Sunday, July 24, 2011

getting used to the mountains

I have lived in Montana for about 6 months now and I already find I'm starting to get used to the mountains. 

I'm disappointed in myself.

When I first moved from the flatlands to the majesty of the mountains, I was constantly in awe of where I lived.  Snow-dusted rocky peaks formed the sides of a bowl made up of sparkling Flathead Lake.  Everywhere I went, I saw the beautiful, majestic mountains.  I went to the grocery store and I saw them.  I stopped by Target and I saw them.  Everywhere I looked was beauty.

But now I find myself rushing more often.  Driving, and thinking, "Oh, yeah, mountains...I've seen those before."  It's not always but it's enough to make me worry about my human tendency to take great things for granted.  I've started to think of getting used to mountains as a metaphor for all too many things in my life.

When I fell in love with my husband, I was in awe of his love, his honesty, his enduring affection, his willingness to communicate, his kindness, his boyish smile.  But after 6 years together, I start getting used to coming home to kindness, consideration and a listening heart.  I start to take him for granted sometimes.  I put less effort into being his wife.  It's the emotional equivalent of, "Eh, he'll be there...." 

It's so stinkin' dumb.  What is it about human nature that we get so used to incredible, beautiful blessings, that we fail to stand in awe of these things?  Is it just that we can't maintain that heightened emotion forever?  Perhaps, but I still think we can practice appreciation of the beautiful and good gifts in our lives.  I think it takes some time and effort that perhaps mountain or husband infatuation don't require in the early days.  In infatuation, God gives us that drive to connect, whether to a place or to a person, an early intensity that necessarily cannot last forever.  It is the thing that dares us to connect, to risk ourselves, where we might otherwise hesitate.  We can't always hold onto that infatuation, and after all, we probably shouldn't.  It can be a selfish thing, "You make me feel good, so I want to be around you."

No, I don't think infatuation can live forever, but appreciation and love can.  These qualities force us to stop and be fully there.  To give thanks, we must first see.  We must open our eyes.  We must stop the flurry of activity and pay attention.  What do I have before me?  Where is the beauty?  Will I soften my heart and open to it?  Today?  Not just, what did I appreciate yesterday, but what do I appreciate today?

In 2007, The Washington Post conducted a social experiment.  They positioned world class violinist Joshua Bell in a Washington DC subway station during rush hour to see if anyone would recognize him or pay attention to the beauty of his music.  The previous night he had played a concert where some tickets sold for $100.  But in the course of Bell's 45 minute subway concert, only seven people stopped to listen and only one recognized Joshua Bell.  It was interesting that children were often interested in who this guy was playing a violin, but their hurried parents pulled them along.  Bell earned only $32.17 in donations for his subway music.  It seems we humans are not so prone to appreciate beauty, especially when we have our minds on something else.  What other great beauty do we miss in day-to-day life?

There is definitely something about having a toddler that opens your heart to more beauty.  A toddler forces you to slow down, to notice, to pay attention.  I can't tell you how many times Burrito has pointed out Dora in an advertisement or sign in a store window.  She sees things.  She notices things that I would have passed by.  Even if they are small or hard to see.  She sees beauty too.  She is deeply excited by simple things.  Having a toddler is a gift.  She helps keep me from getting used to the mountains.  May I never get used to her.

multitudes on monday (21-25)

21. The gifts of creativity found in the band and crew of the U2 360 tour. The majesty, beauty, and awe-inspiring technology of their set and music elevate their work to more than a temporal experience. Instead their music as it speaks about God and yearning and the hurts of the world in need of justice elevates us to worship that flows into service. What a gift to be able to be there for such an experience.

22. Seeing my daughter hold a friend's baby with care and delight.

23. Seeing my friend transform into a beautiful mother.

24. The hospitality of friends and family.

25. Seeing crowds of people be patient and in good humor, even when they're tired.

That's what I'm thankful for today. How about you?

Monday, July 18, 2011

multitudes on monday (16-20)

Today I am thankful for:

16. Discovering a new way of dusting--turn the fan on all night!:-) (I woke up to this nice surprise.)

17. Burrito feeling better after a yucky cold...back to her joyful self.

18. That a friend's husband who was missing on a fishing trip was found safe and sound.

19. My husband's amazing sermon series on our church's mission statement.  Powerful preaching!

20. Delicious salty caramel ice cream.

What are you thankful for today?

Friday, July 15, 2011

"use up what's in my fridge" pizza

I used to have such a limited idea of what constituted a pizza.  Normal was a pepperoni 'za with traditional red sauce and mozzarella cheese.  Extra special was a stuffed crust pizza, with more cheese stuck in the (gasp!) crust edges.  Over the top was a combo pizza, with all the meat and veggie options.

I have seen the light.  I still remember the day I tried my first Neapolitan-style pie, from Punch Pizza in the Twin Cities.  A group of people from seminary was trying out new culinary experiences and a professor led us there to try out the pizza.  I had never before experienced pizza with San Marzano tomatoes and olive oil instead of sauce.  The quality of ingredients!  The wood fired pizza!  The strong and distinctive flavors!  Pizza as I knew it was never going to be the same again.

I still enjoy a good, old-fashioned pepperoni pizza, but the ingredients had better be good and fresh.  We've got great pizza locally here in the Flathead Valley, in particular at When in Rome (Bigfork, MT) where chef, Engjell Vrapi, knows what he's doing.  Actually, he knows what he's doing when it comes to every morsel I have ever eaten of anything at When in Rome.  But in particular, he knows what he's doing with pizza.  The pepperoni pizza here uses the best quality of pepperoni, with a zesty red sauce and wonderful cheese.  The crust is thin and rustic.  The Italian Garden pizza, "Best Pizza Ever" (an award-winning combo), and Pesto pizza are also favorites.

Now that I've found real pizza, with high quality ingredients, I do my best to come up with winning combinations for pizza at home too.  You might recall the recently posted BBQ Pulled Pork Pizza, which incorporates my all-time favorite homemade pizza crust, a whole wheat crust found in Step-By-Step to Natural Food; Cancer Prevention through the Wholistic way of Eating.

I've also found that pizza is one of my favorite ways to use up good morsels in my fridge.  With a little creativity, leftovers can be presented artfully.

Last night, I put together my latest "Use Up What's In My Fridge" Pizza.  Of course, you have to start by having some good stuff in your fridge to use up!  Here's a recipe for last night's pizza.  Use it as inspiration to create your own "Use Up" Pizza!

For the crust:
See recipe book above or use a favorite pre-made pizza crust such as Boboli

For the toppings:
3/4 c. sundried tomatoes in olive oil
1/4 c. olive oil
2 colorful bell peppers (I used red and yellow)
1 yellow onion, sliced
1/2 c. Kalamata olives (sliced in half)
3/4 c. goat cheese, crumbled

Heat oven to broiling.  Line a broiler pan with aluminum foil.  Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds.  Flatten the peppers with your fist, on the broiler pan. Broil for 20 minutes, until blackened.  After peppers have broiled, sweat them in a Ziploc bag for 10-15 minutes.  Then peel their skin and slice into strips.

Blend or process the sun dried tomatoes with the 1/4 c. olive oil until smooth.  Meanwhile, heat a couple TBS of olive oil or butter until sizzling in a large skillet.  Cook the onion at a high heat for a few minutes, then reduce the heat and cook low and slow for 20-30 minutes until caramelized. 

Bake your pizza crust (if you are making it from scratch).  Once crust is baked, spread your sun-dried tomato puree over the crust.  Then layer peppers, onion, and olives.  Finally, crumble cheese all over your pizza.  Bake at 425 degrees for 5-7 minutes.  Yum!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

women, money and God

I just finished reading Knowing Your Value: Women, Money and Getting What You're Worth by Mika Brzezinski (co-host of Morning Joe).  Ever since the publication of her book, All Things at Once, Mika has positioned herself as a strong leadership role model for younger women, sharing not only her triumphs and strengths, but also her mistakes and moments of real regret.  Her books are eminently readable and full of good advice for us younger gals.

In her book, Mika writes that women need to (for now) reconcile themselves to the fact that the masculine style of leadership--the man's world, if you will--is still the dominant culture today.  She adds that if women hope to acquire a raise, recognition for their hard work, or true rewards for their value, they need to acquire these things using more masculine means.

Mika rightly points out that women tend not to be as self-promoting as men and tend to be apologetic when asking for a raise, promotion or other recognition of their value.  This is all too true.  I find, not only with myself, but with other women that we do tend to work hard, keeping our heads down and expecting that if we just work hard enough, it will be a fair world and someone will notice our efforts and reward us.  Our desired result rarely happens, sadly.  Mika wisely points out that we settle all too often for the reward of being liked, instead of a real monetary recognition of our talents and contributions.  She provides good coaching on what kinds of wording and negotiation tactics to use when seeking a raise or a promotion.  She also counsels women to "be prepared to walk" if they are being "undervalued." 

What I appreciate about Mika's approach is that rather than taking on a rabid feminist viewpoint and rather than acting as if masculine styles of leadership are inherently evil, she challenges us to learn from the dominant culture and to use its language to our advantage as women.  She teaches us to respect and appreciate the strengths that men bring to the table.  This kind of attitude probably has something to do with her popularity among the male guests and hosts on Morning Joe.  When you watch the program, it's easy to see that most people think even more highly of Mika than they do of Joe Scarborough.  This is because Mika approaches people with a deep respect for them, and a desire to learn from them.  But she also has strong opinions of her own and is not afraid to voice them.  A strong, respectful woman is an excellent role model for us younger women.

At the same time, I found myself often wishing as I read this book that the world (the dominant culture) was not the way Mika described.  Along with a world in which men do know how to value themselves, are willing to walk away from the table when needed, are not overly emotional when reason is called for, she also paints the picture of a world in which men don't often care as passionately about the company or job with which they serve.  They are able to walk away from the table precisely because they are able to better separate themselves from the job.  Do we really want to encourage women to just care less about their jobs?  Isn't the maternal, nurturing aspect of being a woman a huge asset to us in our work?  Would Ann Curry or Diane Sawyer, for example, be as good as reporters without their deep, abiding compassion?  Is it really so wrong to sublimate our own desires for the sake of our company or group?

When I try to picture myself imitating such an attitude, I feel as if I would be cold, uncaring and unfeeling.  Especially when one considers work such as the call of ministry.  I have felt guilty for receiving a raise in the past (especially after becoming a mother, as I feared my new role lessened what I was able to contribute to my work), even as I considered that I was setting a good precedent for future pastors by accepting it, even as I considered that the additional money would be helpful for my family.  But see my reasoning there?  The raise was good because it helped other people.  Not because it was a way of reflecting my value.  In fact, I struggled with insecurity often, hoping, desperately hoping that in a difficult-to-quantify job, I was giving the congregation their "money's worth."  Did I see myself and my skills as inherently valuable?  Or was I, as Mika describes, just grateful to have the job, to have the opportunity?

I know I struggle with these things.  This is why it took me so long to walk away from the table.  After having my daughter, I struggled for a long time with the all-consuming nature of my work as pastor, coupled with the all-consuming nature of being a parent to a little person who depends on you for everything.  Particularly in the newborn stage, while a child is still nursing, the physical demands on a woman's body alone, are profoundly difficult.  And pairing that with a lack of a support system, makes it an impossible situation.

I knew what would be best for me for a long time but struggled with following through it because I thought so much about what was best for others (a noble motivation but an empty vessel doesn't have much to give to others).  I wanted to quit for quite a while before I actually quit.  I couldn't bear to bring myself to do it because in the first year of our time in North Dakota, I had said (without a promise, mind you, but with some conviction) that I hoped to stay there as pastor for 10 years.  I saw that the smaller congregation in particular had suffered the quick turnover of many pastors and I wanted to spare them that, to give them a real chance with a leader who was committed to them.  And so when things began to turn so difficult, I struggled greatly with guilt over thinking of leaving.  I thought, "I can't leave.  I have made a commitment.  I have a responsibility to these people."  It was only when I could not ignore the problems (both personal and congregational) any longer, that I became willing to walk away from the table.  In the final year of pastoring, my job was repeatedly threatened.  I was repeatedly de-valued by a powerful member of the congregation and talked down to, and the worst came when many of the people I felt I had committed myself to decided not to show commitment to me, decided not to stand up for me.  Why was I hesitant?  Why had I not valued myself more?

I think part of the problem is that as Christians, we are taught to sublimate our own interests.  And of course, we should.  But that does not mean being a doormat.  We are free to choose to sacrifice, but we should not be forced to do so.  I feel much respect for the pastor who chooses, freely, to go years without a raise, knowing he or she deserves it, but at the same time finding joy in the freely chosen sacrifice.  I have less respect for the pastor who takes no raise for years because he or she is hoping to people-please, to subsist on people liking him or her, rather than on God.

Asking for raises, promotions, respect, all of these things are hard, scary things.  They are ultimately things that lay us bare, that ask us to lean hard on God.  As I look back on my time as a pastor, I find myself often wishing not that I were more humble and quiet, but rather that I were more confident, strong, and outspoken.  Granted, it can be a difficult balance to navigate being respectful and yet outspoken, particularly when you are facing strong social pressure and criticism.  It can be easy to bow to the spoken and unspoken messages that you've stepped out of line and are not behaving as a Christian.  It can be tough, truly, to speak the truth in love (instead of in anger).  But if we are willing to die to image and people-pleasing, and to live to God, He can work in our lives to help us to dare to risk.

I am far from having all the answers about the right balance between knowing my value and having a servant's heart.  Mika, for all of her wisdom, is writing from the perspective of the business world, as opposed to an explicitly Christian viewpoint.  I struggle to reconcile the obvious truth of her writing with the Biblical teaching on servanthood.  I'm curious, dear readers: How have you brought balance to this issue in your own lives?  I know this issue is not limited only to women, but I do believe we women--particularly after we become mothers--struggle with it more acutely than do men.  I would love to hear insights and testimonies from others who have walked this path.

Monday, July 11, 2011

red cabbage slaw

A lot of my recipe inspirations come from having lots of extra veggies in my fridge that I don't want to go to waste.  In this case, I had lots of red cabbage and radishes left over from pulled pork tacos.  I pulled out Betty Crocker's Cookbook and adapted her Sweet-and-Sour Coleslaw to my own ingredients.  You can adapt too, according to what you have in your fridge.  This salad would make a great side for a family barbecue or for a church potluck.  In fact, I think I had something similar at a church potluck once (and come to think of it, the lady who made it thought Betty Crocker's cookbook was the best on earth!).  Here's my creation:

For the slaw:
2 cups red cabbage, shredded
2 cups shredded carrots
6-10 radishes, sliced thin (or more, if you like it)
1/2-1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

For the dressing:
1/2 cup sugar (I used Splenda)
1/2 cup white wine vinegar (or substitute a vinegar you have)
1/4 cup canola oil
1 TBS Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp celery seed (very important ingredient)
1/2 tsp salt

Toss the veggies together in a large bowl.  Wisk the dressing together in a small bowl and toss that in as well.

For a fun variation, you might want to add some dried fruit to the salad, like raisins, yellow raisins, dried cranberries, or dried cherries.  You could also top with toasted sliced almonds for a classy touch.


Multitudes on Monday (10-15)

Today I am thankful for:

11. My daughter's safety. She fell in a deeper (to her) part of the lake this week and was flailing around. We didn't know she was so close to a deeper part, but since we were watching her, I got her in time. It was scary and she was shaken up but ok.

12. My daughter's irrepressible spirit. Ten minutes later she was back in the (shallow part of) the lake, splashing, giggling and enjoying herself. It takes a lot to keep a good Burrito down.

13. A day to decompress. It's been busy around here and I'm looking forward to my husband's day off today...and no big plans.

14. The beauty of nature. Every time I turn around, I find myself hiking around somewhere, enjoying wildflowers, wading in the lake, breathing the piney clean air. And did I mention the mountains? I love living in Montana!

15. A cheap groceries week! Yay! We're using up stuff in the freezer and pantry and didn't have to buy many groceries.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

fourth of july weekend in the flathead valley

What a joyful weekend we have had!  Now that the June rains have passed, and the sun is out regularly, we find ourselves out and about and enjoying life in the Flathead Valley more and more each day.

The Von Trapp Children
On Friday, I had tremendous thrill.  I recently found out that the Von Trapp children live in the Flathead Valley.  My Bible study group has an annual 4th of July picnic the weekend before the holiday and for our entertainment, the Von Trapp children came to sing.  Yes, those Von Trapp children, as in the great grandchildren of Captain Von Trapp from The Sound of Music.  Now, you have to understand that growing up, The Sound of Music was a huge part of my childhood.  Our family popped popcorn and watched it almost every Sunday night.  I have large portions of it memorized and I have loved it all of my life.  I never dreamed I would get a chance to meet some of the Von Trapps.  I brought Burrito with me to the picnic, so she could experience it too, and she cuddled close while we listened.  The Von Trapp children are the real deal.  They are not capitalizing on their name, but in fact sing angelically together, their voices blending flawlessly, their faces glowing with joy in song.  They are also humble and approachable.  I got to meet two of them and tell them how much The Sound of Music meant to me as a child. 

A good stretch after a good run.
We started our day on the 4th of July with Christopher taking to the road for his twenty-first 5k, this one for Grateful Nation Montana, an organization that provides scholarships for the children of fallen Montana soldiers, killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He encouraged church members to be involved in running and volunteering.  It was a warm morning, with lots of sunshine and it was great to see people coming together for a good cause.  Christopher, as usual, made great time (28:33...his second fastest time by a second).  We raced home to get chairs and a mat and our friend, Audrey, and hurried back downtown to claim a spot for the parade.

With this much soy sauce at Island Noodles, how can you go wrong?
4th of July is a BIG deal in Bigfork.  I have never seen that many people in town before, and was even told by one local that they thought it was in fact the biggest crowd ever for the 4th. The parade stretched on and on, curiously lacking any high school bands (although a company of bagpipers was present). 

It was a festive atmosphere though, and the line for Island Noodles stretched long down the street.  I braved the line, which moved relatively quickly, figuring any place with giant cannisters of soy sauce was worth the wait (and I'd had my first taste of the noodles earlier that weekend at the Whitefish Art Festival).  As I watched the parade begin, I dug into those hot soba noodles, laden down with crunchy vegetables.  Oh yeah, baby.

The sea of people leave the parade.
After the parade, we braved the crowds to head home for a cookout.  Seriously, how did we cram this many people into town? 

We laid out a feast of grilled hamburgers, roasted corn with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and butter, potato salad, watermelon, red cabbage slaw, and Maple-Dijon baked beans

After supper, we packed up a dessert picnic of pecan shortbread with sugared berries and homemade whipped cream.  We drove down to the lake and sat on the shore watching private fireworks displays.

Burrito had never seen fireworks before and had never been allowed to stay up so late just for fun.  She had a ball, popping her hands in the air, "Fireworks say boom!"  The mountains cupped the bowl of the lake and I stared, in awe of their beauty.  The beach was not crowded, the water was calm, and the air was sweet.  It was a peaceful evening, full of joy and happiness.  And it wrapped up the weekend beautifully. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

mourning the casey anthony verdict

My July 4 weekend was a joyful one.  My friend, Audrey (from over at Living Audaciously) was visiting and we all were having a grand time, which I will write more about soon.  But my weekend was also consumed (along with many Americans) with the Casey Anthony murder trial.  Now, I realize there has been a lot of hysteria surrounding this trial.  A particular low point was the time fist-fights broke out as people tried to get into the trial to observe it firsthand.  (Had they never heard of cable TV?)

For me, the obsession with the trial concerned the precious little girl, Caylee, who died.  She was the age of my daughter now when she died.  She even resembled my daughter a little bit.  And my mommy heart-strings were pulled when I saw how callously she had been discarded in a swamp and how she had not been protected and cared for as she needed and deserved.  I kept thinking, "If only someone could have been there to protect little Caylee." 

As the case entered into closing arguments this weekend, I was riveted.  The predictions early on were that closing arguments may take 4 hours to perhaps an entire day for each side.  But prosecuting attorneys Jeff Ashton and Linda Drane Burdick wove compelling, succinct, devastating closing arguments.  I watched, riveted, and if I had had any reasonable doubt of Casey's guilt before, hearing their solid arguments removed that doubt.  I found myself wishing that this trial was not in the days of CSI and Law and Order.  Because we now have DNA evidence at our disposal, we think every case should be proven by DNA.  We forget that juries used to have to decide cases without any DNA evidence.  In those days, I imagine most cases were in fact circumstantial, for most murders don't have witnesses.  Now, with crime TV in our pocket, we think all murders should have both DNA evidence and witnesses.  We think that there should be no conviction without these. 

The prosecution in this case knew differently.  They wove an airtight argument showing a pattern of lying behavior by Casey, narrowing the suspects down to those living in the Anthony home, and then excluding all but Casey as suspects.  They made the powerful argument disputing the defense's story that Caylee's death was an accidental drowning: "Why make an accidental death look like a murder?"  They pointed out that when a child accidentally dies, in 100 percent of cases, someone tries to save them.  Linda Drane Burdick made the powerful argument that if Caylee had accidentally drowned, she would have been found in a pool, not in a swamp.  They made powerful arguments that placed the duct tape on Caylee prior to her death.  And it was clear that even if Casey had tried to drug Caylee to get her to be quiet and she had died accidentally, that was still felony murder, a murder caused by aggravated child abuse.  Having watched these closing arguments, I felt the case was airtight.

And when the jurors came back after only 10 hours of deliberation, I thought surely Casey would be judged guilty.  I watched the TV intently, waiting for the verdict.

And then it was announced.  Not guilty.  Not guilty of any charge related to Caylee's death.  Guilty only of lying to the police, a charge that may even result in time served.

I was stunned.  Waves of cynicism about justice washed over me.  My heart was broken that this precious little child would never get justice now.  The case against Casey was strong, her character unreliable, and she stood to gain from her daughter's death.  The thought that she would now walk free was horrifying.

I turned to Twitter to share in solidarity with others who were similarly outraged.  I was troubled to see some people who suggested violence against the jurors could be imminent, or that Casey should be killed by fictional serial killer "Dexter."  Although I disagree profoundly with the jurors' conclusion, I believe they took it seriously and did their job.  They do not deserve any backlash for their decision.  But I would like to understand.  To understand how they could come to such a decision.  They must have had their reasons.  I hope we will get to hear their voices, but worry that we may not because their safety may become an issue if their identity is known. 

My consolation is that God knows what happened, and that Casey will probably face the stigma of all this for the rest of her life.  I do not begrudge her forgiveness if she would be repentant, but I have seen little sign of repentance even of the lying of which she was convicted. 

In reflecting on the Casey Anthony trial, I understood some of her feelings.  When you have a child, it is a little bit of a rude awakening.  There is no way anyone can adequately prepare you for the changes that come with a child.  You can't enjoy nights out like you used to.  When you nurse your child, trips must be planned carefully.  You suffer exhaustion, a tighter budget, loneliness.  You suffer isolation.  Your vision of what your life would be changes, forever.

I have had many times when I mourned the loss of all of these things.  This is a normal part of parenting.

But what keeps you going is that you have this precious child--who, yes, makes you want to tear your hair out on occasion, but who also has added to your life in ways that are impossible to quantify.  You are changed.  You are a different person now.  You are a parent and always will be.  You have a love that swells your heart in ways you never thought it could.  You would be willing to risk your own life to save your child.  For me, this latter feeling was one I had never really had for another human being.  But it was visceral with my child.  I felt her pain in my bones.  Literally.  Her cries rattled my very being. 

And that is what all of us cannot understand about Casey Anthony.  We understand that she was tired sometimes, that she felt alone, that she missed her old life.  We do not understand a mother who does nothing to find her missing child for a whole month.  We do not understand a mother who lies and hinders the police.  We do not understand a mother who cares so little about her child's pain.

If there is any consolation, it is that there are many who mourn for Caylee.  Her mother would not, but we will.  But it isn't enough.  It isn't enough.

Monday, July 4, 2011

multitudes on monday

As I have begun to think of my life more in the terms of thanksgiving, I am finding that it surely doesn't come easily.  Fear, anxiety, anger, and that crafty fellow covetousness come to me far more easily.  One time this week when I felt my heart compressing, I turned to Christopher and began to number off what I was thankful for.  It helped and my heart began to lighten.

I have heard it said that original sin is the most empirically verifiable theological concept of all theological concepts.  I agree.  I am convinced not just by what I see in the world, but by what I see in my own heart.

So, if these vices are the things that seek to grip my heart...and if the answer is thanksgiving...then now is the perfect time to turn to Multitudes on Mondays to number off what I am thankful for:

6. For a sweet boy who gave Burrito his little flag at the 4th of July parade.

7. For a whole week of sunshine.

8. For being able to live in an area where something is always happening.

9. For delicious fresh potato salad.

10.  For my friend who is visiting and seems to me to embody a thankful lifestyle.

What are YOU thankful for today?
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