Giving Thanks

Before you head off for parts known, before you begin developing a familiar intimacy with your ovens and stoves, before your refrigerator begs you to refrain from adding one more thing…

There are so many clichés associated with being thankful – and I doubt that I will come up with anything new. Yet, in advance of the arrival of our family, I felt the need to extend my thoughts to all of you.  I’m thankful for so much and words fail me (which I submit is a good thing).  I am truly blessed with a family I adore, a husband who humors my nuttiness and sons/daughters-in-law who accept that their mom is as corny as a Hallmark commercial.  I have an amazing sister who I adore and will miss on Thursday (along with my nephews and niece who will be having their own family Thanksgiving in NY).  I can appreciate the beginning of a new day and I can delight in the feeling of snuggling into bed at day’s end.  I have a body that complains each day and yet we’re still getting along.  I know bountiful love.  We’ve got three pups – two of whom are perfect and one who is re-calibrating the spectrum of mischief that I used to consider part and parcel of puppyhood.  Our home is my sanctuary; I have never felt safer.

I am thankful for all of you who have come to read this blog, write to me and share your thoughts, inspire me with your encouragement and humor.  I love that I have learned so much from your posts, taking to heart much of what you have written and incorporating it into my being.  My friends – in cyberspace or in my physical reality – you are in this orbit of gratitude which circles rhythmically through my life.  And so, you all should be told as often as possible, just how much you are appreciated.  Would that we took the time to say these things more frequently than once or twice a year.  For those who are celebrating Thanksgiving on Thursday – I wish you stuffed tummies, full hearts, TUMS and love.  Actually, this thought holds regardless of whether there’s a turkey in the oven.  I’m heading deep into the heart of cooking territory for the next few days, so I send this to you now.  Thank you for being who you are to me.

 

Loads Of Questions, Fewer Answers

“When I was One I had just begun

When I was Two I was nearly new

When I was Three I was hardly me

When I was Four I was not much more

When I was Five I was just alive

But now I’m Six, I’m as clever as clever

So I think I’ll be Six now for ever and ever”  – A.A. Milne

So, my cohort group is turning sixty next year.  Sixty.  It’s an impressive number.  Jo will enter this decade first (though at the end of the day, first or last the goal is to get there and keep going), and it prompted a lot of conversation about what the heck it means.

In an effort to avoid the obvious, we didn’t come up with anything particularly cogent.  And that got me thinking, which as you know, is typically dangerous.

As we grow up, we measure our accomplishments by how old we are.  At six or seven, there’s first grade and entering real school.  Turning ten, at double-digits – one proudly has succeeded at no longer being ‘little’ and has become by rite of age,  way cooler than anyone who is younger.  Celebrating the introduction to being a legitimate teen-ager at thirteen, it’s even sweeter at sixteen.  When eighteen knocks at the door, it brings the perceived gift of becoming ‘legal’, getting out of the house and the anticipation that for all intents and purposes, society will consider you a grown-up in three short years.  Of course by the time one is thirty, the realization that learning to be an adult is no longer an acceptable excuse.  And so on and so on…

Our self-definition and stories are inextricably tied to our age.  What we learned and when we learned it.  I think we could have extended conversations about the decades we have lived – tying our stories and our years together in crazy, multi-colored bows.

Somewhere along the way though, we realize that life is measured not in years but in exquisite moments of attention.  When the question that begs to be answered is less about our individual successes, accomplishments and somewhat self-absorbed chatter, and more about what we have brought to the table.  Did we offer life a groaning board of our best selves or did we just sit there expecting to be fed?  (Given that Thanksgiving is next week, it seemed like a good analogy).  Though we got here while acknowledging chronological landmarks along the way, such landmarks no longer define the road.  We are left now to figure out the topography, and the area is large.

And the dialogue changes focus – am I giving the best I’ve got?  Am I more about others and less about me?  And if I live another sixty years, will I create a path that others will choose to walk with me?

Considering A Legacy

Soulgatherings.wordpress.com provides a daily quote that invariably touches me.  Sometimes it is the words themselves, other times it is a thought that adheres to my brain and requires my attention for hours at a time.  Either way, it’s all good.  Yesterday’s poem by Carol Adrienne is fresh in my mind -

“Our purpose, I believe

is not a thing, place, title or even a talent.

Our purpose is to be.

Our purpose is how we live life,

not what role we live.

Our purpose is found in each moment

as we make choices to be who we really are.”

I had the privilege of circling in Fran’s orbit for twenty-two years.  She was my brother-in-law’s mom – no true familial connection that I can trace, yet a connection that I felt deeply.  She passed away last week, quietly, without pain, turning her slumber into what I hope is a new chapter in a story none of us fully understand.  Her son is choosing to remember with happiness and grace, the amazing woman he loved so deeply.  Denial?  Perhaps.  I’m not judging, for it would be hubris to suggest how one grieves.  That said, I think he’s on to something.  It resonates when thinking about what Fran would want.

What was remarkable about Fran was her insistence that she was not at all remarkable.  She raised two children, worked side by side with her husband and loved unconditionally.  Her life may not have been perfect, but it was perfect in her eyes.  Her son, daughter-in-law, grandchildren, niece – all human, all subject to the qualities that define our humanity (the good and the less-than-ideal) – could not be more marvelous, gifted, loving, generous.  She would not brook any complaints, whines, dissatisfactions – her purpose was to live with love.  Period.  Fran didn’t try to change your point of view to hers; she changed your mind because you would look at her face and see a sense of peace that few reflect so consistently.  And so you’d wonder what she had figured out that completely eluded you.  And you’d want to spend more time with her – if only to bask in the reflected light that she saw in everyone.  I can’t imagine how it must have felt to ever disappoint her and she would never tell you.  Fran left it up to you to figure it out.  How one human being treats another; how we show our love to those we ostensibly hold the closest.  She taught you by showing you, there were no words or reprimands or chilly shoulders.  She lived her love.

And though it’s been a while since Fran was at Thanksgiving, she will be remembered next Thursday with wine glasses raised and full hearts.  For to have known Fran was to be given a chance to see someone live her life with the highest purpose; to be loved by Fran was to have your heart opened to the incredible power of simple goodness.  Safe journey Fran and thank you for those many mornings all those years ago, when we watched the sunrise as your family slept, and wondered aloud at the fantastic serendipity that brought us to those two chairs by the sea.

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Home Ec.

“Hem your blessings with thankfulness so they don’t unravel”

Good advice, though I can’t sew.  I can’t even loosely baste a seam.  I failed sewing in the seventh grade, for the teacher didn’t consider it fashion forward to have the armhole of my jumper positioned at the hip.  I didn’t do much better at home economics (yes, they had courses such as this – let’s save the shock and awe for another day, shall we?), though I excelled at pudding.  And passing notes.

Which retrospectively suggests that I had my priorities straight even then – as long as you had good people around you, everything else would follow.  Take care of the ones you love.  Pass the notes, hold the secret, righteously defend (“Mimi would be an exemplary student if she were a bit less social”).  Ah well.  It is with this limited skill set that I have built my house.  Ultimately I bought the drapes and learned how to cook.  And though no one would mistake me for Martha Stewart, I’d say this is a pretty awesome home.  People curl up when they get here, they nestle in.  Shoes come off, defenses are shed, talk is uncensored, silence is religious.  There is nothing more transcendent than this.

Our Thanksgiving plans got derailed by my little surgery a few days back and we’re staying here instead of heading up to New Jersey.  The kids will be with their in-laws.  And as much as I will miss the noise, the laughter, the hugs – I am fortunate enough to have all this love around me every day.  The air is filled with “I love you’s”,  each room holds secrets told in whispers that repeat as favorite lyrics co-written once upon a time, and there is comfort in the sighs of the couch as I settle in to listen to the stories of home.  When I feel the sun on my back and I find magic in this very moment, I know that my bounty is as massive as my gratitude.

So as many of you head points north, east, west or south – travel safe.  Eat a lot, laugh more, grab a nap.  Take a walk, give out hugs.  Share your love.   Enfold these moments in your heart, for they will become the most gorgeous aspects of your home.  They become the most treasured parts of you.