Five Things I’m Grateful for this Thanksgiving

The isolation brought on by the pandemic has taken its toll on many of us, me included. As a result, rather than seeing the glass half full as I once did, I became a list maker of tiny gripes: endless emails, bad drivers, unreturned phone calls and year-late healthcare bills topped my list.

Thankfully, it didn’t take long to realize that focusing on the negative wasn’t helpful. So I recruited a “bliss buddy” with whom I began sharing what I was grateful for: the beauty of nature, the kindness of strangers and the compassion of friends made the list often.

So did my sister Karen who, for the past 152 days, has sent me a text each morning to remind me that I am both loved and lovable. Her kind words have become the background music of my days, often uplifting my spirits before I even realize they need it.

Here are four other things I am especially grateful for this Thanksgiving:

  • My aunt Caroline. In February 2020, I wrote my first Word Sisters blog post. It was about my aunt and uncle, both in their 90s. He had recently been hospitalized, she had recently suffered a stroke. While he has since died, she continues to thrive, despite having lost the ability to speak clearly or use the right side of her body. The last of my mother’s siblings, she’s an amazing role model whose light continues to shine bright and who shows me that I can age with gusto despite the challenges I may face.
  • My health and healthcare providers. I’ve taken my physical and mental health for granted my entire life. Then, one day in August 2020, despite routinely walking 10,000 steps a day, I could barely get myself around the block. After an MRI, I was told I needed to have my hip replaced. I opted for physical therapy instead and am now able to walk to my heart’s content once again. I also opted to see a mental health therapist. Her support keeps me grounded in the here and now yet gives me hope that I can—and will—change.
  • My book group. I’ve been a member of my book group going on three decades. During that time, one member was murdered by her husband, another died of cancer. Most of us have lost our parents, all of us are coming to terms with our own aging. Getting together every other month means meaningful conversations with women I trust who know both my good and bad qualities and who offer their unconditional love and support.
  • The ability to say no. I’ve been a people pleaser my whole life, afraid of disappointing others. That sometimes meant staying on committees that drained me, meeting friends for cocktails when I didn’t want to be drinking and driving across town in rush-hour traffic when I wanted to be curled up on the couch. The pandemic lessened the things I was invited to do and made it easier to say no to things that weren’t in line with my priorities.

What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving? Please share.

Summer of Just Enough

In a recent yoga class, the teacher suggested a meditation on the idea of enough. Not scrimping but having what you need. The opposite of greedy excess. Just enough. I’ve been thinking about that often in this odd summer of highs and lows.

In June, much of what I’d longed for during the long, oppressive COVID winter seemed within reach. 

Summer’s simple pleasures beckoned. Sunup at 5:30, sunset after 9:00. Walking early. Flowers everywhere. I’d plant my vegetable garden, visit the farmers market, and go to the beach.

Even better, I could be with family and friends easily, outdoors. Take a modest driving vacation.

I could contemplate more ambitious plans like visiting my siblings and extended family in Ohio and Wisconsin after two years apart because of COVID.

We had the joy of our younger son’s June wedding and the afterglow of our older son’s May wedding.

So many good things!

As June turned to July, those big helpings of happiness were tempered by sobering swallows of reality. High temperatures and humidity smothered the Twin Cities for weeks on end. Walking and gardening became chores I scheduled for early morning or close to sunset when the air was cooler and the breeze picked up a little. 

Cosmos and zinnias are hanging in there despite drought.

The beach, farmers market, and outdoor gatherings with family, book group, and my writers’ groups remained carefree and fun despite the weather.

July’s high heat and drought shrank Minnehaha Creek and crisped lawns. Hazy smoky air from western and northern wildfires shrouded the Twin Cities. What have we done to the climate? Why aren’t we doing something about it??

Less visible but equally scary was the delta variant’s arrival. “Maybe we’ll need to wear masks again,” became “Damn. We have to mask up.” With that realization came the sludge of past fears and present worries about risk. Ugh. 

While driving to see family in Wisconsin and Ohio, I’ve been masked and careful. Hugging them and talking naturally—in person, like pre-COVID—has felt so good. I’m so grateful we’re all still here.

Wisconsin prairie

As August swings into September, the weather has moderated a bit, but distant wildfires are still burning and the delta variant is more widespread. My worries about climate and health persist and I consider: have the summer’s highs outweighed the lows? Have they been enough? For me, yes. It’s hard to argue with the joy of happily married sons, the addition of wonderful daughters-in-law, or the pleasure of sharing a good meal with the family I’ve missed. All’s not right with the world, but my portion of well-being is enough.

Ohio porch

You’re the Spark

rock window

As writers, sometimes our own light flickers, but it can be rekindled by a spark from another person. The WordSisters are grateful to you, our readers, for inspiring us and sharing your thoughts with us since 2012.

We wish you a full helping of love, laughter, and good food this Thanksgiving.

 

Gratitude

I was surprised when my friend Lisa told me she kept a gratitude journal. On the face of it, she had little to be grateful for—stomach cancer had returned and spread to her esophagus, chemo was nauseating and exhausting, and worry was ever-present. Lisa acknowledged that sometimes it was hard to find something to be grateful for. Some days all she could write was that she was grateful she didn’t snap at her son or grateful for a sunny autumn day.

At the time, my freelance writing business was on its last legs, and I had been looking for work unsuccessfully for months. But I figured if she could focus on what was right and good in her life, so could I.

A few entries from December 2009
I’m grateful for my writers’ group—women who believe in my story and my ability to write it.

I’m grateful for cozy flannel sheets. I’m grateful for my Bunco friends who help share the burden of Kathy Duffy’s illness (another friend with cancer). I’m grateful for my first writing coach client.

I’m grateful for my youngest son Greg’s silliness—he crammed his 17-year-old body into a tiny Pokeman t-shirt he’s had since 4th grade and walked around the house singing, “I’m too sexy for my shirt!”

Written on a day when my oldest son Mike had returned from college for Christmas break and my husband John was preoccupied and frantic about work when Mike arrived—
I’m grateful for Mike’s maturity and wisdom. When I asked if he minded that John couldn’t spend much time with him tonight, Mike said, “He’s working his ass off to make my life and all of our lives better and nicer, and nobody really asked him if he wanted to do that, so No, I’m not hurt he didn’t have much time.”

From February 2010
I’m grateful for John. He brought me flowers and said he appreciated that I didn’t complain about his lack of availability while he was under deadline for a grant proposal. I never thought to complain—I felt guilty for not pulling my weight financially—but I enjoyed being appreciated.

I’m grateful for Greg who nudged me to put together a celebratory dinner for John to mark the end of proposal hell. I’m grateful to have such an easygoing cooking partner. He stirred the polenta endlessly while I finished the sauce for the beef short ribs.

Cranky, mostly cranky. I’m not grateful for my hives or my migraine or my touchy tooth or my dog who vomits when she gets too hungry or my carpet cleaner that leaks and makes cleaning up after the dog even worse. But in the grand scheme of things, these are temporary annoyances (except for the dog—I’ve got to figure that out).

Although I no longer keep a gratitude journal, I am grateful for idea of it, and I’m even more grateful for Lisa’s friendship—she gave me so much during the 10 years I knew her.

If I were still keeping the journal this Thanksgiving eve, I’d say—
I’m grateful for my family and that we all can get together for this holiday. I’m grateful for my wise, fun-loving, generous Dad whose birthday is tomorrow. If he were here, he’d love having the family in one place, all the jokes and stories, the good food, and Pete’s excellent wine. He’d sit at the counter and “supervise” while I carve the turkey, and he’d enjoy the piece I’d hand him—a juicy hunk from close to the bone.