Thursday, November 26 2015
Thanksgiving is soon upon us. Many of us, myself included, will be traveling to be with family. Some are hosting family or friends for the big feast, some will be standing in steamy kitchens preparing and then serving meals to those who have no home, some will be those people coming in out of the cold for a hot meal and a full stomach, perhaps the first in weeks. But all of us, in one way or another will be marking our American Thanksgiving Day.
Children in schools across the country will be learning of the Pilgrims of Massachusetts, but did you know there was a day of Thanksgiving celebrated more than 55 years before the Pilgrims ever set foot in America? Pedro Menendez established the first permanent European settlement in what we now call America in 1565, and that settlement is what we know as St Augustine, Florida today. Menendez and his followers celebrated a mass of thanksgiving for their safe arrival. This event is re-enacted each year on the 8th of September. But whether you celebrate your Thanksgiving with Pilgrim hats and Massachusetts Native Americans or with the Spanish settlers of St Augustine in mind, thanking God for the blessings in your lives, the food on your table, the football game on television, a job, a home, family and friends, it might also be good to remember who else you need to be thankful for.
Just two weeks ago, we stopped to pay tribute to the men and women of our military, past and present, for their sacrifices in the name of freedom and the ideal of America. Remember them again on this day of Thanksgiving. If your elderly aunt collapses with a stroke and is rushed to the hospital or you choke on a turkey bone, remember to be thankful for the hospital and the men and women who will be there to administer the kind of medical care you have come to expect in America. Be thankful for the men and women who are eating their turkey at the firehouse, just in case someone needs them at a moment’s notice to put out a house fire, or the EMTs who are ready to rush to the site of traffic accident. Be thankful for all the doctors and nurses in hospitals and nursing homes who are working on this day, caring for those who are not able to care for themselves. Be thankful for the priest or minister who is sitting at the bedside of someone who is close to leaving this world, or who is offering what solace he or she can to someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one. Be thankful for the law enforcement individuals who give up this time with their families to protect you and yours. Be thankful for the airline, train, bus and local public transportation people who worked today to help you get to your destination on time for dinner. Be thankful for the clerk at the local convenience store who rang up your purchase of something you forget to get earlier or the person who served up a cup of hot coffee for a policeman on his beat. Everywhere around you, on this day of celebration and feasting, there are people working to keep your world running, to protect you, and to serve you.
I will be eating way more than I should, watching football on television most likely, and enjoying having all my family around me, but in the midst of that, I can never forget that the God who gave me life, also gave me all these other people to make my life worth living. Years ago, my youngest daughter was born on Thanksgiving. When I arrived at the hospital there were nurses and clerks who welcomed me, processed my arrival and made me comfortable. My doctor had to leave his family and his dinner to deliver my baby and later, when I hemorrhaged, he had to come back to save my life. I was fortunate in the days that followed to meet the orderly who wheeled me to surgery and have a chance to thank him. I also met the nurse who was called over from a different floor who sat with my husband while I was in surgery, but how many others were there that day who had a part in my care? Even the ordinary people who had donated the blood I so urgently needed will remain forever unknown. But every Thanksgiving I remember how fortunate I was to be living where I do, to have had the care I received and I thank each and every one of those who God sent my way that day.
So, enjoy this holiday. Say thank you to your God for your life and your blessings, say thank you to your families and friends for being part of your life, and if you have a chance, say thank you to all those unknown individuals who make your life possible.
Saturday, November 21 2015
At my age, there have been so too many times to count. I know I have been blessed over and over again with acts of kindness both big and small, from friends and perfect strangers: the neighbor who filled my kitchen with food when my husband died, the man who buried my pet with as much care as he would his own when she was hit by a car with no collar to identify her, the hotel courtesy van driver who picked me up in New Zealand walking from the train station to my hostel and not only gave me a ride, but took the time to drive past a memorial in the center of Christchurch built around a piece of the NY World Trade Center, and the lady I’d just met who invited me to share dinner with she and her husband when I was traveling alone in Vietnam. All these and more flickered through my mind as I considered this question. My neighbor bringing over bags of food she'd just bought for her own family was just the first of so many acts of kindness both large and small during that difficult time that let me know I didn't have to cope with my loss alone. The man who buried my pet took away some of the sadness I felt at losing her. The van driver and the couple I met on my travels through New Zealand and Vietnam were just two of the many people who made that solo trip memorable and filled with wonderful experiences I'd never expected. That van driver and even the couple I had dinner with probably don't recall me all these years later, but I will always remember them.
One major random act of kindness that stands out in my memory was the night my youngest daughter was born. In spite of having four kids, I was in labor for almost 24 hours and within an hour of Lori’s birth, my uterus gave up doing its job and I began hemorrhaging. It being after midnight, my doctor and my husband had already gone home and both were called back. A D&C was done in hopes that would fix the problem and once again I was back in my room and my husband had gone home when the bleeding began again. Now I was really in trouble and my husband returned a second time, was handed a clipboard full of permission forms to sign even though he had no idea what was going to happen. A nurse discovered him alone and afraid in the waiting room after I was wheeled to the OR so she sat down with him and explained what the doctor was going to do and gave him encouragement and hope. I was in the OR for almost four hours and this woman came back to check on Cal many times during that long vigil, sitting silent and sometimes praying with him. Afterward Cal told me how much her being there had meant to him and asked me to thank her if I saw her. He described her to me so I had my eye out for her as I began to recover and take walks in the hallway and beyond, but for three days I didn’t see her. Then, on the fourth day, she stepped into my room to say hi and see how I was doing. Turns out, she didn’t work on that floor at all. She’d come over only to help out during a busy spell, and when things quieted down, she’d been on her way back to her own floor when she came upon Cal and stopped to keep him company. She stayed long after her shift was over until they knew I was out of danger. Then she’d had the long weekend off, but on her first day back, she’d come to work early so she had time to peek in and check on me. A woman I would never see again went out of her way to bring comfort to a husband who was desperately afraid he was going to lose his wife, and then followed that up by coming all the way over from another floor to see how I was doing four days later. Another time I was facing a mountain and there were helpers all along the way. I was no more special than any other patient in that hospital, and yet, a young man poked his head around my door to say hi – and it turned out he was the orderly who’d taken me down to surgery in the wee hours before dawn. And another unexpected visitor was a part time nursery nurse who’d been in charge of Lori in those first six hours of her life who stopped in to tell me what a beautiful baby I had.
But what about the random acts of kindness I've done over all those same years? I think I may never know just how much they meant to those I did them to. When I was in training for the Peace Corps we were told not to be discouraged as more often than not, we would never know if we had made a difference. I think Paying it Forward, with random acts of kindness is like that. If I take the time to smile at a stranger and say hello, it might mean little and be quickly forgotten, but perhaps that person had just lost someone dear and my smile was the only one they saw all day. If I notice a baby toy fall from a stroller and hurry to catch up and return it, the toy might have been just any old toy, but what if it was the most important possession that small person owned and they would have been lost without it? I can think of dozens of times I’ve taken a moment to do something for someone that meant only a moment of my time, but I will never know how that might have made a difference in their day. And perhaps that’s the way it should be. A random act of kindness does not need a reward or even acknowledgement. It’s a gift you give to someone else.
Hop on over to check out these other authors and their experiences with random acts of kindness.
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Bob Rich http://wp.me/p3Xihq-z4
Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Hollie Glover http://www.hollieglover.co.uk
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com/
Tuesday, November 10 2015
In May we celebrate all those who have served and died for our country, for it’s values, promises and beliefs. But on November 11th it’s time to remember ALL the men and women who have served and are serving in the armed forces of this country, in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard. Without these dedicated men and women, the precious freedoms and the ideal we think of as America would not be possible.
As holidays go, we don’t do enough to honor these men and women. But we should. July 4th celebrates the beginning of this country and Memorial Day commemorates those who have died defending it. But America and all it stands for would not be possible without the every day presence of the greatest armed forces in the world. Every day, from the cooks and clerks to the generals at the Pentagon and especially to those with boots on the ground in dangerous places, in airplanes flying dangerous missions, on battle groups projecting our values on the sea far from home, and in boats protecting our coasts, we owe this day in their honor. If you have a flag, fly it. If you know a serviceman or woman, take the time to tell them THANK YOU. And if you believe in a higher power, spend some time in prayer asking for protection and guidance for the men and women still in uniform everywhere.
I know many of you have veterans in your families and I’m sure you are proud of them and the sacrifices they have made. I’m proud of my father and three uncles who all served in WWII, my brother Scotty who served in Vietnam and ten years more, my late husband, Cal, my step-son Jeff and my brother-in law George who both served in the US Coast Guard. My nephew John was first a Marine and later a reservist and Corbin, my Godson spent several years in the Army, and now a grandson-in-law Chris who is a medic in the Army. I also had the privilege to work for Doug Curtis who served in the Army for thirty years. There are many more veterans on my family tree, all the way back to the Revolutionary War and on this day, I honor all of them.
And I think, while we’re at it, we should spare a thought for the families who stand behind our veterans. It takes a special kind of courage to offer up a man or woman’s life for an ideal, but it’s got to be just as hard for the ones they love, to love them and still let them go, knowing they might not come home. It’s impossible for me to imagine waking up every morning wondering if the man I love is safe, or if he’s stepped into harm’s way a long way from home. Every morning for weeks and months, or a year and longer. What kind of strength it must take to love such a man or woman? It’s easier to imagine being a parent, because I am one and while my children didn’t deliberately go into harm’s way, every parent goes through agony when their teenager is late coming home. So imagine that 1,000 times worse. And what about the children who don’t even really understand the magnitude of what their parent is doing or why, but just knowing they aren’t there for birthdays and holidays and soccer games and to tuck them into bed at night.
Tuesday, November 03 2015
Today’s blog is actually a contest. I have a goodie-bag filled with fun stuff and books for a random answer drawn from a hat. More about that at the end of this blog.
I’ve never met anyone, even those who don’t read much, who haven’t heard the quote: “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Gone With the Wind and most folk have heard, but perhaps don’t know the origin of the line: “Nowadays people know the price of everything, but the value of nothing.” The Picture of Dorian Gray.
For movie goers, there are great lines like, “You had me at Hello.” From Jerry McGuire, and “Live for nothing or die for something. Your call.” from Rambo.
Every now and then, we all hear a line in a TV show or a movie that catches our attention, either by its pithiness or the depth of the emotion behind it. And the same goes for books. As an author, I am always hoping I’ll write just such a line. I guess we all do. Screen writers and book authors. We want to leave an impression. To touch someone, perhaps in places they’ve not been touched in a long time, if ever.
If you are into romance, you sigh when the hero says something truly sweet or loving. But even outside of the romance genre, there are moments when our heroes show a softer side of themselves. Like this quote from The History of Love by Nicole Krauss: “Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.” And while anyone who has seen the movie When Harry Met Sally clearly remembers the diner scene where Sally goes out of her way to prove that men can’t tell when a woman is faking an orgasm and can quote the other diner’s line, “I’ll have what she’s having.” The most touching quote from the movie is Harry’s declaration of love:
"I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."
So here’s the question I mentioned above: What is the most loving, the sweetest, or most unforgettable thing your hero/husband/sweetheart has ever said to you? I'll put all the names into that hat I mentioned - probably a Stetson considering cowboys make great heroes and some of them are pretty sweet talkers - and draw one to win the goodie bag.