Naming the Blessing

I love San Francisco. Really and Truly.

A few years ago (two if I remember correctly) I read a book called One Thousand Gifts that absolutely revolutionized the way I look at thankfulness and gratitude. One of the primary ideas in the book is that in order to be truly thankful for the many (and there are ever so many) things that we have we must recognize and name them. We might even list them as people are prone to do on Facebook and elsewhere during the month of November. Though it would be better if we were aware of our abundance all year round, gratitude for a month is better than no gratitude at all.

In light of that (and in lieu of the 24 days of November that I have not posted my blessings on Facebook), a short list of the ways I’ve been blessed since moving to California. In no particular order.

1. This is my bedroom! (It is not always this clean)

1. My roommate is one of the most accommodating and easy going people I know. It was my great fortune that my current bedroom, which had previously been spoken for, opened up in the middle of July, less than a month before I moved out to California. My roommate and I have since hosted parties, shared cocktails, and worked together on the campus literary journal.

2. The second year creative non-fiction writers are great. There are only five of them (as opposed to the 12 first years), and they are thoughtful, generous, and helpful as opposed to being pompous and condescending (which I hear can happen with second year students.) My favorite is a girl named Jill, who is actually a few years younger than me, but who I rather look up to as a writer, and who has been ever so kind to me.

7. This is Deborah (Olivia is in the back) at the Regen cafe

3. My first week of workshop the second year CNF students took the first years out for pizza and one of them asked if any of us was looking for a job, which I most definitely was. He mentioned an opening at the high school where he works as a writing tutor. I had an interview the next week and started working in October. Not only do I love working with students and re-learning World and US history, but the paycheck helps defray some of the many costs I incur on a monthly basis.

4. The water speaks to my soul. I cannot believe I have never lived near the ocean before. I am grateful every time I see Merritt Lake, either side of the SF Bay, and especially the Pacific.

4. I love water. This was my first solo trip to the beach.

5. Last weekend one of the second year fiction students invited me to her apartment in North Beach in SF. I was tickled, and so very happy for the experience of knowing someone who lives in the city.

6. Since moving to the Bay Area I have met several “friends of friends,” all of whom have been very good to me, some even treating me to a meal.

7. My first Sunday in Oakland I attended Re:generation, a small church community not far from my condo. After the service I met Olivia, a twenty-something artist who was working in the café, someone who was happy to talk with me and know me and make me feel less out of place.

2. Though not a CNF student, this second year is a treasure!

8. After that first Sunday I was invited out for lunch, where I met people who seemed to take a general interest in me and in one another. I have since been at Regen nearly every Sunday, sometimes twice.

9. I love the Pumpkin Spice candle I bought for $5 at Walmart. I do not love Walmart. I am almost ashamed to admit the origins of my candle, and yet it is the only candle I could afford that also offered me the smell of childhood autumns.

10. It is sunny almost every day in California. This actually makes me grateful for the cloudy days as well. But the sun gives me the vitamin D my body needs, and allows me to run outside rather than joining a gym.

13. Who wouldn’t want to Skype with this sweet girl?

11. I love my iPhone 5C. It has not changed my life, but it has made much of my life simpler, which I think is supposed to be the point. I love that I do not get lost. I love that I can carry my calendar with me. I love that I bring music wherever I go. I love that I can record interviews and take photos and make notes to myself and look up recipes and use coupons and get free Starbucks drinks.

12. I am grateful for Starbucks. Haters can hate. I have just accepted that Starbucks, like Target, has me pegged with it comes to marketing their overpriced specialty drinks in the holiday cheer cups. It is a happy place for me to read and write and sip the sweetness of a special evening.

13. I am grateful for Skype, which allows me to see my favorite niece all the way in Milwaukee and two of my favorite friends in Kansas City. I am also grateful for Johanna’s three-year-old ways and words and wonders, and for the wisdom and anecdotes that the Messners never fail to provide.

16. Because forest friends are the very best kind of friends.

14. I am grateful for Facetime, which allows my mother to see me when she is far away and I am very sad. It brings us just a little closer when we are so far away.

15. I am grateful for BART when they are not on strike and the computer system is working. I am grateful that it means I don’t have to park in San Francisco (especially at the airport) and that I can read while I commute.

16. I am grateful for the camping trip in the Redwoods that I stumbled into one Sunday after church. It nurtured my soul and founded fledgling relationships with some of the people I see every week. I am even grateful for the heartache that happened at the end of that trip when I detoured to Palo Alto and the rest of my friends headed for Half Moon Bay. I am grateful they were stuck in traffic so that they could counsel me over speaker phone the entire time I drove back to Oakland.

17. I am grateful for my electric blanket, which brings me untold happiness when our condo gets cold at night.

16. Who doesn’t love a view like this?

18. During my first one-on-one meeting with my craft teacher, she pulled out my creative writing submission and began by saying, “Well, I just love it…” which may be how she begins many of her one-on-ones. Nonetheless, it was just what I needed to hear in order to know that I was in the right place.

19. On my birthday I received a parking ticket on campus. I contested the ticket (I honestly didn’t realize I hadn’t been in a “real” parking space), but was fined the $40 anyhow. Instead of paying, I opted for four hours of community service, which is how I found Saint Mary’s Women’s Resource Center, where I now hang out regularly and for whom I will be writing copy and publicity.

20. Prior to arriving in Oakland, I got a lead from a former MFA student who freelanced for the Lamorinda Weekly. Though I started by contacting the sports editor, I was soon passed along to the Life section, where I have been working since September. It is one of the best jobs I have ever had. I clapped with glee when I received an invitation to their Holiday Lunch.

10. Lake Merritt–one of my running destinations.

21. Air travel is astounding. It is the only way I could be home in Kansas City for the wedding of one of my very best friends and the only means by which I could reach my brother’s family in Wisconsin for a four-day stay.

22. I am grateful every time there is food in my car or dollar bills in my purse and I am stopped next to a homeless person beside the freeway. It is truly a blessing to be able to bless, even in the smallest of ways.

23. That day that the Women’s Resource Center had leftover Indian food and they let me take some home. That was pretty great. So was the day I got to bring cupcakes back from church and then turn around and give them to my workshop class later in the week.

24. The grocery store is one of my happy places. I am grateful for the solace it brings and the creativity it inspires. I am especially grateful for sample days, but mostly I am grateful that I can go in and buy with more excitement than worry.

24. Oakland Farmer’s Market

25. Parking on my street is free and usually available. If you do not understand why this matters, move to Oakland.

26. I am happy to be 90 minutes away from my godparents and for the warmth and welcome I receive every time I venture out to Lodi.

27. My spirit is indebted to everyone who has dared to suggest that the hopes in my heart might somehow still be realized, even though that has become less and less likely with each passing day.

28. Some days I wake up and I wonder what I did to deserve a life in which I can find joy, and I realize I did nothing, but that all of it is gift.

29. There is this sweater that my parents got me for my birthday last year. My mom called it my “San Francisco sweater” months before I’d even begun applying to graduate programs. It is probably the one article of clothing I wear most, with my NWC Campus Ministries zip up fleece running a close second.

30. Hot beverages are the best!

30. Tea. Tea is a source of joy.

31. This is not my first Thanksgiving away from home, but it is the first that I will be spending by myself. I am touched every time that someone invites me to join them in their homes with their families for their celebrations. This year, though, I am helping to serve a community meal at Regen. I am super excited for this opportunity and for the gift of sharing delicious food and offering friendship to others who also need a place to call home.