Eighteen years ago, I woke up in the recovery room after a particularly rough surgery and said, in that anesthetic fog, “I feel like I have an elephant standing on my chest.” I had never heard that phrase before but I have since learned it is a well-known symptom of a heart attack. The staff at Abbott Northwestern Hospital immediately transferred me into a coronary care unit and did everything possible to make sure I wasn’t in danger. As it turned out, I wasn’t. At all. But their care during that hospital stay and the follow-up afterward helped me understand how pro-active our medical community is … and the lifesaving support they offer. On this day, February 1st, I am grateful for Go Red for Women Day, recognizing the importance of women taking care of their heart health and all the efforts to help us recognize what we need to do. Spread the word. Pay attention to your heart health. Go Red!
I know, what a weird thing to be grateful for, but this cheese grater is important in our lives. Roughly 20 years ago, I started coughing about 15 minutes after eating in some restaurants. I talked with my doctor, asked other people, and no one knew what could be causing this. The reaction increased: I could barely breathe for five minutes, my voice was raspy, my head plugged up, and I coughed and coughed. Through trial and error, we figured out that it was a reaction to two things, PHO (partially hydrogenated oil—trans fats) and propylene glycol (which is used to keep food, such as grated cheese, from sticking together). I have to be very picky about what I eat in a restaurant … and we’ve stopped buying grated cheese. With this wonderful cheese grater, it is very easy to grate your own cheese … and it saves money! (At Ikea, it’s a Stralande Rotary Cheese and Food Grater; adjustable for left- or right-hand use)
Gertrude Chandler Warner started writing when she was five years old, in 1895. She wrote The Box-Car Children when she was sick at home, recovering from bronchitis. She wrote a book she wanted to read, believing she would like to live in a caboose. That first Box-Car Children book was published in 1924. Forty years later, I would find it in my elementary school library. That story began a lifelong love of mysteries. They are my go-to stress-relievers, a place for me to get lost in a story. I particularly like a series of mysteries—because I can inhabit that world for a longer period of time. The detectives become memorable people I know well. Warner wrote eighteen books in her series about the Box-Car children. She wrote that first book nearly 100 years ago … and it persists. You can visit her childhood home in Putnam, Connecticut, and tour the Box-Car Children Museum across the street, housed in—what else?—a railroad freight car.
I will forever be grateful to Lorraine Livingston, my professor at Augsburg College, who taught Shakespeare: “Study of ten or twelve major plays, comedies, histories, tragedies with attention to the development of Shakespeare’s dramatic and poetic art. Additional plays assigned for reading and analysis.” The papers were demanding. The final was brutal. I loved every minute of that class. Because of her teaching and meticulous attention to details, I continue to read everything about and by Shakespeare to this day. Such a gift. Did you have a particular teacher who left a lasting gift with you?
I am of two minds about awards. For every award that is given, another book or film or illustrator of equally fine accomplishment goes unrewarded. I always want to stand up, raise my hand, and say, “Yes, but …” When the choices that are made by a committee draw attention to something I don’t want people to miss … I am delighted, of course. Today I am grateful that the Robert F. Sibert Award committee of American Library Services to Children shone their light on two very fine books by authors I am honored to call friends.
Seed catalogs? I collect this artwork on a Pinterest board called “Seed Art.” It’s fascinating to me to mark the changes in illustration over the years. But then there are these “oddities” for which I’m grateful. I love knowing that there’s nothing new about a sense of humor. Did these vegetable people help sell seeds? Steve just ordered Mortgage Lifter Tomatoes from Seed Savers Exchange. It’s a tomato from the Great Depression. We shall see.
It is very cold outside. It’s going to get colder. And it will snow. It will snow a great deal tomorrow. My thoughts turn, without help, to spring and gardens and planting. Seed catalogues are filled with color and dreams, the scents of soil and flowers and greens. The tenderness of sunlight and shade. It is gratifying to know that people have sought a winter lifeline in seed catalogues for more than one hundred years. The artwork is an inspiration.
I am grateful for R. Carlos Nakai. His music soothes me, engenders awe and contemplation, keeps me grounded, and inspires me. He has kept me going through some of the toughest times. If you do not yet know his music, I recommend you begin with Canyon Trilogy. We have been listening to Changes for 35 years. He is a master of the Native American flute and I appreciate his collaboration with world musicians. Here’s his website and a sample of Canyon Trilogy.
Stuff. What to do with stuff? Marie Kondo encourages us to consider what sparks joy and remove everything else from our lives. I read books about organization like my life depends on it. Maybe it does. Steve and I are doing our best to live without buying “stuff” so it makes each choice about what to get rid of difficult on many levels. Will we need it again? I have the hardest time with “I remember my grandmother using this slotted thimble when she crocheted” and “here is an unfinished quilt my grandmother started” and “these are the favors I designed for our 2000 family reunion.” The sentimental “stuff.” Our connections to history.
I am grateful for the advice to take a photo of the item in question. Hanging on to that stuff is about the memories. Looking at a photo evokes the same memories, even the smells, textures, and sounds.
A number of years ago, a cousin to whom my mother had lent my childhood rocking chair gave it back to my mom. Her kids were grown. Mom hung on to it. When we packed up her house, I couldn’t bear to part with that chair. I spent many happy hours in it reading books. But it really wanted a young person to sit in it, rocking and reading, so we gave it to a grandma who was happy to share it with her grandson. We took a photo before sending it on its way and it DOES make me happy to look at that photo now and then. Memories don’t have to take up physical space.
Who would we be without our friends? The friend I have had for the greatest length of time (I can’t say my “oldest” friend, she’s not) is standing in the middle of this group of neighborhood children celebrating my birthday. The sweet blonde standing next to me (lower right) is very dear to me. I grew up in the Twin Cities, in an apartment in a complex with few children nearby. I waited until my summer vacations and holidays, spending time with my grandparents in my hometown, to see my best friend. Once I started working (at 16) and stopped traveling to that hometown (my grandparents moved to another city), we lost touch. Each of us married, our names were different … even though I searched, I could not locate her. I am grateful for Facebook … we found each other again. A couple of years ago, we traveled for hours to have lunch together. I couldn’t stop smiling. For all of us, time passes but friendship bonds sustain us.