Giving Thanks

This is such a strange time of year. Many of us sit at a table, surrounded by family members we’re obligated to spend time with but don’t really want to see, we try to make nice for a few hours and pray to God no one brings up politics while we stuff our faces with way too much food, alcohol and goodies. And pie. Pumpkin, pecan, mincemeat, pumpkin, lemon meringue. Oh, and did I mention pumpkin pie?

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This year is different for me, for a number of reasons. I’ve been out of work for 5 months now, looking faithfully every week for something that suits my skills and career path. It hasn’t been easy, not being able to find something, and I’m sure as difficult as it’s been for me, it’s likely been even harder for my husband. So as I think about what I am thankful for, he really is first on my list: he’s my rock, a source of quiet strength and support at all times. He pushes me to be my best in everything, but knows when to let me be. I’m thankful that we were wise enough to have money tucked away so that I can not worry (ok I worry, but at an appropriate level) about our finances during this time. Yes, we’ve cut way back on spending, and the list of things we need or want to get when I get a job is growing ever longer, but that’s ok. I’m thankful we have a home that isn’t in need of major repair, that we replaced the furnace a couple of years ago now that the temperature is dropping into the teens here. I’m thankful that we’re both healthy, that we have enough to keep us busy in and around the house when I’m not job hunting. I’m thankful for the fact that I can not only make Christmas gifts for friends and family, but that I have enough craft things in my home already to do it, and don’t need to buy much of anything so we’ll be able to have a very affordable Christmas this year.

I’m also thankful for so many other things around me. As the news of David Cassidy’s death broke on the news services, and I was immediately saddened and thought  for the first time, “we’re old!” But I’m so thankful for the joy he gave all of us young girls as teens, and that we got to have him in our life for a time, however remotely. Come on, admit it. You know you had his poster on your bedroom wall back then. I’ll admit it, but we were so young and silly and and young pre-teens and teens just thought he was so dreamy. I found an article yesterday on CNN that is worth a quick read that is a hoot, with a few facts about him we never knew. Take the time to read it, if you were a fan it will make you smile.

I’m thankful for my friends, who listen when I need them to, and who are just there to make me laugh, or hang out, or allow me to reciprocate for them in kind.

Speaking of my friends, I am especially thankful for some new ones this year I didn’t even know that I had. When I was laid off 5 months ago along with the rest of the team I worked with, I was just getting to know the team I’d worked with for only 4 months. We were all telecommuters, and worked from coast to coast, and were on different projects, so we didn’t all interact with each other every day. That meant after 4 months I was still just barely getting to know some of the team. After we were all let go, a group of 5 of us started group texting. It’s become a sometime support group, a virtual happy hour, and a wonderful sisterhood. So I am so grateful for Salpy, Jamie, Kathy and Blair, I don’t know what I would have done without you wonderful women.  Along with them, my friend Morissa, who has also been an uexpected source of support and assistance that I never saw coming. Along with all my other fantastic friends who listen, guide and help me look for jobs, I wish you joy and blessings this Thanksgiving.

What are you especially thankful for this year?

 

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As American As…

I was reading a news article on CNN.com this morning about our political allies in Europe, and whether or not our allies should contribute more to subsidizing the defense we provide to them. (Yes, I know, it’s a deep subject, try not to faint. And I’m not going into commentary on it anyway, so you can breathe again now.) Something in the article caught my attention, however, and it’s something that has bothered me for quite a while. It’s the casual use of the word “American”.

How many of you really think of what that means? I was really curious about this, because after all, isn’t the news supposed to be in the business of reporting accurately? So I did a little research. According to Wikipedia, America is the same as the United States of America. Hmm, that seemed too easy to me, as it’s not how I remember it from grade school geography, and anyway, everyone knows you never trust only one source, so I pressed on.

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary definition is:

  • 1
    either continent (North America or S. America) of the western hemisphere
  • 2
    or the Amer·i·cas play
    \-kəz\
    the lands of the western hemisphere including North, Central, & S. America & the W. Indies
  • 3
    United States of America

Now definition #2 is a whole lot closer to what I learned in grade school, which as I recall also included Canada.  I  also consulted my nephew’s girlfriend who is also a journalism major, and asked her to provide me with the correct useage according the AP guidelines which she tells me is what reporters live by. According to her( my new favorite guru!) the correct breakdown is the Caribbean, Central America, Latin America, North America, South America, and West Indies, and when speaking of the United States, then that’s what should be used. CNN, are you (and all of the media outlets, really) paying attention? Or perhaps I should ‘speak’ in the current vernacular of @CNN, or include their hashtag, #CNN. In any case,  what gives us the right to such casual appropriation of the word “America”? I will admit, I’ve been guilty of it as well when I say “I’m an American”, although that is true, in the larger context. However when the fourth estate uses the word America interchangeably with United States, that IS incorrect, and I might argue even somewhat arrogant.

Isn’t it possible – even likely – that residents of South America, Jamaica, Puerto Rico or Canada would like to be able to say they are American? (Feel free to weigh in, my Canadian friend!) And by definition, they can, because after all, Brazil is part of South America, Canada a part of North America. And doesn’t the media have an obligation to not only use words correctly, but also to educate?  Incorrect use of the word is misleading and uninformed, as well as showing an egocentric cultural bias. Even a very popular television program running on FX has appropriated the label and uses it to refer to the people of the United States.web_largecoverart_series_the-americans_270x398 The Americans is about Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings, two Soviet intelligence agents posing as a married couple to spy on the American government during the cold war. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great show, I love tripping back to the 80’s, the chemistry between real life couple Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys is palpable, and the writing is fantastic, but again, using the phrase to describe people of the US is correct only by the default definition that’s become accepted over time. 

I realize that our language changes with the passage of years, and the generally accepted definition of a word can change as well. “Gay” is a great example. There was a time when it  meant happy, now the most common definition refers to sexual orientation. (Not passing judgment here, it was just the quickest example that came to mind.) However, altering the definition of a word to suit our cultural bias implies an elitism that is inappropriate.

There’s one final point to be made here. If you agree that there is some truth to this, that those who live not only in North America, but South America, the Carribbean, the West Indies, Latin America and Central America also have the right to call themselves Americans, then perhaps you’ll see the absurdity and irony in the recent rhetoric around “building a wall” and “making America great again”. Think about it for a moment, it’ll come to you.