Music.

Every now and then, my friend A.J. picks a Christmas song with a four-hand accompaniment for his choir, and he asks me to play two of the hands. I hate to admit, but some years, I triage my part. I make sure the parts where I can be heard clearly are really good, but everything else is hit-or-miss.

This year, I’ve dedicated more time to practicing than ever before, and I’m feeling really good about this year’s song. Tonight I ran up to school at 5:45 to run through the 3-minute song twice. Well worth the trip, as it gave me a chance to see how playing with the singers would mess me up (because they always do) and get a sense of the tempo I need to be practicing at.

I’m grateful for all kinds of music–the kind I play on the piano, the kind I sing, the kind I listen to. I often underestimate the power of music in my life. I need to be more grateful for it more often.

The Mundane.

I’ve spent every November for the past seven years blogging about something I’m grateful for nearly every day. Two years I made it every day. Most years I end up with 21 or so posts. This year is shaping up to be just that.

I read this article from the New York Times that validates my focus on gratitude, though I’m certain the author is saying I need to be grateful more often than just November. He’s right. He included a poem from Gerard Manley Hopkins about being grateful for the mundane, those “small, useless things you experience,” and I realized this year, as in years past, I try to look for something grand each day, a gratitude epiphany, if you will.

Instead of looking for something grand, today I’m grateful for sunshine streaming in my windows, for time to practice the piano, for comfy clothes to change into after church, for brownies made from scratch.

This week, I plan to revel in the mundane and be grateful for it. Because (and here’s the epiphany) if I’m finding I’m grateful for the mundane, chances are life is pretty good.

Healthy Hunger.

So Saturday I thought I had food poisoning.

Sunday I thought I was recovering from food poisoning.

Monday I started to feel better so I started eating as if I no longer had food poisoning. But by Monday night the queasiness returned and I spent most of the night convincing myself not to puke again.

Tuesday I woke up nauseous and couldn’t really eat…and then again all day Wednesday (I actually almost puked a couple of times while teaching)…and into today.

And then around noon, I finally started to feel normal again. I stuck to my Saltine/chicken broth/applesauce lunch, and by the time I got home, I felt like I could really survive a semi-normal dinner.

I’m hungry again now, and my stomach doesn’t feel like it’s going to revolt on me, and I’m actually craving protein.

I don’t think I had food poisoning over the weekend–I think I actually had a virus. But I’m better now, and I’m grateful for that.

Outrage.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how important it is to find faces of people who represent what we fear or hate. Putting faces to our biases often gives us the opportunity to develop empathy and compassion. Since I wrote that post, the world seems to have fallen off its axis of humanity. We need more faces.

So I collected a couple of stories with faces.

Representative Mike Honda, who was raised in a Japanese internment camp.

An Omaha man’s story of leaving Syria–and why he left.

A reminder that we’ve been here before with a refugee crisis…and apparently we are behaving in quite a similar fashion as we did 75 years ago.

And if you’ve never read Mary Pipher’s marvelous book “The Middle of Everywhere,” you should. Compassion, empathy, perspective…it’s all there.

Since Friday’s Paris attacks and the ensuing xenophobia, my mind has been firmly fixed on my 2nd great-grandfather, Hyman Gindich. He fled religious persecution in 1906. He was Jewish. Russians weren’t too keen on Jews. He made it to the U.S. with his wife and seven children.

What would’ve happened to my entire family tree had Hyman’s family waited 30 years to make it to America? Would they have made it out of Europe? And even so, would they have been turned away at America’s doors?

I get the need for national security. I get that we live in a different time now than we did pre-World War II. I get that fear and misinformation is so much easier to glom on to than education and understanding.

Yet again, I find myself looking for faces, for people who have real stories of fear and unrest seeking the tiniest hope of peace. I hope when those people start arriving, I am able to help provide some peace.

Writers.

My second class of the morning is a class of 21 students.

It’s a Journalistic Writing class, comprised of all four grades. And 21 students often means 21 different writing styles and habits–not the easiest of things to manage.

They are all writing feature stories right now. 21 different feature stories, from personality profiles to human interest stories to behind-the-scenes features.

Today, for almost 40 solid minutes, most of those 21 students wrote and wrote and wrote. They transcribed interviews, they rearranged quotes, they developed transitions and created leads.

While they wrote, I peeked in on their progress, since they are all required to write in Google Docs, and I held mini-conferences and left comments for them, or just spoke to them from across the room what needed to change and what I liked about their writing so far.

They made great progress today, and I am excited to read their final drafts next week.

I’m grateful that I get to teach writers. Even the students who don’t think they are writers–they proved today that they are.