Twelve things I liked in 2012

Twelve has always been my favorite number. I like the multiples of 6. Six itself, 12 as the favorite, 24 quite a lot. (18, 30, 36… I could take or leave the rest of them.) So during the 12 days of Christmas in the 12th month of 2012… the number 12 seems auspicious! I’m feeling quite cheerful and well-rested, and so I thought I’d share 12 things I really enjoyed.

1) My Neighbors
I don’t talk about them very much here for many reasons, especially preserving their privacy. But I have the most amazing neighbor/friends you could imagine. We spend a lot of time together with our kids whirling around our feet like chaos dervishes – all together or in subsets. But they are OUR chaos dervishes and we love them. One of the things that makes people happiest is the sense of community and friendship, and I have it in spades. It’s one of the things that makes me feel very richest, to have such good and joyful friends! Just as a “for example”, we are traveling today as six inches of snow fell on our driveway and sidewalk. Our friends have already shoveled us out. I feel incredibly lucky to have them in my life.

The Neighborhood kids gather for trick or treating

2) A Bus Commute that Leaves Room for Reading
During the last year, I’ve probably read more novels than in the two or three years prior. I’ve had the leisure to read all sort of great books: the Parasol Protectorates, the Church of England Series, Caesar’s Conquest of Gaul… and tons of other books. I have enough reading time to risk reading new books that may or may not be great – and lots of them are fantastic! Some days you find yourself hoping for bad traffic so you can read just a bit more before taking off on the bracing near-mile through the financial district.

3) Starbuck’s Reusable Straws
When using a travel mug (which is most of the time), I drink my coffee through a straw. I always have. Most of my idiosyncrasies are coffee-related, I swear! I reuse Starbuck’s thin plastic straws over and over until they crack. But this year, Starbucks came out with reusable straws. I have them in tall and grande sizes, and in green, metal and holiday-themed. I bought extra in case this is the only time they ever appear. They make me happy.

Of course, I use them for hot coffee

4) Legos
I can’t think of an obsession I would be happier with than Legos. The kids are imaginative, social, creative, totally immersed and completely happy in the throes of their Lego Play. They play together. They play by themselves. They learn the critical skill of following directions. Then they break apart the dictated shapes and use their free-form imagination to create things based on their fertile imaginations. Then they tell amazing stories to themselves using the figures, buildings, vehicles they’ve created. Does it get better than this for a kid AND a parent? (Well, except for the cleaning up.)

Collaborative Legos

5) New England Patriots
After a year where the Red Sox left me cold, I decided I was going to start liking the Patriots. I know you’re all like “You don’t just decide to like a sport!” to which I reply? Oh yeah? But I’ve caught most of the games this season (bumming about the fact I’ll miss tonight’s game!). And part of what made it was fun was catching those games on the couch with my neighbors. (See #1.)

Gronk’s failed spike was only second to Wilfork’s interception in my joy-ranking

6) Flour’s Sticky Buns
Flour Bakery in Boston is RIGHT across the street from my office. Usually I resist temptation. But on days when I’m having an unusually rough day, or good day, or stressful day, or, well, can find an excuse that holds water I’ll go across at 1:30 – 2 pm. That’s when the Sticky Buns are out of coming out of the oven. And I’ll get one and eat it warm with a tall glass of cold milk and bliss is mine. My colleagues have totally figured this out, and have begun bribing me with them. I’m ok with this.

Om nom nom nom

7) First grade and having a first grader

I’m loving this age for Grey. (I think I’ve said that for almost every age he’s ever gone through.) But I loved the Christmas concert, and the (easy) homework. I love the self-sufficiency. I love that his best friend is a kid I had not introduced him to, but that he picked for himself. (It helps that I like the kid, to be sure.) I love how he can do real chores that actually diminish the work I have to do, and how he can read and entertain himself, and I love hearing the thoughts and questions he has. Having a kid in school really ties you in to the community in which you live.

Grey and our neighbor on their first day of first grade

8) My New Dishwasher
It actually cleans dishes, including the dishes on the top rack. Isn’t that a phenomenal attribute in a dishwasher? I replaced three appliances this year: dishwasher, washer, dryer. And I’m delighted at the difference the dishwasher makes, I think the washer does a better job and I’m rather disappointed in the dryer. But hey, 2 for 3 isn’t so bad!

9) Vacating with my Husband
It turns out I really like my husband, and I really like spending time with him. Our trip to Ashland this summer is a source of joyful remembrance, from watching the big dipper setting over the stage at the Elizabethan to seeing the osprey’s dive as as shot rapids down the Rogue River. Adam and I are so often partners in the enterprise of family that I treasure the time we spend together being the dewy-eyed newlyweds we have so much capacity to be.

At Wellspring

10) Guitar
My intent this year was not to learn a new instrument. And if I had so picked, I likely would have selected cornetto or piano – instruments with which I have some experience. But I have had such a blast learning a completely new instrument with completely new skills. Practically none of my musical training has carried over, and I’ve gotten to start from scratch. It’s particularly lovely since none of my identity is tied up in being good at it. It is so LIBERATING to work on something when it’s ok with you that you’re terrible at it. I hadn’t realized. And better yet, I am bad enough to still hear my progress instead of my faults. I’m also starting to be able to really do things, which gives me a tremendous sense of satisfaction.

The guitar I got for my birthday

11) I really like my job
What a difference this makes, doesn’t it? I feel really well used in my current role. The people I work with value me as a person and as a contributor, and are not shy about telling me this. My job uses 100% of my brain and skills: interpersonal, technical, writing, organization, big-thinking. I have everything I need to be successful in my role: I only need to apply the skills I have and some concentration in order to do what I am asked to do. I get to do a wide variety of tasks, but I also don’t have sole responsibility. In everything, I have partners and colleagues with whom I work. My company is good about respecting the boundaries I set, but fun enough to tempt me across them every once in a while of my own volition. I get to travel just about once a quarter, which is enough to still be fun and make you feel like a Real Businessperson, but not enough to get tedious and tiring. Work sent me to London (for a week!), New York City, Atlanta, Detroit and San Francisco this year. I’m hopeful that the coming years may include opportunity to grow in my career, but so far I’m not complaining in the least about what I have going.

12) The Theater

The Globe in London

One of the great gifts of my upbringing was a love and appreciation for live performances. Since getting out on my own (and on my own resources) I have not seen nearly as much live theater as I want to. This year made a significant dent in that lack, however. I saw:
– Henry V at the Globe Theater in London (talk about a Bucket list item! This is my favorite Shakespeare play. Also, they had cornettists for the pre-music. And I had front-row, third balcony seats!)
– A concert at the Barbican including Carmina Burana, which I’d never heard before
– Patrick Ball concert
– As You Like It – at Ashland
– Henry V – at Ashland, completely opposite interpretation
– Merry Wives of Windsor, Iowa – at Ashland
– All the Way – at Ashland, the kind of play that makes you feel as though you lived through an era you certainly did not
– A Christmas Celtic Sojourn – at the Cutler Majestic

I might be missing one or two, but that’s more like it! Perhaps this year will be the year I introduce Grey to the theater and formal behavior!

So that’s a portion of my litany of joys. What were some of your favorite things in 2012? If you came up with a top 12 list, what would it include?

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Brenda currently lives in Stoneham MA, but grew up in Mineral WA. She is surrounded by men, with two sons, one husband and two boy cats. She plays trumpet at church, cans farmshare produce and works in software.

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