gratitude.

Standard

We’ve gotten into the habit of “saying our thank-yous” before meals with M – it’s something they do at her school, and it goes like this: “We are thankful for our food, we are thankful for our water, and most of all, we are thankful for each other. Bon appetit, now we may eat!” It’s sort of our secular way of “saying grace” before meals. Anyway, gratitude. It’s a good thing. And I was overwhelmed with the feeling of it, yesterday, as I walked with M on our usual “two playground walk” route, which takes us through Highland Park.

3D map of Highland Park. I love this park so much.

We were walking along Pinetum Drive, and I was looking up through the towering pine trees at the blue sky overhead, and…goodness, how fortunate I am to have THIS, this beautiful place where I can spend time with my amazing daughter and it’s all right in my neighborhood! (Well, in the next neighborhood over, really, but I love to walk, so that’s nothing!)

Lilacs!
(One of my favorite things about Highland Park: the lilacs!)

A couple of weeks ago I had an interview for a job in the writing program up at the University of Minnesota. You know, home. I didn’t get the job. I’ve been feeling a bit down about it, because gosh, it’s so hard for us to get home to visit my family and that would’ve been so great, to live so close. But you know what? I’m not sure the job would’ve been the best fit. It was a faculty development position, and while I think I’m good at the work I’ve done in that area and would probably enjoy doing that work, my heart really sings when it comes to working directly with students. My new job in the writing program here is primarily a student-facing job (I mostly teach freshman writing classes, but I also do workshops for both students and faculty). And the thing that really helps get me over my “but I could’ve moved home!” gloom is to think about all of the wonderful things that are true of my life HERE…not just the job that I have, but my LIFE here.

And on that front, gosh: we live in a lovely little neighborhood, and we’ve finally been getting to know some of our neighbors thanks to our neighborhood social network (on Nextdoor), and we now have a reliable cat-sitter who we pay back by taking care of her cats and chickens, but it’s not really paying back since she lets us keep the eggs the chickens lay while she’s away! At the end of our street, we have an Indian restaurant (the smell of their lunch buffet cooking is delightful when I’m working at home with the windows open!) and an Ethiopian restaurant, whose owner lets us (over)fill a carryout box on their vegetarian buffet nights to take home because he knows M doesn’t do well sitting in a restaurant with us. We can walk to M’s pediatrician’s office. We live within walking distance of 4(!) playgrounds, and M and I consistently visit two of them – Ellwanger-Barry Park (which M calls “the Linden playground”, since it’s on Linden St.) and Highland Park.

Took a detour into highland park. This is gonna be a LONG walk!

We love walking through Highland Park, and stopping to rest on THIS bench (M is very particular about it!). There are so many great paths for M to run on in the park:

"I'm gonna run away from you, mama!" (Kiddo, mama used to be a competitive runner. I can catch you!)

There are lovely shaded grassy spots to just sit and relax:

Hanging out in Highland Park.

There’s a wonderful little playground there with a climbing wall for my little monkey…

Climbing!

…as well as some great trees for climbing!

She wanted to climb trees today.

We are both just so happy when we’re at Highland Park!

Smiley M!

There’s so much to do in Highland Park, but since M always wants to do a “2 playground walk”, we often pack up after the playground and walk to Linden, where there’s an amazing playground, with so many great climbing apparatuses…

She worked until she could do this without holding my hand. She was so proud of herself!

…as well as M’s favorite spot, the communal sandbox, where people donate toys for everyone to use:

Having fun in the sandbox at playground number 1.

We also sometimes go to Cobb’s Hill (a long walk in the OTHER direction from Highland Park) and walk around the reservoir while daddy runs laps around it:

Me and my girl at the reservoir

And lucky us, if we don’t want to take a walk, there are still great things to do – the Museum of Play, in particular, is something I feel SO fortunate to have here (and actually, it’s within walking distance for us, too!). M gets SO much out of it…she loves the trains…

Maddy does "train work" at The Strong.

…and loves to “buy” peanut butter (JUST peanut butter) at the kiddie Wegmans:

Scanning peanut butter at the strong. #latergram

(To my mom and dad: the Museum of Play membership was seriously the BEST Christmas present ever! Thank you!) And there’s a zoo that’s easy to drive to, too!

At the zoo with my girl.

And we could even drive up to the beach at Lake Ontario, though for some reason we haven’t done that yet!

We’ve been so fortunate to find a wonderful school community for M, where she’s happy and thriving, and we’ve made some good parent/family-friends there, too!

I doodled her school logo in orange chalk.
(I doodled her school logo in chalk the other day)

The friends that we have here are another thing I am intensely grateful for. It’s not particularly easy to make connections and become part of a broader community when you move someplace as a graduate student – the whole idea is that you get your training, finish the degree, and then move away. So I’m incredibly grateful for the connections I’ve made with the folks in the Writing Program here, where I now work full time, and for all of those “outside” connections, too – my friends through knitting guild, our friends through M’s school, my friends who I met through a Meetup group, who just welcomed their second baby into the world…all of them! This weekend, we’re going to be doing a tour of the Wegmans Organic Farm with M’s school, and since we’ll be down in Canandaigua, one of my friends (who I met in the Writing Program and also see through knitting guild) who moved down there will be taking us out on the lake on their boat afterward! And this fall, we’ll see even more far-flung friends when we drive down to Rhinebeck for the sheep & Wool festival.

I mean, seriously – this life we’ve made for ourselves here is pretty amazing. I’m so grateful for all of it. (Ok, maybe not the brutally grey winters, but they wouldn’t be THAT different if I were up in Minnesota! And yeah, our basement floods when it rains really hard, and our backyard is a disaster of weeds. It’s not perfect. But it’s pretty darned nice.) Would I like for it to be easier to visit my family? Oh my goodness, definitely. But where I am right now? This is home, too. My home. And I’ve put in a lot of work these last few years to make it my home, and I’m just so grateful for how that’s all turned out.

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