Gratitude Challenge: Days 1-7

 Day 1:  What is a happy memory you are grateful for?

I am grateful that this was such a tricky one to pin down.  Approximately one bajillion happy memories were elbowing each other out of the way, trying to make it to the top.  I am going to pick a Christmas memory from my childhood.  Specifically, the year my parents got me a kitty cat of my very own.   The one and only Holly.

My dad was a policeman who worked overnights for much of my childhood.  I can recall the almost painful anticipation of waiting for him to get off shift so we could open presents on Christmas morning.  This particular Christmas I ran up to him as he came through the kitchen door.  I wanted to give him a toy car since he'd said he wanted a new car for Christmas.  But to my surprise and delight, a little black-and-white kitty popped her head out from inside my dad's thick, leather jacket stopping me mid-sentence.  And then my dad said she was for me!!!

We'd had cats as long as I could remember, but they were either "family" cats or "my sister's" cats.  I'd never had one that was "mine."   I named her Holly in honor of the Christmas season.

(I add the quotes because let's be real, they were my parents' cats since they bought the food and took 'em to the vet and us kids were never as good about the litterbox as we said we'd be...)

That first Christmas with Holly was so entertaining.  She was cuter than a bug's ear with her little half-mustache and her big, shining green eyes.  She was playful and vibrant and adventuresome, as kittens tend to be.  She scaled the Christmas tree but was so featherlight that she didn't cause chaos as she perched on the branches, scoping out her new world.  Holly loved the boxes and the ribbons and wrapping paper.  Everything was to be played with!  Petting her on the lap of my new Christmas jammies surrounded by my precious family as we exchanged gifts under the tree twinkling with lights....oh, it brings a little tear to my eye.  

I love that cat more than words can say.  She will be in my heart forever.  Until Ginger came along I never thought I could love a cat that deeply again, actually.

Day 2: Think about a place you are grateful for.

I am over the moon grateful for our house.  Our home, sweet, home.  It really is just a perfect spot for us.  It's well situated in town.  It is modest, but amply suits our needs--creative, culinary, and otherwise.  Just last week Matt told me that it will be ours, free and clear, by my next birthday.  I won't even be 40 yet and we will truly own it.  (Barring anything unforeseen, of course.  Buying the JamJar forced a delay in the schedule, say.)  This is a very intentional goal that we've been working towards and now that we're so close I almost have a hard time believing it.    

I love to travel.  Love it!  It recharges my batteries and gratifies me to no end.  But...I am so, so, so grateful for our home to return to after each journey.  I always want to come back.  I love it here.  It is cozy and colorful.  It is full of interesting things to look at and a pair of cute kitties to play with!  We're just a hop, skip, and, a bicycle ride away from most of the places we go around town.  I can watch the sunlight play across the rimrocks from the backyard.  I like my neighbors.  Our house hums with production and learning and life.  

Our humble home brings me a sense of reassurance and stability.  I appreciate having this sanctuary and the joyful life Matt and I are building within.  I am so grateful to have set down our roots here.  

Day 3: What is an album you are grateful for?

I am thankful for Paul Simon's Graceland album. --pause here while I go queue that up, actually--  I encountered this album in February 2020 and I rode it hard through the pandemic year.  It was medicine for my troubled soul.  There were days when I was listening to it as I soaked in the bath and after the last track I would just start it over again.  Annnnnnnnnd maybe even a third time on a few occasions.  To be fair, it isn't that long of an album (43 minutes).  

By the time Spotify compiled my annual listening stats Paul Simon would dominate the 2020 record book.  All five of our top-played songs were from Graceland: "The Boy in the Bubble," "Under African Skies," "Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes," the title track "Graceland," and "Homeless," respectively.  Folk-Rock even pushed out Jam Band as our favorite genre.  The Grateful Dead retained their crown as the most-played artist, though Paul Simon did jump from nowhere into the top five.  All in all, a Graceland musical clean sweep!

When I was a field tech for USDA in high school I spent a lot of time in the lab dissecting wheat stems, looking for sawfly larvae, and listening to the radio.  I can remember thinking that "You Can Call Me Al," was overplayed by our local station.  "Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes," also felt familiar, but, otherwise, the Graceland album was all new to me.  

The way that Graceland made me feel play after play after play was reminiscent of when I first encountered Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.  The two albums are nothing alike, really, but in both cases, I was absolutely entranced by the sweeping, evocative dynamics of the music.  Each of them came to me at a time when I really needed it, too.  Ahhhhhh, the transformative power of music.  I love it.  It feels miraculous.

To me, Graceland feels like a story when played from beginning to end.  The story of a life from childhood to adulthood in cycles and phases.  I adore the diversity of sounds, specifically the South African choirs and percussionists, coupled with the more standard folk-rock music instrumentation. Graceland has currents and tides, alternately melancholy and then jubilant.  Quiet and then rowdy.  It has a life or is like life, I'm not sure.  It makes me happy when I hear it.  That was a particular gift in 2020 and 2021 but retains its usefulness today as well.

Day 4: What is a type of food that you are grateful for?

I initially thought I'd write about "vegan food" as a broad food category because I am sure thankful for that.  It is a great time to be a vegan, lemme tell you.  I eat so well and, though it might be surprising, I actually eat a wider variety of things now than I did in my fully omnivorous days.  My standard American diet was so beige and boring.  

I next considered the tasty wide array that is "Indian food." many spices and legumes and aromatic rice.  This is probably our most frequent culinary motif.  It is a serious household favorite.  I can't recommend Raghaven Iyer's cookbook enough.  

I'm going to land on peppers as the food I am oh-so-thankful for.  Because, gosh, do I love peppers.  I adore the sweet peppers and I enjoy the spicy ones.  Whether raw, sauteed, grilled, roasted, pureed, stir-fried, or will be delicious to me.  As a result, a lot of our garden space is given over to peppers.  We grow cayennes and jalapenos, mostly, for our hot peppers.  Sometimes Thai bird peppers, too.  I make my own hot sauce, crushed red pepper, and the like.  We've tried a load of different sweet pepper varieties over the years.  We eat them fresh, plus chop and freeze them for winter use.  

Regardless of whether it is a bell pepper or a bull's horn or a poblano--red, yellow, orange, or green--I love them all.  Peppers are the best!

Day 5: What is a TV show/Movie that makes you smile?

I am sure Matt won't be the only one surprised that I'm not going to select The Simpsons as a show/movie that makes me smile.  The first thing that came to mind though was the movie The Big Lebowski...and I'm going with my gut.  The Simpsons (seasons 1-12) will always hold a special place in my heart, but I'm quite certain I've spent more recent hours watching The Dude than Homer.  

The Big Lebowski is one of those stories with an ambiguous ending.  Almost maddeningly ambiguous, actually.  I love that.  They make me think.  They make the story last even longer because I am forever trying to figure it out.  The whole movie is weird and deep and irreverent and...I just get a kick out of it.  I re-watch it at least once a year.  I'm really not much of a TV or movie person at this point in my life, so I think that says a lot.  

Day 6:  Who is someone you're grateful for?

Ofta!  Seeing as it felt impossible to select one person from my circle of friends and family I'm going to say Phil Lesh.  His music--specifically seeing him live at the 10,000 Lakes Festival in 2006--changed my life forever.  That was the moment I became a Deadhead for life.  It was an experience that cemented Matt and me as a couple.  It set the course for, well, the rest of my life.  Not to be too grand about it.

Phil plays the bass with such unique skill and style.  He rocks it, even as he cracks into his 80s, dropping "Phil Bombs" that blast my soul from the dancefloor to the rooftops, metaphorically speaking, of course.  The way his fingers fly over the fretboard is phenomenal.  Aside from his musical gifts, I appreciate that he encourages his fans to get out and vote and register as organ donors.  

I read his book, Searching for the Sound, in conjunction with seeing The Dead's 2009 tour.  Both of those experiences left an indelible impact on my being.  Every time I get to watch Phil play I feel blessed.  Absolutely blessed.  

Day 7:   What social media platform brings you joy?

Facebook is my social media of choice...and I guess I will concede that it does, in fact, bring me joy.  It is far from a perfect system, but...for me, the joys certainly outweigh the drawbacks.  I share links to my blog there for my family and friends.  Mostly though, I use FB Messenger to maintain a daily relationship with my high school besties.  The chat thread for the BobLobLaws (Alli, Chantz, Hannah, and Val) is such a time capsule!  For example, on "Gratitude Day 3" I searched the BobLobLaw thread to pinpoint the month I fell in love with Graceland, say.  It is also a repository of funny stories, rants, sunset/rise photos, and so much goodness.  I have a similarly joyful thread with Lisa and Sarah which is aptly named Sisters.  No clever title there, but it is another wonderful repository of happiness.

Lastly, I find Facebook a valuable tool for keeping tabs on live music opportunities--from Thursday night local jazz jams to Phil & Friends announcing a show at the Kettlehouse.  And everyone knows how much joy live music brings me!  

Terrapin Flyer at The Elm 10/28/2022


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