So Much to be Thankful For

The first Thanksgiving in our new home.

During our traditional Thanksgiving dinner, we asked each member what we are thankful for, without repeating what anyone else at the table said.  First person to speak said they are thankful for family.  I don’t remember what I said, near the end of our family circle.

I am thankful for my family.  Sharing our table and new home with our family was everything we wanted.  There is something special about having your children, and grandchildren under your roof with you.  It was enough.

In a new home there are lots of things still to be done, and the next day, without being asked, they just took care of things.  I remember doing the same for my own parents.

A nice fire took care of a pile of wood and provided hours of entertainment.  The challenge of a broken metal post (for a laundry line) creating a hazard in the middle of the back yard proved an irresistible challenge.  A yard of concrete was holding that post!  No wonder it broke off when we tried to pull it out.

We were going to leave the post and its concrete for professionals with big equipment, but our son decided it needed to go.   It is gone!  The hole is filled with other rubble waiting to be dealt with, and the boys moved dirt to fill it.  They made short work of it.

It wasn’t a Turkey Bowl touch football game, but everyone got a little exercise, and being together was fun.

Celebration  Smores capped the day.

I hope your Thanksgiving was as full of love as my own.  Now, its back to normal life, whatever that is.

 

 

Life Isn’t Fair

Rains wash out the long awaited barbecue and fireworks.   There is a pop quiz when you haven’t studied.  You fail that big test, because you are sleep deprived after studying 72 hours straight.

These are not examples of the unfairness of life.  These are simply lessons of life. Weather happens and we have no choice, but to smile and go on with an alternate plan. We learn to always be prepared for those pop quizzes of life.   We learn to balance work with rest.

We make wrong choices, and if we are smart, we learn from them.  Neither is this learning process the evidence that life is unfair.  True, we may cry, and beg God to save us from our shortsightedness, and complain about the unfairness of being constantly tested by life.  Deep down inside we accept the consequences of our actions, and sometimes we learn the lessons, and make changes.  Otherwise, we repeat our lessons until we learn.

The acceptance that is difficult, is the acceptance that we don’t all start off the same, with the same opportunities, and chances.  Poverty rests heavily on some, and lightly on others.  Learning opportunities are given more freely to some that others.  Patience and kindness bless the lives of some, and others live under fear and want.   Some people have teachers and parents to lead them on the right path, and other people must find their own way.

These divisions even occur within the same family.  Family prosperity can change during the formative years of children of various ages.  The poverty one child experiences, is not even remembered by another child, because they did not experience the poverty.  As a family’s fortunes change, the enriching opportunities to the children vary between them.  Educational opportunities can open up that were closed to earlier siblings.  The love is consistent, but parental health, prosperity and changes in responsibly outside the family create differences in opportunity for the children.

Siblings may not be able to see the lost opportunities of another, thinking their differences were a matter of choice, rather than a difference in the circumstances of their lives.  This is unfair.  Not only has one sibling missed opportunities another received, but sharing the grief over missed opportunity can be interpreted as criticism of the family and particularly the very loved parents.

While others may not be able to understand the grief of lost opportunities, there are other opportunities and other dreams.  The struggles are not the same, because things are not equal.  Every person has struggles.  No one knows when fortunes will change, nor when tragedy will strike.  A life that starts out with deprivation, can end with prosperity.  Early neglect can place a seed of compassion for the future.

Life may not be fair, but you can find another dream, happiness, and love.

 

 

Night Life

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Our little bit.

Once, nightlife meant drinking, dancing, dinner and smokes.  No more.  I wouldn’t say we have become puritan, but life changes.  Being there to soothe our babies nightmares and being there for breakfast, became our good time.  Instead for running out to meet friends, it was more important of run home, see the kids, watch a little kid friendly TV, and cuddle together on the couch.

Little ones don’t stay little.  It’s irksome how fast you live through that stage. Children grow from rug rats, to curtain climbers, to yard monkeys.  They were busy years.  Little league, scouts, music lessons, became the school newspaper, band, plays, track, plays, and musicals.  Add some cross-country trips, graduations and weddings, and it was a very busy life indeed.

Now our quiet life is punctuated by visits with grandchildren.  Holidays, when the family gets together, we pull out the air mattresses and fill up the house.  For a brief time we are surrounded with laughter, stuff ourselves with our favorite foods, and spend time playing like kids.  I can’t wait.

Exhausted,  we send everyone home and we have a chance to recover as we get back to our peaceful routine.  No, we aren’t puritan, just getting really mature.

A Thought

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I had a thought today.  The kind of thought that would cause my sister to say, “April, you are completely negative!” Or possibly prompt the response, “It was your choice to move away.”  A statement that causes me to think that might be good enough, if I’d had control over all the variables, but that is ridiculous.

Sometimes I miss family far away.  I wish we could do more together, without distance, money, grief, judgement nor time getting in the way.

Even as a child, I longed for relatives:  my Grandparents, a few states away, aunts and uncles across country.  When we went to visit, and I was surrounded by people I to whom I was related, and  half-dozen or so cousins who I barely knew, I was in heaven.  I felt somehow complete.

I see families in church together, and am filled with longing.  I envy those sisters I see shopping together at the mall, thrift shops, flea markets, and garage sales.  Seeing grandparents out for lunch with their grandchildren, or talking about the kids games, or performances makes my heart ache.  Sometimes it is just an object in my home, a childish gift made at school, and I am filled with longing.  Sometimes it is just something about the weather, the temperature, the wind that reminds me of days gone by.

Somehow, I seem unfinished just on my own.  I’m not sure this is a sign of good mental health, so I get busy taking care of my own life.  I turn my attention to my home and garden, my friends, my pets, and my interests.   I keep myself distracted and the feeling passes.

Most of the time, I am busy and don’t think about it much.  But once in a while, I have a thought.

Being Together

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The greeters in the parking lot of the Blenko Glass Company visitor center in Milton, West Virginia.  The geese and ducks approach together looking for food.  They got very close.  I was nervous, but kept my cool.

But wait!  This was a writing prompt, not a picture prompt.

I was out and about myself today.  I got together with a couple of friends and went to an amazing craft show.  I connected with another writer and we exchanged contact information. My friends and I ate fair food, talked all day, and were impressed by many amazingly talented artists:  Glass works,  wood carvers, papier-mache, leather workers, painters, photographers, soap, food, and wine crafts etcetera.

Seeing the lathe working and the furniture builders reminded me of my father.  Crafted metal sculptures of hummingbirds remind me of my parents and the many days spent talking on their back porch watching the hummers at the feeder.  The name of the writer I met is the nickname of my mother.

I’m not sad, but feel my parents are with me.  It is because I carry my parents in my heart, and when I see the things that remind me of them, I am not sad, but grateful they were my parents.  They weren’t perfect parents, but they did the best they could, and I love them for it.  They raised me to be a loving person.  Good enough.

Conversation of the day ran from old friends, and since I didn’t know many of them, it was really a history lesson of the community.  We talked about our children.  We talked about the area drug problems and how drugs have touched our lives, and the lives of those we know.  We touched on the stress of the current political season.

But mostly, we just enjoyed each others company and a beautiful day of friendship together.

Breaking the Chain Rant

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Green Ridge State Forest, Maryland Monday, August 29, 2016 taken by April E. Sutton with her tablet.

I finally got the Facebook messenger app.  I haven’t even sent my first message to anyone.  I have gotten a couple of chain messages promising the best day of my life, with two big problems solved, and karma will be righted, if only I forward the message to 14 friends in the next 10 minutes.  The chain message also says I must not think of the sender as a friend, if they don’t receive the message back.

I do not normally forward chain messages.  I do not want to tie up the internet with stuff like this.  Sometimes I will respond to the person sending the message and just say I don’t forward these things, so please skip me in the future.  But when I saw the following message and response, I had to blog about it.

  • Sunday
  • 8/28, 5:40pm

     

    BKD

    I guess chain-mail will never go out of style (unfortunately) I am so sick of these types of posts that feed off of people’s fears, or hopes. I will NOT advance your stupid, threatening, fear mongering posts! Get a life, people! Send this to 5 thousand people in the next 10 minutes, and NOTHING will happen!

     
     
  • Sun BD left the conversation.

     
  • 8/28, 6:19pm

     

    MH

    Sounds you feel the same as me.

     
     
  • 8/28, 8:11pm

     

    CM

    Oh for gosh sakes it’s all in F’n Fun🙄 You’re not some enlightened,smarter than all human… Your simply being pessimistic & trying to act as if people who have fun playing along are ignorant & below you🙄🙄🙄 Let me clue you into truth 💯💯💯 Your pessimistic attitude proves you are FAR from the smart know it all you believe yourself to be…. Get off your boring high horse & stop having delusional,self righteous,pointless ugly attitudes!! I PROMISE the ONLY PEOPLE Who may give a damn about your ugliness has to be your mother,father & Maybe a sibling… No one else !PROMISE !! YOU ARE NOT SPECIAL,NOT SMARTER & definitely have an ugly pessimistic attitude… Get over yourself 💯💯💯 And keep your negative comments about people you don’t know to yourself💯💯💯

     

I removed the identifying pictures and reduced names to initials to protect the identity of my friends and relatives.  (Can anyone explain the unusual punctuation?)  When I read this exchange I thought, “Really?  Are you kidding me?”

While not as enthusiastic about it, I do agree with BKD.  I’m not superstitious.  These chain messages are a waste of a little time, since we no longer have to write them out long hand and snail mail them to their destination  My loving relatives and friends will send these messages with the most awful promises of doom and gloom if I don’t follow through.  I have been known to write back, “Thanks for starting my day with a curse!  I don’t forward these.”

While not an expert in such things, I’d say CM went off the rails!  WOW!  The enlightened don’t argue with people about stuff like chain letters or other matters of personal opinion, because they have learned it really doesn’t get them anywhere.  Because they have learned this lesson, they are in fact smarter than most people.  If you feel like you are looked down upon because of this, you may be feeling a touch defensive.  The response says more about your feelings of your own self-worth than the words or actions of anyone else.

If there weren’t a boring high horse, and delusional, self-righteous, and pointlessly ugly attitudes, I wouldn’t have been motivated to write a blog in response, after a 6 hour car trip.

Whether or not I am also pessimistic and ugly I will leave to the reader.  As to who might think I’m special, my family and a few close friends are all that count.  I don’t have to have the approval of every friend of a friend on Facebook.  I can assure you that BKD is loved by his family, and they accept him for all his mistakes and flaws.  I advise you, CM, and anyone else, to tread lightly, because if his family bands together in his defense, the mass will trample your fragile ego into oblivion.

In closing, I can only say:  “YOU ARE NOT SPECIAL,NOT SMARTER & definitely have an ugly pessimistic attitude… Get over yourself.   And keep your negative comments about people you don’t know to yourself.”

And thank you for removing me from the group.

A Glimpse Behind the Smiles

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A Generation

On the surface a picture of an entire generation of a family is a wonderful thing.  The picture is a wonderful thing.  The picture doesn’t tell us what brings them all together.  The smiling faces don’t tell us the emotions under the surface. The flowers in the front could be a clue, signaling a party.  I guess at its most basic level, it was a party, but not one we wanted to be invited to, nor have.   This party was the celebration of my father’s life and passing.  These are the people who called him “Opa,” another word for Grandfather.

Even when our hearts are breaking, we put a smile on our faces.  Those loved ones who live far and wide come together for major life events, like a funeral.  They can have a moment of comfort being with others who understand.  But grief isn’t really shared.  We keep our grief inside.

Some people set about moving on with determination, keeping busy and immersing themselves into jobs and responsibilities that never stop.  Some people want to cling to memories, and spend hours looking over pictures, fondling possessions, and talking to who ever will listen.  Some people write with tears over pages of all the memories and pain of their loss.  Sometimes grief never seems to end, but remains below the surface, waiting for a turn of weather, a scent, a yellow flower or bluebird, something that triggers a memory and with it a longing for the one not with us.

You have heard that elephants never forget.  Elephants will stay at the side of a dying relative and linger after death, but eventually they must make the choice to move on or they will die along side their relative.  Those who move on, will continue to mourn and visit the grave every time they pass.

Like the elephant we also need to move on through life, but that doesn’t mean forget.

Good Guest or Bad

response to the Daily Prompt: Guest

Whether in a well-appointed luxury  hotel, or someone’s modest hovel there are certain expectations as a guest.  As a guest we expect to be welcomed and have our needs met.  We expect a place to sleep, be warm and safe, access to facilities to care for personal needs, food and water.

In some places we are offered private, climate controlled rooms.  We might have a small kitchen, and private bath.  There might be staff to make up our bed and bring fresh towels on demand, and clean up after us.  Even complete meals may be brought right to our room.  This type of hospitality comes with a price.

Under crowded conditions, as when we are visiting family,  the welcome is expected.  We expect family to take us in, but you may have to compromise personal sleeping comfort. Sleeping arraignments are not as private nor spacious.  But room will be made for you, even if on a sofa, or with a pillow and blanket on the floor.  You might not be entirely comfortable, but you will have a warm dry place to sleep, as long as the roof is not leaking.  Food and drink will be shared, but we may have to wait upon ourselves.  There will also be a wait for the bathroom, and a wait for hot water before showers.

Being with those you love is worth the inconvenience of helping with the cooking and cleaning, and waiting our turn.   Covering up to go to the bathroom at night, or to find a midnight snack is a small inconvenience for the togetherness of family.  Following the house rules, and excepting the differences between us, and being considerate of each other to keep the peace and make things go smoothly for everyone is expected for a guest.

But sometimes things don’t go smoothly.  Sometimes we think we can be quick enough to run to the kitchen for a snack when everyone is asleep, and risk running uncovered into our mother-in-law or brother-in-law.  Sometimes we don’t think the rules apply to us, because we are adults, we have the right to our opinions, we are right and you are not so right.  We forget we are a guest and forget to be thankful.  We overstep and impose our judgement over that of our generous hosts.  We forget we are a guest and argue with our hosts, in their house, when the smarter choice would be to quietly, and peacefully leave.

Our family might even forgive us such laps, because they love us.  Then again, they might not.

 

 

Feral

Crouched defensively, hissing and spitting with claws drawn.  The message was clear.  Stay away.  Unfortunately this was my bathroom and I needed to be in there.

I know people who have said, “Okay cat, this is your space, and I’ll run down stairs to the guest bath as long as you live.”  The bathroom door is closed, and posted with a keep out sign.  Food and water is shoveled in, and you get in and out to take care of the cat box as quickly as possible.  It’s just life with cat.

Whisper wasn’t that lucky.  Whisper had me, and the door was left open.  Whisper came to our home with our boy, who brought this critter with him when he joined our family.  Trying to prove to us that he knew better, our boy promptly got bit.  We were not going to have a cat biting our boy in our home.  We made a plan.

The food was taken out of the bathroom and the door was left open.  Only our boy hand-fed Whisper, who was his cat.  A bonding experience for cat and boy.  Whisper did get a little hungry before he would accept the food offered.  Ironically, when our boy was first adopted, he got a little hungry when he refused to take part in our family life, and was served his food at the dining room table like a boarder, as the kitchen was for family.  Bonding can be a difficult processes when you haven’t had a loving family.

Feeding Whisper twice a day our boy tested how far he could get the cat to go out of the bathroom.  After a week Whisper was out in the hall, but would run back to the safety of the bathroom.  Fortunately we could use the room again, while the cat watched for any threatening moves.  At the end of the second week, Whisper would come down the stairs to the main level of the house for his food.  It took a month to get Whisper to the foodbowl in the laundry room where our other cat, Francis Ann, would eat.

Once Whisper got out of the bathroom, conflict between the cats was addressed, with a water bottle.  The cat that hissed, or showed any thought of aggression, got discouraged with a spray. Our 85 pound dog, Buster, longed to be friends with Whisper, and would stay just far enough away to be protected from a swipe of the paws.  Eventually, Whisper accepted the big lug.

Getting Whisper out of the bathroom was only part of the plan.  We also needed to be able to handle him without getting bit.  We used a back-scratcher with a long handle to gently touch the cat.  Whisper quickly learned he could not intimidate the back scratcher with his claws.  Soon Whisper was tolerating the scratcher, I’m not sure he ever got to the point of enjoying it.  Slowly I inched my hand to the claw of the scratcher, until I could actually touch Whisper.  A few times a day, I would force this attention onto the once aggressive Whisper.

At some point, Whisper was able to live peacefully with the family, enjoyed petting from everyone, shared the cat box and food bowl, made friends with Buster, and enjoyed the freedom of the entire house.

I call this a happy ending.

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So This is Christmas

Here we are at another Christmas.  A recent social media posting of one family’s 300 presents got many people commenting on the true meaning of Christmas.

For the non-Christian, Christmas may be an opportunity for a party.  For those who believe, the piles of gifts wrapped in colorful paper and ribbons, lights on houses and trees, and the parade of parties can be enjoyable, but are not the main event.  The main event is the quiet celebration of simple thankfulness, and acts of generosity to help make another’s  life better, as we believe Jesus would do.

These acts of generosity extend beyond the red bucket outside of every store with a bell ringer to attract attention.  Our gifts to family and friends not only bring them momentary joy, but the real gift is taking the time from our busy lives and giving them the gift of our time and attention.

Christmas is often full of as much sadness as happiness. We remember Christmas past with those we love who have died.  IMG_0013 In the picture is my sister and parents, everyone is having a good time, making our celebration as happy as possible, even though we already had a terminal diagnosis on our parents health.  Now on this second Christmas since my parents passing, we still feel that empty place.  The circle of life keeps going.  Our family, like other families experiencing loss, have also experienced the joy of new additions to the family.  Births and  marriages expand the family, bringing new joy.

All around us are people who need a kind word, a moment of time and good will.  In addition to those who are grieving death there are those separated by distance, pride, or estrangement.

When so many families tolerate their kleptomaniac relatives, suffer their alcoholic relatives, argue with their opinionated relatives, and pray for compassion and wisdom, it is difficult to understand what could cause the estrangement between mother and child of a woman I know.  Mother and child have not spoken to each other in years.  The mother has never met her grandchildren, and cards and gifts have been returned.  I can’t imagine what could have caused this estrangement, but I know her Christmas is full of regret.

I know a person so set on being in the right, that the idea of claiming some responsibility for a rift and meeting a loved ones half way is unthinkable.   I know families that have struggled with a relative that can’t find their way out of addiction, or mental illness, or just a series of bad decisions and reject well meaning attempts to help.

Families can be divided by large things or small.  Past failings become future grudges.  Smiles and lights can hide a multitude of problems.

Take the time to have a kind word of greeting for those around you.  This Christmas, may all your words be loving, because once they leave your lips, you can’t take them back.  Right or wrong.

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