No. 182: Cookie Butter.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to begin this post with a moment of silence in loving memory of the large quantity of Cookie Butter I consumed this evening.

(moment to be observed here)

Thank you. Cookie Butter has been a friend of mine since my days in New York. We were introduced by mutual friends, and from the very beginning we hit it off. I loved how Cookie Butter made any evening special: catching up with friends, a solo movie marathon. It was an authentic, devoted connection and friendship. I would introduce Cookie Butter to my friends, who were just as enamored as I was. What I loved most was seeing Cookie Butter with its one true love, Cinnamon Cat Cookies. Their relationship is one which could only be constructed by destiny.

Cookie Butter and I lost touch over the recent years, but I was reminded this afternoon that our reunions always made it seem like no time had passed. It was a joyful, happy reunion, and I am mourning this loss more than I could possibly capture in words.

It is most accurately captured in a sound: “Mmmmm….”

To the lost. You were loved so dearly.

(PS: Image credit.)

No. 181: My Brave Student and St. Baldrick’s.

One of my students, a second grader, has been inspiring me all week. Yesterday, as part of an event to raise awareness and monetary support, she participated in a head shaving event for St. Baldrick’s.

St. Baldrick’s states on its website that it “is a volunteer-driven charity committed to funding the most promising research to find cures for childhood cancers and give survivors long, healthy lives.”

My student’s bravery and her compassion are truly unparalleled. When I saw her and gave her a hug upon arrival, and asked her if she was excited or scared when it happened, she said she was excited, and not scared. Shaving her head made her feel “warm and tickle-y.”

I am so awed by this girl’s courage to be different, her desire to share in empathy with those that have lost their hair. Her out beauty shines just as brightly as her inner beauty, hair or no hair. Her determination to make a difference at such a young age will only lead her to bigger, braver quests in the future. I can’t wait to watch her tackle them all!

No. 180: Aunt Carolann.

Today is my fabulous Aunt Carolann’s birthday. She’s my godmother and someone I deeply admire; as I’ve grown up, she’s even become a confidant and friend.

Here are some reasons why my Aunt Carolann is fantastic:

1. She has a wildly infectious laugh. Aunt Carolann always looks for reasons to laugh.There’s usually a “wind up, and the pitch” approach – she watches with a huge smile on her face before tossing her head back with a huge bout of laughter. She never takes herself too seriously and is willing to look ridiculous, including when photobombing.

2. She is insanely generous of her time and love. Aunt Carolann is the first to grab something when it reminds her of you. She has given me such thoughtful, small things: a laminated bookmark with a poem entitled “Sing!” with a note on the back, a photo she took in a frame that says “DREAM” before I moved to New York. Her thoughtfulness knows no limits. She treated me to Lucky Guy on Broadway, with a delicious dinner beforehand, because she wanted to see a Broadway show together; it’s still one of my favorite nights in New York. Before moving back to New Jersey, she passed on some great artwork, home decor, and even her mattress and box spring to me to set me up in my new apartment. She never misses my shows or performances and always makes time for me.

3. … and she is generous of her talent. She is a brilliant photographer and is always willing to take Christmas card photos or conspire to re-create childhood photos. Aunt Carolann donates her beautiful photographs to her loved ones, fundraisers, and even acquaintances who draw strength, comfort, and joy from them.

4.  She truly does it all. She made the decision to go back to school while working full-time and has not only done well, but has made the Dean’s List on multiple occasions. She does this all while sneaking in volunteer work, social events, and time for her family. I hope to be half the godmother she is to my future goddaughter.

Happy birthday, Aunt Carolann! I love you, and I’m so lucky to have you as my godmother and my friend.

No. 179: Caroline.

Caroline is one of my former students. In my first year here, I had the pleasure of directing her in our fall play production. She brought such maturity and depth to her performance, and her versatility as an actor cannot be overstated. Caroline handles comedic farce with just as much energy and dedication as she does more dramatic roles.

Caroline is putting her boundless energy to good work during her first year at college by participating in a Dance Marathon for Starlight Children’s Foundation and the Evanston Community Foundation. She will be dancing for – get this – 30 hours. There are over 1,000 students registered to dance and it sounds like a really fun, meaningful fundraiser. The only downside is that I don’t get to be there to bust a move as well!

While calling her a talented actor is a given, I’m most proud of her for continuing to put service at the top of her list of commitments. You’re a rockstar, Caroline! Way to go!

If you are as inspired as I am by Caroline’s dedication, please consider donating here.

No. 178: Electricity.

I have written here about pizza, about snow days, legwarmers, my parents, my friends – and all of these are truly proof of the abundance in my life.

But perhaps the more telling proof of my blessings in the omissions.

I’m almost halfway through this project, and I have not yet expressed my gratitude for the house I live in, nor the hot water that turns on when I go to shower. I have not recognized the fact that I have enough to eat, not to mention the privilege eating well.

It’s been bitterly cold the past several weeks in New Jersey, and I recognized foolishly the other day when complaining about the freezing temperatures that there are many others feeling it far more than I am. Not only do I have comfortable shelter, but have heat in my home. I have the luxury of getting through the winter with my hoodies, blankets, and radiators.

I am thankful for my electricity.

As this project moves forward, I am determined to recognize my own gratitude and privilege through to the end. It doesn’t mean that I am any less grateful for pizza or my students or long weekends, but I truly hope to also recognize the many things that we all take for granted.

(PS: Image credit.)

No. 177: Caitlin.

My puppy, Daisy, has started going to training classes with a local trainer. In order to be sensitive to her and reduce the stigma of training, I describe it as “going to Kindergarten.”*

Daisy is the sweetest dog in the world, and the unofficial Best Dog Ever, but she is not without her habits. She likes to bark to hurry me along with her breakfast and dinner, and she finds the baby gate we use to keep her in the kitchen a tasty snack from time to time.

Luckily, our trainer, Caitlin, has been a great person to introduce “to our corner.” She understands how introducing a new behavior can be a frustrating process. She is gently encouraging and honestly, I feel as though she’s training me as much as she is my dog. Caitlin gives me great verbal encouragement, in the form of “great choice!” or “That’s a great idea.” I’ve only had one class with her, and there’s already a great learning curve in Daisy’s behavior as I learn to adapt my own.

Thank you, Caitlin, for encouraging me to be a great “puppy mom!”

* I actually say this because my roommate Liz used it once and I think it’s hilarious. 

No. 176: Lady Gaga.

Given my recent post about Julie Andrews, I want to thank Lady Gaga for this performance at the Oscars:

What a glorious, heartfelt, fitting tribute to a movie by a talented and dedicated woman.

Though you may wear meat dresses, and on occasion make really interesting choices: this was such a professional, beautiful performance that truly showcased your talent.