My List of Grateful

This morning, while drinking coffee and bemoaning the coverage of the Thanksgiving Day parade (more floats, less guests!), I decided to fill one sheet of paper with what and whom I am most grateful. I could have filled more sheets, but since I need to getting prepping on that turkey, I limited myself to one.

My List of Grateful

  • My husband and friend, who loves me, puts up with me, protects me, and will lift me to the winds to fly, if needed- all unconditionally.
  • The greatest parents, ever. Who showed me what it means to love, to be patient, to be kind to others, and the importance of family. Oh, and sports.
  • My sister and brother, truly my best friends. The ones I miss the most, the ones I want to share everything, the ones I text throughout a sporting event and share photos of newly discovered beers. For our shared support, encouragement and belief in one another and for….well, everything
  • My family, especially my cousins. For our shared laughter, our shared memories, our shared adventures and shared love. I can’t imagine my life without all of my crazy cousins.
  • My nieces and nephews, part I (Andi, Holly and Jeff) and part II (Jaxon and Lexi), for allowing me to love you with the heart of a mother, for spoiling you, for watching you grow and become incredible adults (part I) and for allowing me a second chance, to watch you grow and rejoice in the fact I get to do it all over again (part II).
  • My sons- the Olmsted boys. For allowing me to be your second mother and forgiving me when I dropped the mom ball, at times. For filling my heart with love and joy and just when I didn’t think there was any more room, for bringing seven grandchildren within the blessed walls of my heart.
  • My friends- old and new (and future). For your love, loyalty, laughter, tears, hugs, and understanding. I could go on and on.
  • The women in my life, for those here and now and those who graced my life and have gone too soon. You are my reason, you are my hope, and you are my mosaic.
  • My job and the jobs before my ten-year stint with WSU. For providing me opportunities for growth, for learning, and to be able to enjoy this life and provide for others.
  • The love, companionship and memories of an old dog and the love, youthful reminders, and future memories of a new pup.
  • Music. All music.
  • Sports and how it weaves a magical thread of joy (and sometimes misery) throughout the lives of my family and friends.
  • My hometown, Wichita- the beloved ICT. For changing throughout the years, for being open to change, for providing us with community and the brave spirit of local entrepreneurs. The local breweries, the Coaster’s bicycle club, the incredible musicians, the talented artists, the continually changing landscape of this city…thank you.
  • Changing seasons. For the new beginnings of spring, the childlike abandonment of summer, the slowing down and appreciation of fall, and the soul-searching, rejuvenation of winter
  • Life. There are many who will never know this experience and many whose experience was too short. It is difficult, but worth the journey. How fortunate we are to be gifted this thing called life.
  • Thanksgiving Day. The day that inspires us to take the time to be grateful.

I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and a long list of grateful!

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Thanksgiving…in March

Every day since the first of the year, I open Pandora and listen to George Winston radio. And almost every time, the first song to play is Thanksgiving from his album, December. I usually only listen to George from November to January, his piano playing reminiscent of frost on fallen leaves, the hush of snow, sleigh bells, and evenings spent by the glow of a Christmas tree.

But, not this year. It is early March and still I find myself spending time with George while sitting at my desk at work, in my car on the drive home, or like now, reading or writing in the dimness of the day. Tomorrow is March 9 and spring is just a few weeks away, and yet, here I sit listening to Night, Part One: Snow. At this very moment, I am longing for snows that will not come and staring toward the spot near the large window where the Christmas tree stood sentry just a few months ago.

This past holiday season seemed vague and disjointed, at best. The moments of childlike anticipation and joyful weariness were few, the majority of time spent carrying the weight of a sorrowful heart. It was like reading a story with an unrealistic plot set against the backdrop of the holidays and told by an author unsure of his or her own voice. Some of the characters were familiar, even some of the settings, and there were a handful of chapters so beautiful it was hard to imagine them tucked between such chaos. But, I couldn’t stay focused and found myself rereading passages, as if I was afraid I’d missed something between the lines and pages, all the while wishing I could just get to the end.

Maybe that is why I find myself spending time with George. For someone who loves the holidays and looks forward to the shortening of the days, the headiness and pace from Halloween to New Years, and the wearing of Christmas like a coat of metallic colors, possibly I feel cheated. Christmas always weighs upon me like a down comforter, providing warmth and a sense of security. Instead, I feel as if I spent October through January barely covered by a short cotton sheet and no matter how tight I curled myself up, hugging my knees to my chest, my feet and head were always exposed, the cold air seeping through the thin threads.

So, I listen to George in hopes of recapturing a bit of what went amiss. And now that the initial guilt has somewhat worn off and I’m less embarrassed by my obsession with Holly and the Ivy at this time of year, I find myself filled with bliss when I hear those first refrains of Some Children See Him. I don’t know if I will still be listening to December come the 100-degree days of July, but for now, George and I will continue our post-holiday venture. Like one of Dickens’ ghosts, George will bring to mind many a holiday past and I will swear there is a faint scent of pine in the air, all the while my Christmas heart will heal with the budding of the daffodils. Come October, I hope George will be waiting, like the old friend that he is, to drop in during the holidays. And like a dear friend, he won’t mention our time spent well into pints of Guinness and colored eggs and how it took me until the rains of May to read the final chapter and finally close the book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Grateful Heart

Thanksgiving 2014 is in the books, as they say. It was a quiet day, spent with my husband and parents. Call me crazy, but I somewhat missed having too many people in an already crowded and warm kitchen, precariously stacked dirty dishes, having to place dibs on one of the bathrooms, and the beautiful din of voices drowning out my carefully selected music playlist. But, when family is spread through the Midwest and in the furthest southeast corner and almost the furthest southwest corner, one expects a few quiet, thoughtful and quickly cleaned up Thanksgiving meals.

We enjoyed our time, yesterday. Brad and I cooked most of the meal, with mom providing her always requested stuffing, sweet potatoes, and even one of her jello-whipped-cream desserts (which she provides each year, insisting it’s because one of us kids requested, but none has). We watched football, snacked, I showed them the most current photos of family via Facebook (it’s during those moments I’m thankful for that social media monster), prayed thoughtfully, ate peacefully, then sat in the living room sipping wine and talked about Thanksgivings gone past. After pie and coffee, my parents went home, leaving us to sit by the fireplace, finish the wine, and watch a movie. I felt very serene when I fell into bed.

So, this morning, as I forgo the smoke and mirrors of Black Friday, opting instead to lounge in my plaid pajamas, sip coffee from the Spice Merchant and prepare my Christmas décor plan of attack, I’ve decided to continue the serenity of yesterday and thank those who fill my heart with gratitude.

  • My Parents: I am blessed with such amazingly, good-hearted, hardworking, parents. I’ve said it a million times, but a million doesn’t seem enough. They have given me such a strong foundation on which to grow as a woman.
  • My siblings: My sister and brother are my best friends. My life would be so empty without them. They are my comfort, my heroes, my partners in crime, and all that is good within me is due to growing up with the two of them.
  • My husband: I was sixteen when I announced I was never getting married or having children, but when one meets the person who is meant to share your life, well…things change. He provides me with the essentials to a life well lived. He makes me laugh on a daily basis, something he promised to do on our wedding day. He gives me such strength, more than he possibly knows or understands, as I want to be a better woman because of him.
  • My nieces and nephews: My sisters three kids, who are no longer kids but incredible adults and my brothers little ones who are just beginning the journey. They provide such a light in my life. I’ve had the honor of sharing the early years with my sister’s children and while I had to watch them grow up from afar, they’ve made me so proud. And now, there’s a great-nephew added to the mix. Joy. While Andrea is no longer with us, she remains a constant in my life. As for my brothers little ones, they make my heart soar with their innocence and the mysteries of their futures. They give me hope and excite me with the prospect of their lives.
  • My stepsons: Remember that whole “never having children” proclamation? I’ve had the privilege of sharing in the raising of my husband’s sons and known the immeasurable love of three young boys. I’ve watched them grow into young men and raise families of their own. I don’t think they’ll ever realize how thankful I am to them for providing me with the blissfulness of a mother’s heart, something I thought I would never own. They changed me and all for the better.
  • My mother-in-law: She is emotional, forceful, strong, intelligent, passionate, witty, and inspiring. I know many women who despise or “put up with” their mother-in-laws, but I can honestly say I won the lottery with mine. What a blessing she is to have in my life. Everyone should have a Betty.
  • Being born into a Mexican heritage: And no, not just because of the food. I’m proud of my heritage and while it has brought hardship to my parents and a few of my other family members, it has also brought such richness. My mother’s family, indigenous to Mexico, and my father’s family from Mexico and Santander, Spain, provide history and a sense of belonging. While my parents did not continue all of the traditions, I’m grateful for pinatas, the smell of Mexican sweet bread on a Saturday morning, the singing voices of my aunts and uncles, my mother’s memorized recipes, Mexican Independence celebrations in the streets of Newton, the cadence and warmth of a language I never learned to speak, and family. Lots and lots of family.
  • Which segues into cousins: I have forty-eight first cousins and have no idea how many second, third…at this point, who’s counting. I was fortunate to grow up with many of my cousins. Together, we blew out the candles on homemade birthday cakes, opened Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve, cowered in basements during tornados, walked to school, played hide and seek, went sledding down the small hills along the river on snowy Thanksgivings, attended concerts, took road trips, cheered together during NCAA tournaments, and passed down those same occasions to the next generation. I’m always stunned to learn of people who don’t know their cousins or haven’t seen their cousins in years. My life would be so different without my cousins and it is a life I do not want to ever know.

Family. It is family that completes my life. While there are many things I am grateful, I know that none can match my love of family. Sure, at times they drive me crazy, but that’s what makes family so worthwhile. With family, especially mine, there is unconditional support, unconditional passion, and unconditional love, mixed with a lot of laughter, some acceptable nosiness, a little forgiveness, and just the right amount of foolishness.

George Santayana once said, “The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.” I am truly grateful for the family artistry that is mine.

Giving Thanks

For the first time in three years I am looking forward to this holiday season. The past three years have been tough, especially during the holidays. It began in November of 2007 with my husband losing his job, then Andrea passed away that same year on Christmas Eve, and each season following has been weighted in fear and sadness.

I’m not sure what sparked the change this year, except it was intiated by my mother’s good news. Her lymph nodes were benign. No cancer. The breast cancer contained. Following her excited phone call with the much anticipated news, I didn’t cry, but I could feel my heart swell and overflow with a gratefulness I’d forgotten.

And so this Thanksgiving morning, my heart abounds with thankfulness. And I remembered a quote I’d read some time ago:

“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizine and appreciating what we do have.”

Sometimes it takes a crisis to remind us what is most important, even when we think we’ve known it all along. And for me, the most important blessing in my life is family. When it comes to family, my cup overflows.

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November Insanity

Okay, so that doesn’t roll off the tongue like March Madness. But it’s better than ESPN’s “Feast Week.” All I know is the past few days I’ve longed to be sitting in a bar in Overland Park with my brother. Brackets and highlighters and a Sam Adams in hand. My neck aching from turning from screen to screen. Ah, the NCAA tournament. The Big Dance.

Hasn’t it felt a little like March Madness? My brother spent yesterday at Buffalo Wild Wings, texting me between games. I spent last evening in front of the television, cheering on my Shox, as well as UConn, Washington, KState, and the Illini. Well, 3 out of 5 ain’t bad. My Shox won, which is most important. And as long as Kemba Walker and the young Huskies keep rolling in Maui, it makes the Shockers first round loss in the Maui Invitational a little easier to swallow.

What a way to begin the Thanksgiving holiday. College basketball. Then amidst the stuffing and turdurken’s, there’s the NFL. Of course, I’m tired of seeing Detroit and Dallas, but I’ll watch all the same. It’s part of the tradition.

But this evening, I’ll bake sweet potato pies, drink a New Belgium 2 below, and watch college hoops. And dream of March Madness. It’s only three and a half months away…