This time of year, we spend a lot of time talking about what we’re thankful for. Gratitude is an incredible practice and I love reflecting on all that I have to be thankful for. The list is long, and this year included many of the usuals, but also a few fun and surprising new ones. While I could go on for an entire blog on just the big things (of which each of you would be included), I thought it might be fun to take some time and reflect on a few small, surprising things from this past year that I found myself “unreasonably grateful” for – particularly if that item might in turn be of benefit to you. Perhaps you can look at this as the MPCA Annual Gift Guide, as maybe there’s something here you want to pick up on for yourself or a loved one (most of these ideas don’t require shipping, so they could make for great last minute gift ideas!). Not everything will make for a great presentation under the tree, but I’m confident you have the creativity to make the most of whatever you choose 😊.
1Password – After writing about The Red File earlier this year and then also witnessing the after effects of the tragic loss of a friend and client, I finally bit the bullet and opted for a “password manager.” Being cheap, I had always resisted this expenditure when my trusty old spreadsheet was doing the trick. Turns out this was some of the best $60 I spent this past year. It took some time to get set-up (it’s nutty how many logins we have!) but has more than paid for itself since then in added security and convenience, as well as peace of mind that someone can so much more easily pick up where I left off if something were to happen to me. If you’re not using one of these, whether it’s 1Password or a competitor, perhaps it’s time to start. I think you’ll put this on the list of things you’re “unreasonably grateful” for next year.
As an added bonus, since I started writing this a few days ago, Apple FINALLY released a new tool for designating someone who can access your Apple account when you pass. Seems trivial…but it’s not, and we encourage you to read this article from the Wall Street Journal to learn more.
Friends who have climbed Mt St Helens 250+ times – This friend is actually reading this piece. Yes, 250+ times is not a typo. So, when someone who has that kind of experience invites you to join him or her in their favorite pastime, you say YES (and pray you can get a permit) – even if that means climbing a volcano with little to no experience. In late-July, Sara-Anne and I took off from the trailhead at 12:01am to climb through night for a sunrise summit of this iconic peak (or what’s left of it). We barely missed the sunrise, but the views still didn’t disappoint…
We talk a lot here at MPCA about a “good guide being better than the best map.” My friend Andy was one really good guide (I’ll wager all I have that he is the foremost combination of mountain knowledge and climbing patience and grace in SW Washington!), and for that I am thankful! And yes, putting Andy under the tree would qualify for “will not make for a great presentation,” but offering to get up early to help snag a permit might be the best gift you could give that outdoor enthusiast in your life (and who are we kidding…they’ll always take “more gear”)!
The NY Times Cooking app – We love to cook at our house, and this app has become an indispensable part of life in our kitchen. If it weren’t for it, I likely would not have spent a couple hours in the kitchen this past weekend with my two boys (successfully) making “Italian Rainbow Cookies” that we shared with friends at church on Sunday morning. This app is easy to use, has great recipes, and has great pics to help make your decisions at that much easier. Speaking of pics, we were too busy in the throes of making these incredible treats to take any photos, but we did get this one of my little elves proudly delivering some of their handiwork to a friend down the street.
We spend ~$40/yr for access to this app. This weekend’s cookie adventure alone would have made it worth it! The countless other incredible meals, desserts, and drinks certainly make this $40 well spent, so make this the perfect gift for that cook (or aspiring) cook in your life.
Wine that tells a story – This past year, we have found ourselves sharing a glass of wine with friends more frequently. Sometimes in celebration, sometimes as we grieve, and sometimes just because (did I mention we have two young boys…?). It’s fun when that bottle we’re opening helps set the mood and tell a story, and my good friend Jackson Rohrbaugh, owner of wine club/retailer Crunchy Red Fruit, provided me with a couple this year that couldn’t have been more perfect. Sometimes life (or the markets) is one of these and we just need to recognize it for what it is…
Then there was this one called “Lemonade” – named because the winemaker Brianne Day was dealt a heavy dose of lemons when wildfire smoke tried to destroy her Pinot Noir crop. Instead, she recognized that she could pivot to making a rose rather than a red from these fire-soaked grapes, thus making lemonade out of lemons. We talk often about adapting to what life throws our way, as our best laid plans are nothing but.
I have a growing appreciation for and desire to support small, local businesses – and so buying these wines made by small producers who know how to make great products while having fun in light of tough circumstances and buying them from a small local business was a win all around. Add to it that they were both incredible wines that made for deeper, more meaningful relationships, and you really have a winner! By the way, if you want that perfect bottle this holiday season (or for any occasion in 2022), give Jackson a holler. Prices vary. Quality (and good memories) don’t.
- LED Christmas lights – Did someone say MORE LIGHTS and LESS POWER? Clark Griswold would be jealous.
- Tile (the little ‘find your stuff’ device…not the stuff that lines your backsplash) – Did someone say marriage saving technology? It’s right up there with the GPS in removing one potentially combustible element from day-to-day life (losing keys and wallets!).
- Battery-powered yard tools – Did someone say no more extension cords to drag around? Winner!
- Kids that don’t understand how much a dollar is really worth – A dollar won’t buy you much these days, but it will get your 4-yr-old outside raking leaves with a smile on his face. After all, that battery-powered leaf blower can’t do everything!
I hope you have enjoyed this little glimpse into my life and the quirky, offbeat things I am grateful for as this year nears an end. None compares to the gratitude all of us at MPCA have for each of you. We love coming to work each day, to learn from you and to support you. A phrase I keep coming back to as I think about this work is that we want to give you the space “to turn towards what matters.” Regardless of what it is that matters most to you, we hope we have done that for you this year, and certainly look forward to doing more of it in the year ahead. Happy holidays from all of us!