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Friday, November 15, 2013

When Thanksgiving time comes around I tend to become very literal minded. I look at the word “Thanksgiving” and I automatically say, “Hmm, this must mean giving thanks!” (Afterall, my user name is CJWORDPLAY – what else would you expect but that I would do some wordplay).

Considering the actual meaning of the word “Thanksgiving” is really more than play. For me, “Giving Thanks” is the most enduring tradition that I have associated with my 65+ years of Thanksgiving Day celebrations. The one thing I include, no matter who I celebrate with, no matter what the menu, no matter what the activity, is a generous helping of giving thanks.

There is a history to this tradition. Growing up, holidays brought a mix of some good things (the yummy food my grandma prepared) and some crummy things, too. You see, the one constant in my family was conflict. In fact, my mom's and dad's parents refused to be together under the same roof. And since my parents were both only children there were no aunts, uncles, or cousins either, except those quite a few steps “removed”. My mom and dad and sister and I would go to the house of one of my grandparents. No one got along with anyone for long and tension was served with every mouthful.

When people don't like being with each other there isn't room for much else. It's very hard to notice the wonderful blessings that happen each day when in order to make it through the day you need to numb yourself out from the strife of your existence. When you ignore things – the good goes away - along with the bad - and you can no longer think of anything to be thankful for. Isn't that sad?

That was how I grew up and I didn't have a lot of choices then. But now I can celebrate Thanksgiving Day by finding ways to embrace the joys in my life. Here are a few of my favorites:

I send Thanksgiving Day cards. They usually are so unexpected. I like to take time to think about the person and hand write a note of thanks to them. It feels good sending these surprises to the people who have made a difference in my life. I call them “duty-free” cards because they are done from my heart and not from duty.

I like to remember the blessings of life – the more ordinary the better. Today, while taking a shower, I recalled what it is like living in a place where there are no facilities to get clean. And suddenly the warm cascade became an incredible experience of benevolence. Then I remembered the people who have no such privilege – like those suffering in the aftermath of typhoon Haiyan – and in areas of draught around the world. Water is such a blessing. Even though I live in Oregon, you will no longer hear me complain when it rains!

After reading the early part of my story you may be wondering how I learned to have a heart of gratitude. I'm still in awe of the miraculous nature of it myself. But one part is certain. At the age of 25 I was given a very special Thanksgiving Gift – my sweet daughter, Stephanie. She was born on November 22nd and even as a child she thought is was terrific that people all across the country celebrated her birthday!

Learning to be grateful and finding ways to give thanks has changed my life.

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend."
~Melody Beattie

I am happy to wish you joy-filled moments of giving thanks and may every meal be a feast.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Wow... when I first saw your post and kept open in a tab, there was only one other reply... now... you have a long line of friends who have commented and encouraged you! I probably have nothing new to say - just wanted to encourage you in that you have found that we all have choices... in how we act, react, and choose. Thanks for sharing your heart and your story. May you indeed have a Blessed Thanksgiving!
    1580 days ago
    Your name, CJWORDPLAY fits you perfectly! You write the most beautiful, inspiring blogs! Despite the strife in your family life growing up, you have chosen to see the blessings in life. I am so glad that you got the best gift ever on Thanksgiving Day with your daughter, Stephanie! Thank you for sharing with us the true meaning of the holiday!
    1580 days ago
  • DBELLE39
    What a great blog, you have taken what was once a not so thankful or positive time in your family & recreated for what you think it should be -- a time for thanks. Be thankful is so important, even in the small things, I guess that's what I so love about the Thanksgiving season, people are happier & more pleasant to be around. So there giving thanks is good for our mental & physical well being.
    1582 days ago
    You have a great attitude! It's a shame more people don't stop to realize how many things we take for granted that other people don't have. I'm sorry Thanksgiving for you was not really a day for giving thanks amongst family members. I have to admit that I didn't really give much thought to "Thanksgiving" on the day it's celebrated or even throughout the year until a hospital error almost ended my life. After that I have learned to be thankful for many things that most people take for granted and not just on the day that family and friends get together to celebrate the day.

    Happy early birthday to your daughter, Stephanie! I hope the two of you have a wonderful day together on her birthday and on Thanksgiving day.

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    1582 days ago
  • PHOENIX1949
    What an inspirational blog. Thank you.
    1582 days ago
    Awesome blog and FANTASTIC attitude!!!! You are one amazing woman.
    1582 days ago
    emoticon So True emoticon
    1583 days ago
  • SPEEDY143
    Beautiful... just like YOU emoticon We tend to forget that not all holidays bring joy to others for many reasons. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday... always has been and I too was blessed on Thanksgiving with my first child 43 years ago. He just keeps the joy growing. So pleased that you turned your time of giving thanks around with your loving attitude.

    emoticon emoticon and Happy HAPPY Thanksgiving emoticon emoticon
    1583 days ago
    CJ, this is an emoticon Blog! I have heard/read many tales of angst and tension at Thanksgiving setting. I am so glad that you chose to, and have broken that tension-filled pattern of celebrating Thanksgiving Day. I love the Melody Beattie quote. Its so true!
    Enjoy your weekend.
    1583 days ago
    Have a lovely thanksgiving!!!
    1583 days ago
    Great blog! Happy Thanksgiving!
    1583 days ago
  • CJMOK1121
    CJ: Thank you SOoooooooooooo much for this blog, Thanksgiving has always been my favorite Holiday, even through my Dad drank a lot we always had a great Thanksgiving and lots of family around, there are 7 of us children and as we got older and had families of our own, we all still got together at Thanksgiving and Dad tried to stay sober for most of the day. I have some great memories of Thanksgiving when most of the year was really lots of bad memories with a drunken father. I too am so thankful for running water, we used a well when I was a child and a outhouse and a metal outdoor tub for bathing, SO PRAISE THE LORD AND THANK YOU JESUS FOR RUNNING WATER. emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1583 days ago
    Hello, CJ, I am thankful for you, one of my very first Spark friends!
    Haven't been around much lately but I do NOT forget.
    My mom's birthday was Nov. 26 and I think folks with November birthdays are very very special. Those beautiful autumn leaves on your background are another big thank you that I feel so much every year. Little beautiful things!
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    Happy Thanksgiving, a bit early, and thank you for that wonderful Melody Beattie quote. I learned much from her back in my days of confronting codependency. Wise woman.
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    1583 days ago
  • BEFIT018
    That was an AWESOME Blog! I'll never look at my shower in quite the same way again.
    1583 days ago
  • GRITS46
    You made my day, my week, my weekend with this post. Family gatherings in my family were like yours -- filled to the brim with conflict and always ending up in anger, angst and hurt. My childhood was always like that and I too have learned that being thankful is one of the most wonderful things we can do for ourselves and others. It makes us a happier person and one who gives more of self than people expect. I like your idea of the cards. I'm hoping there's no copyright on your idea!

    So good to read your words of gratitude, and yes, we in Oregon should learn not to complain about the wealth of water we have when so much of the world goes without enough.

    Happy Thanksgiving! emoticon
    1583 days ago
    emoticon Happy Thanksgiving my friend!
    1583 days ago
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