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Thankful Beyond the Usual

Tomorrow’s the day. Many of us in the US have been rushing around gathering food, packing it away in every little inch of our over-worked refrigerators. Others of us have been filling suitcases and making travel arrangements, bravely venturing out on the road during the busiest travel-time of the year. We find ourselves frantic, exhausted, and downright ornery.

And yet this is also a time when we are supposed to be thankful. We are expected to have something to write on a paper leaf to read at the Thanksgiving meal before your little niece pins it to the Thanksgiving tree. Inwardly you may groan, outwardly you’ll scribble out the basics – family, food, a day off. And this is fine. People will smile and nod, and you’ll go on to eat your pumpkin pie.

But what if…what if you take a moment to contemplate the positive things in your life that might not be so obvious. Challenges or predicaments that aren’t ideal and don’t initially seem like something for which to be thankful. Here is my outside-the-usual list:

  1. My fourteen-year-old mini-van: There are mysterious stains, petrified cheerios jammed in the corners, and a few dents on the exterior. But I’m thankful that I have a vehicle that still gets me around (and is paid off). I am thankful that I don’t have to worry about my 17yo scratching it while practicing driving. I don’t worry about people hitting it with their car doors in parking lots or a kid dropping a ketchup-loaded French fry. My golden retriever jumps around it in excitement as we drive to a park, leaving her golden fleece in every orifice. Yes, I’m also thankful for my shop-vac.

  2. My smallish bank account: We all want more money. We have also seen what happens when someone wins the lottery and their lives fall apart. I have enough money that I’m not worried about it constantly. But not enough that relatives ask me for “loans” or whisper about me being rich and greedy behind my back. I also have no qualms about turning down telemarketers who want to sell me magazines. I love to treasure hunt at thrift stores, and when I find a $10 bill in a jacket I haven’t worn since last season, it’s a thrill. Money can be a blessing and a curse, depending on what you do with it. It’s very tricky and the fact that I don’t have much – well I don’t have to worry about it.

  3. My medium-sized house: Yes, my house, with two spirited kids (#3 is at college now), three guinea pigs, two sugar gliders, one large dog, and one 6’4’’ Highlander hubby feels over-stuffed at times. But when my 11yo worries that I won’t hear her in the night, I remind her that I’m just down a short hall. On self-enforced cleaning days, I know that if the house was twice the size, it would take twice the time to get things picked up and wiped down. When I hear a bump in the night, my dog and my husband’s baseball bat can pinpoint pretty easily where in the house it is coming from (Watch out frying pan falling out of the dish drain! They’re coming for you!). My air conditioning/heating bill is lower and I love my relatively small mortgage payment. My house is adequate and sturdy, but my home is snug and cozy, often filled with laughter, and packed with love.

  4. Always busy: Sometimes this is the hardest thing for which to be thankful. And we do need to take breaks to relax to protect our mental and physical health. But when you feel like you are sprinting to check things off your to-do list, take a minute to be thankful. Thankful that someone needs you. Thankful that you have a skill or the ability to help. Thankful that you have a job or have the money to grocery shop or that you are healthy enough to do the million things you feel you must do. Think about those people who have no family, no careers, no goals to work toward. At first it would be a vacation, but add weeks, months, years behind that, and you’d feel the emptiness. There is a middle ground, which I am constantly trying to find, but I am thankful that my life is full.

  5. Difficult Days with Kids: My three kids are very dramatic to start with. But on those days when there are boyfriend/girlfriend breakups, a failed test, a fight with a close friend, a sick or dying pet, the stomach flu, a broken-down car, a close friend who tried to kill themselves, a call from the police at 1AM, a huge mistake in trusting someone who gave them a prescription pill… Whatever it is, there are tears and yelling and praying and drama like you wouldn’t believe. Some of you know even worse days, and you just want to lay face down on the floor and cry. My challenge for you is to remember how much worse it would be if you weren’t there to hug, dry tears, give advice, untangle complex issues, listen, find them medical care, help them figure out what to say, wrap them in a warm blanket from the dryer, or just plain love them.

  6. My body: Over the last seven years, due to medical issues, I’ve gained thirty-five pounds. I was thrown into instant menopause with surgery, so the fight to remove the pounds is monumental. But I still do yoga every day. I walk the dog. I lift weights and can keep up with my kids. I can mow the lawn, ride bikes, and carry six bags of groceries at once. I ride roller coasters and can dance the night away with my husband (if it’s before my 10 PM wall of exhaustion). I have my limbs, my bowels, and my five senses. So even as I fight the envy that creeps in on me when I watch moms in size 6 jeans, I am truly thankful for the body I have and the amazing things it can do.

  7. Growing older: I turned 40 seven years ago and hated it. Every time I’d see an elderly lady, I’d cringe, thinking “ugh! One day that will be me.” Then four months later I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and started 15-months of chemo to kill the sneaky disease spreading through me. It was the hardest, most painful and scariest time of my life. But what I learned…I would never trade. When I turned 41, I celebrated big time. Now when I see an elderly woman I smile, thinking “wow, she’s winning the race. I hope that will be me someday.” Paradigm shift to say the least. Folks – growing older is the goal. Don’t hate every wrinkle, gray hair and extra candle. Celebrate that you are alive and moving forward. Celebrate every year, every day that you get to breathe fresh air, see the gorgeous world, and hug the ones you love.

It really is a glass-half-full world if you are willing to consider a different perspective. No, our lives are definitely not perfect. Some days you may feel like you’re maneuvering through the flames of Hades (been there, got the t-shirt), but even then, there are tiny flowers that peek up from the cracks in our world if we are willing to notice. They don’t fix the cracks, they don’t fill up the holes in our lives, but taking a moment to acknowledge them and maybe even be thankful for them – well, it helps us to take those crucial steps forward.

So this year, when you get your little paper leaf for the Thanksgiving tree or when someone asks you what you are thankful for, perhaps go a little outside the norm and see those little flowers growing out of the cracked sidewalk.

What are you thankful for this year?

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! Heather

8 responses to “Thankful Beyond the Usual”

  1. Alyssa Henderson says:

    I love this! Thank you so much for sharing. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. 🙂

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  2. Tamara Hogan says:

    –> growing older’s the goal

    ^^^ THIS. I might grumble a bit about sore knees, graying hair, and the weight that just won’t budge, but I’m alive to experience them – and this isn’t something I’ve ever been able to take for granted. Every additional year is a win!

    Great post, Heather! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. 🙂

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  3. Elizabeth Langston says:

    Thank you, Heather, for a lovely post.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

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  4. Diane Mayer says:

    Heather, thank you for a beautiful and touching post, reminding us that every moment is precious and not to be taken for granted. Happy Thanksgiving!

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  5. Heather, thank you! This is such a great and thoughtful post. I hung on every word and it really resonates. Happy Thanksgiving to you and all my US friends.

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  6. Kate Parker says:

    Great post, Heather. Happy Thanksgiving.

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  7. Gwyn says:

    Well said, dear sister. A year ago today I lost my bestest-ever friend of 25 years to a brain aneurysm. Today, as I remember her, I’m thankful for the time we had together. Occasional tears but lots of laughter and silliness–some of which would horrify our children. The memories make me smile, and I’m grateful.

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  8. I absolutely love this post. Gratitude is such an amazing state of mind. I may not have riches or the significant other I would like or the kids I would have loved to have, but I do have so many wonderful people that make me smile every day and so, so much to be grateful for. The glass is definitely half-full, if not overflowing. 🙂 Thank you, Heather, and Happy Thanksgiving! (belatedly)

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