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?

 

Outside the Box

I remember a dear friend once said to me, about her ex (before he was) “You know, he never brings me flowers. Ever. I’d be happy if he’d even bring me so much as a dead daisy.” Bringing her a dead daisy wouldn’t have kept him from becoming her ex, that was a whole other can of worms. But guys, we are happier with live flowers.) This comment from her followed my reciept of flowers from hubby for something, I don’t recall what. Back when we first dated he worked at a car dealership, and they had a guy who would come around once a week or so with roses in a bucket, making it easy for the sales people to pick up a couple of them to bring home so he’d do that once in a while, just because. Now, not so much but it’s ok, he’s replaced flowers with other things. Which really is the point of this story.

How often do we get hung up on what’s supposed to be, instead of being happy about what is? I know I’ve been guilty of it, and sometimes have to have the ‘slap-myself-upside-the-head’ conversations with me about it. They usually go a little something like this:

“OK, what the heck is the matter with you? What are you whining about? Did you really think you needed a pity party for real? You have a great life, remember? Your husband is a really good guy. He doesn’t beat you, he doesn’t yell at you, he doesn’t swear, he doesn’t beat his chest, he doesn’t gamble. He washes dishes and does laundry, and takes out garbage. Okay, so he doesn’t put the seat down enough, and doesn’t cook much. But girl, if that’s all you’ve got to whine about, get over your sad-sorry-self.”

I really think that society, television, the internet and the Kardashians all contribute to the problem. (Yeah, I know I said I wasn’t gonna bash ’em again. I lied, get over it.) Information is just too readily available to us on how the other half lives, and we’re inundated with the glossiness and wonder of it all, and how good it all looks. Who wouldn’t want all that lovely money, or live in that lovely house by the beach? We see all that with blinders on, however and forget that the lens we view through is tinted. We’re see only what we’re allowed to see, and when the cameras and papparazzi aren’t around, most of the rich and famous have issues too. Maybe not the same ones, but I guarantee they have them. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that many friends that I can afford to have my husband flapping his digital gums all over twitter, ranting about what ticked him off today, alienating them en masse.

I mean, is it really so bad owning only 2 purses instead of 4? Or is it a crisis if your iPhone is 2 generations old, or your tablet is not the shiniest? So what? Will the world end if you don’t upgrade? Or don’t have it at all?

Is it a crisis if your significant other doesn’t wash the dishes? Make you coffee in the mornings? Shop for groceries? Don’t get me wrong, relationships are definitely about give and take and if one does all the taking and the other all the giving, all the time, it’s a problem. But it’s equally important to find balance, which by the way doesn’t necessarily equate to a 50-50 split. Some days balance is 40-60, some days it’s 75-25.  If he doesn’t wash the dishes, or if she doesn’t make the bed, before you do anything that you can’t undo, or say something you can’t unsay, stop and think for a moment. What else do they DO? Does he pick up your laundry off the floor and put a load in the washing machine (sorting correctly by color) without being asked? Does she always make sure your favorite coffee creamer is stocked in the refridgerator and your socks are folded just the way you want? In moments of crisis when you’re crying your eyes out, will he offer to take your snot filled tissue without a word and get you a fresh one?

We forget about all the little things that make up everyday life, and allow ourselves to get hung up on what we think life should be, because we’re so busy comparing ourselves to the proverbial Joneses, instead of seeing what is right there. Maybe it’s time to think outside the box…the big one sitting in your living room with 188+ channels from your cable or satellite provider, the middle size one that you use to access your news and TMZ feeds, and the small one you use to talk to your kids. I’m not saying get rid of them (do I look insane?) but at least put them in their appropriate perspective. Turn the damn things off people. In the northern hemisphere it’s spring, or at least the calendar says so in Minnesota, although you’d never really know it by the temperature. Get off the couch, put on an extra layer and get outside.

I’m chomping at the bit to plant my spring flowers. My husband thinks I’m nuts, that it’s too early, and he may be right, but I can’t take the drab anymore. I picked up some petunias at the nursery the other day, they’re hardy and can take a lot, and will get those in pots probably later today so I can get my patio at least a little color. I adore my patio, speaking of outside the box. It  all but calls my name with a siren song, every day in the summer. When the temperature is just right, the breezes are lightly blowing and the flowers are in bloom, it’s the most beautiful place. It’s a riot of color that calls to my tropical soul right here in a northern climate. I can listen to music, read, talk to friends, write, or do nothing and be fully at peace in it.

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There might be prettier gardens, or professional outdoor designer Jamie Durie might look at this and say I’ve done it all wrong and completely reorganize it and make it look amazing, but guess what? None of that matters…because it’s mine, and I’m happy with what I have. I’m content in it. That’s the point.

 

Tribute

I’m saddened this morning to read of the passing of Pat Conroy. If you’ve never read any of his work, you’re missing out on an amazing experience. I only recently discovered that, having tried to read his work many years ago and finding myself not ready to appreciate it. When I picked up The Prince of Tides a few months back, perhaps because I am older, or wiser (I hope!) for whatever reason, it was the right time.

What a gift he had to tell a story! I found myself so immersed in the book that I alternated between wanting it to never end and needing it to, so I could get on with my life. It’s as if each word had been selected so as to maximize the effect and nuance, not wasting them needlessly, so I’ll do the same.

As is often said, gone too soon.

Bliss List

While driving out to the family gathering for Thanksgiving today, we were listening to one of our two annual radio programs. The first is a usually a broadcast of “Alice’s Restaurant” by Arlo Guthrie, which clocks in at 18:37, and will only occasionally make the list of longest recorded songs, since it wasn’t considered a rock song, and probably not a pop song at the time but was really more of an anti-Viet Nam War song. If you’ve never listened to Alice’s Restaurant, you’re missing out. It’s really only marginally about Alice, and the restaurant, and is more about the absurdity of life, and the uselessness of war. And, of course, the 8 x 10 colored glossy pictures, with the circles and the arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one…  Thank you, Mr. Guthrie.  But I digress, not unlike the song, actually…

The second is listening to Minnesota Public Radio and on today’s “Giving Thanks” program, their guest was Christopher Kimball from America’s Test Kitchens. He was talking about his Bliss List – those moments of perfect happiness that make up his life. That got me to thinking, what are some of mine. It took me a while to come up with them. I mean, you start to remember something, and then blam! And you think, nuh-uh, not including THAT one, or how about…nope. That one won’t work either.Sigh. I have NO truly happy memories? I’m suddenly picturing the characters from  the movie “Inside Out” inside my head…where was Joy when I needed her? Couldn’t she just drive the bus one day without the others? Why did Anger or Sadness have to even show up?  They are such party poopers. (If you haven’t seen that movie, full disclosure, go see it as fast as you can and take tissues!! It’s wonderful). But then the memories started to trickle in.

Sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen when I was about 5, eating cinnamon graham crackers and dunking them in thick, rich ice cold whole milk. There was something special about the ritual of breaking the crackers in half, then in half again to get those narrow rectangles that fit so nicely in glasses, and of course it was before we had any idea that whole milk was bad for you. Now it’s nearly as cringeworthy as drinking heavy cream, but growing up it’s what we knew.  Walking to the barn with grandpa and holding a baby chicken that was so yellow and soft. Going to my other grandparents house, and helping grandpa in his general store. Getting to slice summer sausage (with him doing it and me ‘helping’) in the big electric slicer. Sitting on a sled in the winter and having our dog pull my sisters and I. It was a big sled, and we had a huge St. Bernard named Heidi, because there was a movie by that name, based on the book by Johanna Spyri, that we loved. I try not to dwell on the dog too much, because you know what they say about big dogs… big poo!

The first time I learned how to drive a stick shift. The first time I drove a stick shift and didn’t grind the gears. (No, they weren’t they same day. They weren’t even the same year or city, for heaven’s sake!) But being able to do that gave me a feeling of confidence and independence I’d never felt before. Standing on the deck of a Windjammer, at 2 AM as we neared Grenada on my last night of a weeklong cruise. Sea breeze on my face, looking up at more stars than you can imagine, and seeing the Southern Cross for the first time. As the song goes, “you understand now, why you came this way“. My wedding day.

That rare instance when one of my silky soft cats jumps up on my lap, gracing me with their presence and allowing me to pet them for a few minutes. I close my eyes and am in another place, instantly transported to Bliss, and I’m grateful for the moment.

Even though Thanksgiving is past, or if you’re from a country that doesn’t celebrate the fourth Thursday in November the way we do in the USA, take the time to think of your own Bliss List and be thankful for those moments of pure joy.