next to her length. It's been a great run, and now we can pass it on.


41) Positive influences in my children's lives. I think of the teachers who have poured into my girls' learning, the elementary school principal who consistently offered motivation and life lessons, the youth soccer coaches, the Girl Scout troop leaders, the children ministry teachers, and the Young Life mentors. All of these kind and helpful people have generously given their time and talents to support the academic, social, physical, emotional, or spiritual growth of my kids. Thank you!


42) Friends who love, accept, and understand me. You are my people.


43) God's grace. Every item above points to a blessing -- whether people, experiences, lessons learned, humor, or daily comforts. These gifts and pleasures all point back to a loving God. 


Blessed be to the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits! (Psalm 68:1)


And, dear reader, I'm thankful for you today, too. It's an honor that you join me here!


With love,

Robin


That One Warm Day In February

There always seems to be one day in February that's surprisingly warm, a day when everyone happily loses their minds because a sliver of sunshine appears as a promise of spring after a long winter haul. Today, my friends, was such a day.

 

I spotted my neighbor wearing shorts. I literally could hear snow melting. I went outside to spray paint since we surpassed the critical 50 degrees temperature threshold. People smiled. I think I even saw someone frolic.
 
I know winter will fight back and we're not entirely through yet, but I'm thankful. A warm day in February always gives hope.
 
 

Mirror Mirror (Finally Hung) On the Wall

I write with good news: I've reached the stage in the pandemic where I'm tackling house projects like a boss. This wasn't the case last March when the world initially shut down and we pivoted to remote teaching and school. Those months were remarkably messy and unproductive. I mostly block them from my memory.

Although I completed a few projects last summer, like painting my front door and my daughter's room, I never fully caught my DIY stride. But now I'm riding a wave of motivation, eking out these early weeks of the spring semester (still fully remote) when my grading workload is lighter. Over the past month, in fact, I've painted the entire main level of my house, removing years of hand prints, smudges, and miscellaneous scuffs from our walls.


One project I'm especially proud of -- and what I'd like to share with you today -- is task that took me only 35 months to complete. You see, a small lifetime ago, back in March 2018 when we were naive puppies who never had heard of Coronavirus or wore masks, I discovered an old farmhouse six-pane window at a Habitat Resale store. It was a simple beauty, and I knew I could create something special.


I lightly sanded the frame, then freshened it with a coat of crisp white paint. As a finishing touch, I bought an inexpensive replacement mirror at Lowes that a helpful employee cut into six identical rectangles so I could secure each individual mirror onto each of the glass panes.



Now the old window was something really special! But sadly, this was the point when the project reached a standstill. I loved my new farmhouse mirror, but I didn't know where to hang it. Eventually, I moved it into our basement storage closet and there it sat, largely forgotten, for nearly three years.

 

Fast forward to several weeks ago as I'm folding laundry and listlessly gazing at the empty wall in my laundry room. The pieces slid into place like a puzzle: my basement held an awesome mirror that I previously believed had no place to be hung, and my laundry room had an empty wall that was the perfect size for that mirror. 

 

It took me 35 months, but people, I hung that mirror.

 

 

Since I was on a roll, I also refinished a three-compartment organizer that I found at Goodwill for under a buck. At first glance, it wasn't much to look at, but the potential was evident.


 

After a fresh coat of gray paint and new hardware, it's the perfect place to store laundry room odds-and-ends, like loose change found in pockets or clothespins.

 

As an added bonus, I added a small tray, which was another DIY project, to corral a faux plant that brings a touch of greenery and a pretty white canister that holds my Oxyclean detergent. (True story: I found the canister on the side of the road during our town's bulk trash week. While I question why someone would throw it away, I was happy to be the recipient!) 



I'm not sure how these past few months have treated you, but I hope you've found joy in simple things, like I have with my recent influx of projects. In several ways, they feel symbolic of better times ahead. As I've completed each project, I've experienced a swell of purpose and accomplishment -- feelings that were relatively dormant this past year. 

 

Matters that have been stuck or tucked away finally seem to be getting unstuck and brought back to life, right down to the farmhouse mirror now perfectly hung on my laundry room wall.

And... It's a Wrap. Goodbye 2020.


As we head into the new year, I'd like to go on record saying that it would be okay if I never hear the words "unprecedented" or "asynchronous" again.

That declaration aside, it's safe to say that even if your struggles in 2020 didn't register as tragic or severe as other people's trials, this year has been hard on us all. Struggle and suffering never should be a contest of degree; it all hurts. Personally, I hit some lows that stung terribly, but I'm still standing, tired, yet stronger for the scars.

I'm reminded of the account of Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego who, when cast into the fiery furnace, saw a fourth figure in the blaze alongside them. When they exited the fire, they weren't singed. They didn't even smell like smoke. There are parallels we can draw. As circumstances burned around us this year, God has been present with us in the midst of the blaze. Even more, even if it doesn't feel likely now, we eventually will move ahead without traces of singe and smoke clinging to us.

As we pivot into 2021, I don't believe that life magically will get easier. But thank God that his mercies are still new every morning and that his nature is peace. He is enough, even when we're weak, confused, listless, bored, angry, hurting, or quarantined. If we're in a fire, He's alongside us. Perhaps the greatest gift of 2020 was teaching me this firsthand.

Here's to 2021, dear friends! May it be more normal than 2020. And most importantly, may it be well with your souls.

Oh, breaking news: I recently got a free yellow door for a DIY project because, people, a girl's gotta have a project on hand during these unprecedented times. (Sorry. Had to go there.) The door is awesome and entirely impractical, given that I have no place in my house for a spare door, but it's full of potential and the possibilities of "what could be" cheer me greatly. This is a hallmark of any good DIY project, but also a valuable life reminder. There are possibilities and potential ahead, friends.

Happy New Year!

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