It's Thanksgiving, and I have oh so much to be thankful for this year..
There are folks who will, for some reason I cannot possibly understand, take the gratitude portion out the name of the lone holiday in America with such a focus, and instead refer to it as "Turkey Day." Please don't.
It's Thanksgiving, that name implies Giving Thanks~ yes, most of us will gorge ourselves on turkey, but I hope that the main point is celebrating with people we love and being grateful for all that we have. And most of us have an awful lot.
While the "Turkey Day" reference used to make me feel like my head was going to pop from frustration, I'm learning to let go. I don't need to feel personally affronted by the stripping the holiday of the meaning it's name. Instead, I should probably quit complaining on a holiday about gratefulness, and just focus on my own blessings.
I mentioned that there are a bunch, right?
So much has happened over the last year that has shown me that my kids and I are loved and supported big time, that the world is full of wonderfully kind people, that being open and dreaming pays off, and that we are totally capable of finding ways to pull off all kinds of awesomeness.
Some days, gratitude comes easily, and other days....well....not so much. We all have those days of dirty dishes, work deadlines, bickering children, vomiting cats, headaches, broken tail lights and a big pile of bills, and it's kinda hard to remember when you're grateful for in the midst of all that.
But,one thing I know for sure is this:
Whatever you focus on tends to be what you get more of.
It's not just the hippie woo woo people who think so, either. It's just the way it works~ If you think about the truly happy people you know, I'm guessing they don't sit around wanking about their miseries for too long.
Knowing that focusing on the good stuff really does help you get through the sucky stuff is one thing, but that doesn't mean it always comes easily or naturally. For those of us who have slightly more brittle exterior tendencies, it can take some serious effort. Like much of parenting and life in general, theory is one thing, reality is another.
If the gratitude isn't flowing freely on it's own, that's when it becomes a conscious choice~ you have to actually do the work to switch your own mindset.
Sometimes just writing a list of everything I'm grateful for helps, sometimes affirmations help, but sometimes, I need to get a little more specific in my thought process, especially when it comes to the really big and important stuff ~ like parenting.
In case you too are in the mood to analyze what in the heck you have to be happy about in your parenting life, here's a journal page I made to get the process rolling. You can download the PDF below.
If you prefer not to use an entire ink cartridge on one project, I don't blame you one bit. So, I made a not so colorful version (Just the questions, no pretty background) to print out, you can get that here.
I hope you enjoy the journal questions, and as always, if you like my stuff, please "like" my facebook page as well, and share it with a friend or five!
And please share in the comments below what you are thankful for, especially on the days when there seems to be less to give thanks for.
In the midst of the business of life, with the added crazy of the holidays looming, I love seeing people actually thinking about Thanksgiving. And by that, I mean the actual act of giving thanks, not just taking a day off work in America, and over stuffing ourselves (even more than usual, that is.)
I'm seeing people posting daily lists of gratitude on Facebook, and while some skeptics might say that those are just another means of feeding our public displays of narcissism, I think that any means of getting people to quit bitching and focus on positive stuff is a good thing.
So, yes, I think I'll join the bandwagon. No, not with daily posts, I just can't handle that kind of public commitment and pressure. But I think I can manage a weekly roundup of gratitude. This week will be in the form of pictures of some of the things that really do make my life better. Next week, who knows what I will do, because I just don't plan ahead that well.
Presenting Thankful Thursday.Here are some of the reasons that I am so very blessed.
Fall brings with it so many things that I love, like the changing of leaves, the chance to wear boots and to eat cool weather comfort food. It also brings along things I really have absolutely no idea what to do with. Like schedules and football.
Sports in general are something I just never have gotten into as a player or a fan. Sure, I tried to play on the school basketball team in 6th grade, but I was on the “B” team, which everyone knew meant that we sucked but the adults wanted to make us feel better by letting us play anyway. They gave us our own team of other non-talented players, but everyone knew it was a pity team. After that, I realized that athleticism was not one of my God given talents.
Watching sports has always been baffling to me as well, and while I’ve had friends who would argue over their favorite teams, I never could bring myself to care about watching grown men throw balls around.
When pregnant with my first child, I remember a seasoned mom telling me that children were born their own independent persons with preferences and personalities that might make no sense whatsoever to us. At the time, I joked that it would be hysterical if my kid turned out to be a jock. I think Mother Nature likes little jokes like that.
It wasn’t that child, but eventually the Universe did give me a little athlete in my Boy Child. When it became obvious that the kid loved to throw balls and play sports, despite my non sporty nature, I signed him up for some low key, non competitive sports, hoping someone else could guide him since I was "B team" material. We started with baseball.
I really wanted him to play just for fun, enjoy the game and all of that, so I thought it was a good thing that some of the leagues didn’t even keep score.
Of course, just like when I was a child, the kids know what’s up. They wanted to win and they kept score on their own. They were often wrong about the score, generally thinking they did much better than they actually did, but at least they had good self esteem, right?
This time of year, in the days following Halloween, I always try to take the time to stop to remember and honor some of my loved ones who have died.
As one who loves to celebrate, I’ve always been an adopter of miscellaneous holidays, taking parts and pieces of other traditions and making them into something meaningful for my own life. My version of Dia De Los Muertos usually consists of visiting a grave, maybe lighting a candle and having a snack while telling stories about the deceased, usually with more laughter than tears.
Since we began the practice, we focused mainly on our Good Dog Lug, my Grandpa Walt and my firstborn son Hans. Walt and Hans had died a number of years before we started the practice ~ my kids don’t remember either of them, but I appreciated the way it kept their stories alive. They both grew up with Good Dog Lug and lived with her until her last day, but while they knew, loved and remembered her, still, the wounds weren’t fresh.
In years past, I have spent time with my children eating crab cheese wontons on my Grandfather’s grave and remembering that he would have told us our lunch smelled like sewage. We have lit candles, and placed pretty rocks and even bones on the grave of our Good Dog Lug while we laughed and told stories of her mischief. I have sat alone and held the blanket that belonged to my first born baby Hans.
All of those deaths were a long time ago. No, time does not erase the pain, but time and space are a sort of salve on a wounded heart, and make it easier to smile at the fun times rather than just cry over the loss.
This year is different. In the last 12 months our family has had so many deaths.
By far, the most painful of all was the loss of my Grandma Peggy~ she was the matriarch of my family and in my mind, she was a saint with extraordinary patience and strength. She always had a way of letting me know that I was the apple of her eye.
I'm normally a woman of many words, but there are none that can adequately express her influence in my life and how fortunate I was to have her as my Grandmother.
As a little girl, I remember knowing that she could brush the knots out my my tangled hair without making it hurt. She took me out to restaurants and bought me Shirley Temple’s to drink in fancy glasses, making me feel totally elegant and grown up.
She didn’t baby me though. I remember her scrubbing my skinned knees with iodine, and letting me know I had been doing something I shouldn’t have which was why I got injured in the first place. She didn’t yell at me or make me feel bad~ she just told it like it was.
As a teenager, when I dyed my hair rainbow colors, she must have thought I was crazy, but she never once said anything negative to me about it. In fact, I can’t remember her saying anything to me about it at all, or even acting like anything was different. She just loved me like she always had.
When I had children of my own, I know that some of my parenting ideas were a bit of a stretch from what she grew up with. She did raise her eyebrows slightly at my ideas on occasion, but was always supportive, no matter what.
My Grandmother was a role model for unconditional love, and had an amazing ability to not say anything if she didn’t have anything nice to say. She knew how to work hard, and how to pick her battles. She knew how to get things done and make things happen. She inspired me to want to be a better person.
My Grandma was married for 53 years before she became a widow, and they still thought of each fondly until the end. Up to her own last days, thirteen years after the death of my Grandpa, she always spoke of him with love and respect. To me, that shows a kind of loyalty and level of commitment that most people today can’t even imagine knowing.
From her I inherited a love of adventure and travel, and telling stories. In her eighties, she jumped on an opportunity to go for a ride in a speedboat on the lake, shushing me and my concerns, and smiling the whole time. If there was fun to be had, she had it, and if there was a story to be told, she told it.
Unfortunately, I did not get her sense of diplomacy and way of holding harsh words. That woman had an amazing ability to make things happen her way without needing to be loud. I did learn to make things happen, but not so much how to do it quietly.
The last few weeks of my Grandmother’s life were brutally difficult, with tremendous suffering for her and those who loved her, but she continued to show her strength, fighting hard until the end.
A few months after the death of my Grandma, another death followed, my sweet old cat, Miss Silver Grey Cloud. I was still grieving my Grandmother and the harshness of her ending, but Miss Silver’s death was completely different.
None of us knew how old this cat was, but she had been a part of our pack of furry animals for years, giving us many smiles and much entertainment along the way, and by the end, she was clearly ancient~ her walk had become a hobble and her hearing had gone.
She had been a wildish thing when she moved herself in under our back porch, but when she choose us as her family, she must have trusted us enough to become tame.
The day she died, I was supposed to be on a camping trip, but the reservations had filled up, so we stayed home. It was raining lightly, which is not normal summer weather in my part of the country, and I was outside doing some random errand that comes with life on a little farm when I found her curled up sleeping, and breathing slowly.
She didn’t move when I said her name, but she was deaf, so that was not unexpected. But when I touched her, I knew something was wrong. Her body was stiff, almost like she was already dead, but she was breathing and her eyes opened to look at me.
I knew something was wrong and scooped her up immediately taking her in and wrapping her in a blanket. I checked her thoroughly for injuries, and there were none. As she looked into my eyes, somehow I knew that she was just done with her life and moving on. I knew the long car trip to the vet would be traumatic and pointless and that what was happening was going to happen either way.
I chose the peaceful way. I cried for a while with her, and made her a nest on my work table so she could be with me for whatever time she had left.
When my kids woke up, I let them know what was happening. They held her and talked to her. Our other cats and dogs all came and spent time near her saying their goodbyes. She rested peacefully through the day, waking to look at us every so often.
I was with her when she took her last breath, and somehow in her death, I found healing because I saw that the end of life can be as sacred as the start. Her death was as peaceful as a birth.
We also lost three of my all time favorite old hens this year ~ Banty, Serious and Good Mama. These weren’t just chickens, but pets with personality who had been with us seven or more years. They were all excellent mothers who had a lifetime pass to live with me, even though they were old and didn’t lay many eggs anymore. They had earned their keep in their youth, and they always provided entertainment.
Then we lost two baby chicks in one day, which was was the last straw so to speak.
So today I will take my children to eat lunch on my Grandparent’s graves, and we'll most likely talk about life and death. And tonight I will light a bonfire, burning remnants of the past and symbols of deaths~ both physical and metaphorical, feeling thankful for what was, and looking forward to what’s next.
Who is Zesty Mom?
I'm an Artist, Writer, Funschooling Facilitator, Empowered Living Advocate, Wanna-be Organic Gardening Foodie, Travel Loving Life Explorer, Former Goat Herding Chicken Lady, and Full Time Mamacita Extraordinaire to a Couple of Cage Free Kids.
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