Life is about change. Sometimes it’s painful. Sometimes it’s beautiful. But most of the time, it’s both. -Lana Lang

My legs, back, and glute muscles were numb, frozen mostly by the anesthetic shot given prior to the steroid injections. I still had no idea if those steroid injections would finally bring relief to the sciatic nerve pain in both of my legs that had dominated the last month and a half of my life, but for the time being, numb meant a few positive things in and of itself. For the first time in that month and a half, I lay down on my couch, inviting my dog, who’d gotten used to me needing the hard surface of the floor, to come snuggle on the soft cushions next to me. With my muscles and nerves relaxed (again, numb), my mind remained calm enough to switch on the TV and actually give attention to the programming. What played back at me, on this 50th anniversary of JFK’s death, was a quote from the Dallas city mayor that immediately brought tears to my eyes:

“But out of that tragedy, an opportunity was granted to us: the chance to learn how to face the future when it’s the darkest and most uncertain, how to hold high the torch even when the flame flickers and threatens to go out.”

Two years and four days later, 2015 happens to be one of the rare, special years where Thanksgiving falls on one of my favorite, if not most favorite dates of all-time: November 26th — the day I received my acceptance letter from the University of North Carolina. I’ve written multiple times about that date, most notably my “acceptance letter” back to UNC, describing how thankful I am for the opportunity to have gone there.

Yet… despite the fact that “Thanksgiving” falls once again this year on a date I’m “thankful” for, it is the memory of that day in 2013 and everything that has 39787_836089178448_3469991_nhappened since, that makes me far more thankful for other things besides the opportunities and experiences I had at my “dream school.” For those of you who know me, and even many who don’t, you know that UNC is and will remain forever, a large piece of my heart, the blood beating through it no doubt, Carolina blue. But in the past couple of years, my life experiences — and life lessons — have taken turns far beyond those four years at Carolina, and for that reason, I’ve made the decision that this blog will now take the same turn.

In many ways, it already has. Other than the blog’s original home page, most of my posts have consisted more of musings and lessons about recent experiences than the ones now over a decade ago. But it’s time to formalize it, especially in light of my sequel to be 11128723_10102721981249578_4356146336482934923_npublished within the coming year. That’s right, Girl Enlightened, my first draft at least, is finished(!!), and with that, the direction of my blog will now take a focus more on the lessons of that memoir, versus my previous one. The proceeds from And Then it Rained will continue to go towards helping underprivileged kids get to college, just as I hope the message of that book will help inspire everyone who reads it to go after their dreams, but as my overall life and experiences move beyond college, so to, will my reflections and guidance. It will focus on other items, like some of the “little things” that I am grateful for this week of Thanksgiving:

I am grateful for naps. For those long few months of my piriformis syndrome, I dreaded any time intended for sleep, as my mind’s focus turned even more so to the electric-shock 11064621_10102857888894568_1805818392752999284_ntype pain shooting down my legs. My mom suggested taking a shot of whiskey before bed each night, in addition to a sleeping pill, which did help… but that was only an option at night. During the day, being knocked out was out of the question. Now, I look forward to laying down at night, and also, those weekend mornings or afternoon when I lay on the couch and fall asleep with my dogs. It never escapes my notice that such a short time ago my body would not allow me to do such a thing, and for that reason, I am that much more appreciative.

And it is no wonder the thought of Whiskey now makes me cringe.

I am grateful for snow. During my year and a half in Tucson, AZ, my mood 12240829_10103148030378708_5038966817954429936_oremained pretty chipper thinking about the warmth I was experiencing versus the 12291226_10103148027289898_182902578549425531_ocold and snow back home in Wisconsin. “No way” was I ever going back to that, I said. But watching my dogs — both my 5-year old golden who hadn’t seen snow in 5 years, along with my 5-month old puppy who’d never seen snow — leap around in the first accumulation last weekend brought as big of a smile to my face as I can remember. Sunshine certainly brings happiness… but other weather can as well.

I am grateful for Yoga. A few years ago I considered a slow, generally-doesn’t-1904167_10102534106267548_3385811202987395021_ncause-sweating workout unimaginable — I needed at least an hour and a half of good, solid cardio to feel good about myself. After being forced to take over 8 months off from doing anything, and still feeling pretty timid about putting any stress on my tight muscles, I turned to a mostly stretch/posed based “work-out.” Poses I at first thought “no way I’ll ever be able to do them,” such as holding my body up with just my arm/wrist on one side, are now ones I can hold for over 2 minutes, and these simple exercises were the first thing in forever to actually make me feel like I was gaining strength again.

Today, the practice continues to help me to build both mental and physical strength, and to remind me that health comes from slowing down as much as it does from speeding up.

I am grateful for my niece. The seven-month old cutie has added fun to just about 11078161_10102734754556768_7961144305877882877_nevery family event, and a picture or video of her has brightened my day on more occasions than I can count. I knew I’d love being an Aunt, but I had no idea how much I would love this little girl, enough to give up the sun and warmth to live back within a few miles of her. And she sure makes shopping a whole lot more fun!

I am grateful for the ability to run a mile. In truth, I can 11947590_10102992700715598_5350743856708960200_nnow run a half-marathon again, having set my personal record in a race this past August. But that’s not what I’m grateful for, and it’s not something I consider a “little thing.”

What I consider a “little thing,” is the ability to run IMG_0350the mile from the beginning of my favorite lake path, under the Monona Terrace, to the other side. It is a place that has always held immense meaning for me (more coming in my sequel), but has even more now that I’ve spread some of my dad’s ashes there. When I’m feeling down, it’s more than comforting to take a short jog past that special spot, and blow a little kiss.

I am grateful for a job that I look forward to. My boss recently texted me over the weekend, to see if we could get a document out to a customer that same day. In past jobs, even getting such a text would cause a stomach drop — “I don’t want to think about work on the weekend!” Now, not only do I love what I’m doing, but I have such a balance between that and my everyday life that I don’t mind opening my computer for 15 minutes on a weekend for something important. I don’t experience the Sunday night dread, and find myself instead looking forward to going to work given the atmosphere there.

I am grateful for early mornings. I used to set my alarm as close as possible to when I had to leave for work — saving just enough time for putting on make-up and putting my hair in a pony tail. While living in an apartment in Arizona, I had to build in extra time to walk my dog around the building versus just let her out to do her business, and thus began an enjoyment of a more relaxed morning.IMG_0482My new routine involves a cup of expresso (a habit developed while living in Paris two months ago), while playing with my two puppies. My hair still often ends up in a ponytail, and even my bed goes unmade most mornings, but it’s not because I’m in a hurry; rather, it’s because I’ve spent time doing things that make me much happier than sleeping.

I am grateful for living near my family. Just as I have learned to appreciate the snow in WI, I appreciate more than ever, that being in this state allows me to get to 11952706_10103036764506408_7791940994184953450_oeach of my immediate family members within a half hour. My head swirling one day last week, my mom offered to meet me for a cup of coffee at lunch, resulting in a much calmer rest of the day. My littlest sister’s new puppy and mine have become best friends, just as my middle sister and my older dog became when they lived close by. Overall, the ability to just get together on a whim, and especially see that adorable little niece of mine, has certainly made the cold weather worth it (so far at least :)).

I am grateful for my (small) side of the bed. When I got my first dog 5 years ago, I said “no way, no how” in the bed… I was far to finicky of a sleeper. But when I 12188021_10103111718493018_2333238441204446551_omoved to Arizona, something about letting her snuggle into that spot just seemed right. Now… I have two dogs in there with me.

2x the snuggles, the warmth, and the love sleeping next to me every night. Occasionally I am awoken by someone stealing a pillow, or using my legs as a pillow (my 5-month old puppy, in particular likes this), but when I go to bed with them next to me, and wake up the same way, there is always a smile on my face.

11667447_10102890924510928_3536189948503560004_nI am grateful for friendships that do not change. More than ever, my friends are spread out around the US; from 10703682_10102296693280078_7414991933780555569_nTucson, AZ, to Chicago, to North Carolina, to New York, to Nashville, TN, to a few in WI. Those close to my heart stretch far and wide and keeping up with everyone can be a challenge, but I wouldn’t change a thing. And what makes it all 11133789_10102705329679458_308162666383571080_nworth it, is the fact that when I get together with each and every one of them — whether taking a trip back to Raleigh, meeting a group of girls in Vegas, 11692618_10102878986983828_8320712709986101065_nor simply hanging out in WI, we always pick up right where we left off. Distance has become a weak criteria for friendship. Sincerity and genuineness keep them all going.

A few short years ago, this list would’ve contained much different items… even a year ago, I’m not sure it would’ve been the same — certainly snow would not have made the top 5. With each passing day, I learn to take a bigger step back in my life, stop worrying or obsessing about the future, and just enjoy where I’m at, who I’m with, and what I have.

Which is exactly the point of this week, right?


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