30 Days of Gratitude and Reflection – Days 6-9

I said at the beginning of this that I’d probably be doing some “catch-up” type posts as I work through this blog challenge, and I was not wrong. The middle of November is always crunch time at work, and my schedule makes posting truly daily pretty much impossible because of the time it takes to photograph, edit, and publish a post. But while I don’t have the time to publish daily, I have been making sure to take a moment of my day, everyday, to think about that day’s prompt.

And so here’s the first catch-up post, with Days 6 – 10.


Day 6
Something From Childhood: My Dancing Russian Girl


My grandmother has one of these little dolls that from a very early age I used to love. She’s basically just a little shell on a post, so that when you touch her, she swings back and forth like she’s dancing. A simple little thing, really. Probably didn’t cost more than $10. Me getting her wasn’t any sort of big deal either. We were at the church christmas festival or picnic or something and they had a little table where they were selling Russian themed stuff (I was raised Russian Orthodox), including these little dolls. Whoever I was with at the time (I was really young – I don’t even remember) let me pick one out because I was always staring at my grandmother’s and making it dance. And that’s it. No huge significance, no life changing event. Just an offhanded, “Would you like one?” moment. But she’s been with me ever since, and she makes me smile.

It’s hard to verbalize exactly why, but I guess most of it’s because even though I’m mostly Ukrainian, not Russian – she still brings me back to warm memories of holidays surrounded by tradition and heritage. Of pirogies and halupki, of candlelight and hushed praying in Russian, of the deep Bass voices and eight-part harmonies of Orthodox church music. She reminds me that I’m connected to the past in so many rich and varied ways. And for that, I’m grateful.


Day 7
An Everyday Thing: My Collection of Cozy Blankets

I love blankets. I seriously love them. Nothing makes me feel better after several weeks of scheduled hell than coming home in the winter and curling up under a big floofy blanket. Except maybe doing so with a cup of tea spiked with whiskey, and a good video game or book.


Day 8
A Favorite Saying/Quote

you are not required

“You are not required to set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm”

I saw this on Reddit once, several years ago, and in the time since it’s made the rounds on Pinterest and several other places. It was exactly what I needed to hear at the time, and I continue to need the reminder of this simple fact. I run myself so ragged sometimes in the effort to keep others happy. Now sometimes, it’s necessary. Doing so is, honestly, sometimes just part of being a teacher. I might be exhausted, and achy, and ready to leave, but if a student comes to my office door with a paper in hand genuinely wanting help – I won’t turn them away.

But it is nice to have the reminder that there’s a limit. Or rather, that there should be. A reminder that I am not failing as a teacher, or significant other, or daughter, or sister, or whatever other role I’m filling that day if I have to stop and say “no” occasionally for my own wellbeing.


Day 9
Memory: Memories of Our First Dog


That little nugget there is me, standing with my parent’s first dog – Petrushka – and my paternal grandfather. My aunt posted this photo on Facebook the other day and seeing it flooded me with smiles and memories, not just of my Grandfather, who died back in 1999, but of Petrushka as well.

Now, my grandfather I think of often. He had served in the military in the Pacific during the ending days of WWII, and with that developing as my specialty, he’s on my mind frequently, and as such, so are my memories of him.

Petrushka, however – I quite literally hadn’t thought of in years. See, Petrushka and I had a tumultuous relationship. I was young. And she was quite large. And then there was the fact that she bit me once when I was a toddler. Like, a “directly in the face – needed a lot of stitches and it’s a miracle my face isn’t deformed” kind of bite.

Now, before you start accusing my parents of negligence for not putting her down or giving her away after that – it legitimately wasn’t the dog’s fault. She had been fast asleep in front of the couch and our asshole cat at the time, Arthur, decided it would be a great idea to reach down, hook her ears with his claws, and yank. She snapped reflexively as she woke and I just happened to be in the way as I toddled by. With the exception of that one moment, she was always really great with kids.

She died only a few years after everything happened, at the ripe old age of 12, and I’ve always felt a bit guilty for how I treated her after that. She was a very friendly dog and always tried to be affectionate with me – but I was afraid. I was very young – like toddler young – and I didn’t understand the concept of accident. I didn’t really understand what had happened. And so I spent almost the rest of her life shying away.

I don’t precisely remember this specific moment. But I cherish the memories it brings to the surface of Petrushka. The good, the bad, and the lessons I learned about animals and guilt by looking back on my fear. Rest easy, Petrushka. You were a good dog.

(I do suppose this would have been a better fit on Day 2: A Photo – but I wasn’t aware of its existence at the time.)

30 Days of Gratitude and Reflection – Day 5

Someone Else’s Talent: Jim’s Astounding Ability to Make Me Laugh

funny face

Today I’m thankful for my awesome, amazing, and wonderful Significant Other’s sense of humor.


Jim is one of the funniest and most clever people I’ve ever met, and his ability to make me laugh in even the darkest moments is not just a talent – but often borders on miracle. He keeps the light in my life even when my pessimist self is convinced it’s gone forever, and I cherish every moment spent laughing together.

Me and Jim

Who’s talent are you thankful for today?

30 Days of Gratitude and Reflection – Day 4

A Food Item: COFFEE

Steelers Tervis

Today I am thankful for coffee, in all its iterations. Coffee, espresso, lattes, coffee beans, coffee grounds, coffee flavored whatever. Just, coffee.

It keeps me running, and keeps the number of civilian casualties as a byproduct of me continuing to function down to a minimum.

I really don’t know how I’d keep my schedule up without it. And there would certainly be a lot more unhappy people around me as a result of my demeanor.

Christmas Latte

Actually, I’m pretty sure I would just cease to function.

Isn’t that the very definition of an addict?


Oh well.


Pouring into cup

What food item are you thankful for?

30 Days of Gratitude and Reflection – Day 3

Help Received or Help Given: My Mom’s Help Dying My Hair

hair dye snapchat

So we’re going to lighten it up a little bit after yesterday’s really heavy post.

I went brunette recently.

It was supposed to be for a Katniss Everdeen halloween costume. I hate the synthetic texture of all the wigs in my price range, and my hair – if straight and thin – is indeed long enough to do her iconic braid. I figured if I could just get it the right color, some artful application of dry shampoo, texturizing powder, and my TopStyler (which is apparently the actual tool they used on Jennifer Lawrence for this movie? Go figure.) could at least approximate it.

Well, the costume never panned out. We forgot to buy tickets for the ghost tour we were planning to attend until it was too late and so we ended up just staying home and playing Elder Scrolls Online.

But I’m still a brunette, thanks to the skillful bathroom hair dying technique of my mother.

We used a demi-permanent dye, which was terrifying. The only place you could get it was at Sally Beauty, and you had to mix it yourself – it didn’t come all in one box. If it wasn’t for my mom’s help in figuring everything out, I’m like, 100% positive that I’d be bald right now.

But I’m not bald. I’m brunette.

At least for the next month or so anyway.

And guys? I kind of love it.

So thanks mom!


30 Days – Day 2: A Photograph

So this one is taking a decidedly unexpected turn. I originally had several cherished family photos in mind when I compiled the challenge list, but ultimately due to questions of whether or not my internet-wary family would appreciate having them posted for all to see I’ve decided to go in a different direction (although the hunt through all our old albums was certainly beneficial for me from a gratitude standpoint – which after all was the point of this project.)

So I’m going in a more professional direction with this and in the process I guess I’m changing the prompt a little.

So here we go.

On day 2 of this challenge, I am grateful for: War Photographers.

Joe Odonnell

A quick warning here: some (all) of the photographs that I will link here are not for the faint of heart. Click through at your own risk.

This probably seems to you like a very strange thing to be grateful for. So let me explain.

See, professionally my research interests are dark. I gravitate towards the history of warfare – particularly the two biggies for the US in the 20th century – WWII and Vietnam. And as someone who routinely and purposefully surrounds herself with some of the worst things humanity has done to itself, the extremes of human suffering and brutality – you sort of develop a distance from the subject. You become jaded and separated from the reality of it, really as a defense mechanism more than anything.

It is easy to stop seeing the people you read about as real. It is easy to begin reading it almost as if it was fiction – to get that same sense of detached disgust that comes with watching a particularly gory battle scene in a movie, or a fictional bad-guy order some sort of horrible fate for the hero. You know it’s awful. You know it’s horrifying. But it doesn’t really pack quite as much of a punch as it should.

You become desensitized. You stop seeing who you’re reading about as people, and more as a subject or a case study.

And as far as I’m concerned, nothing is more dangerous than that.

So today, I am grateful for all the men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to record the horrors we’ve precipitated. The photographs they produced are the things that keep me grounded in reality more than anything – by recording the moments when we as a species have lost sight of our humanity, they’ve allowed me to maintain mine as I study it all.

I can read several thousand first hand accounts of the human suffering caused by the firebombing in Japan, and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but nothing connects me to the reality of that more than photos of it. Nothing reminds me that these were real people who lived through this horror – not some fictional retelling – than the photos that let me see the suffering with my own two eyes. I can read hundreds of historians telling me about the civilian toll of the napalming and “search and destroy” techniques utilized in the Vietnamese countryside, but nothing drives it home quite like seeing the pain in the flesh – in the cries of a little girl in pain, or the fear in an older woman’s eyes. I can read Holocaust memoir after Holocaust memoir, but nothing hammers in the true horror of it like seeing the bodies, seeing the graves, seeing the condition of the survivors.

Seeing, after all, is believing.

And on a far less personal level – nothing forces us (as a society) to confront the reality of our past quite like photography – specifically because it forces us to admit that the pain was real. The suffering was real. That these were actual things that humans did to other humans – purposefully, no less. There’s a realness in the pain behind these photographs that even the best actor couldn’t reproduce, and nothing can remind us of the real human toll of war quite as effectively.

And that reminder is invaluable.

It is horrible that these things happened. But they did. And we cannot let that fact be forgotten. Remembering the human toll of war is what will be most effective in helping us prevent these things from happening again.

You know the old saying, that a picture is worth a thousand words? There is nowhere that this is more true than in photography of war. One photograph can be more effective in arguing for peace than a million words spilled by a million people on the subject. And today, I am grateful for that.


[Photo of Joe O’Donnell – US Marine and Photojournalist known for his photos of post-surrender Japan, including the aftermath of the atomic bombs. Clicking the image will take you to the source.]

30 Days of Gratitude and Reflection – Day 1

Something You Do Every Day: Interact With This Nerd

Olive bein a creeper

This is Olive

Olive is my apartmentmate’s cat. I introduced her to you guys when we got her, and last Christmas regaled you with the story of how she reacted poorly to having the Christmas tree up. You also may know her from the background of a few post photos here and there.

Well, Olive and I have a… complicated relationship. Sometimes we’re the best of friends – perfect couch cuddle buddies and reading pals.

Olive in Papasan

Sometimes though… sometimes our relationship is antagonistic. To put it mildly.

You heard all about her behavior that led me to take down my now-broken Christmas tree last year. What you didn’t hear was that even without the tree up, sometimes she’ll have days where she’s just as problematic – sometimes even more so. And often this happens precisely on the days when I’m working from home and have some serious pressing deadlines to meet.

Olive in paper bag

But all that said and done, even on the most fraught days of living with her… I have to be thankful for her. She is sweet, friendly, and even on days I am super pissed off at her, I have to admit… she’s a good cat. The things she does that grate on me are really, when you get right down to it, just normal cat things. Something that I need to be better about reminding myself of when I’m seething with annoyance.

Olive on Books

Living with her can be an absolute joy sometimes, and I need to focus more on the joys and happy moments of our cat-human relationship.

So here’s to you, Olive, in all your cuddly, prickly, sweet, and occasionally shifty glory.

Olive Caught in the Act and Covered in Dust

What’s something you do every day that you are (or should be) thankful for?