Can We Be Grateful?

The last couple of weeks, there have been several moments, when I was caught up short by how grateful we could be.  I am an avid reader and it plays a huge part in my education, and my opinions, based on my education.  Traveling to many interesting countries: China, Cuba, Ecuador, England, France to name a few, have also changed many of my perceptions.  Even traveling to different states, has been an eye opener, as we are such a big country, with so many different cultures of our own.

I will never forget, as a young woman, who was raised in a God fearing, gun carrying, anti-abortion family, driving a brand new pickup truck, off of the interstate, on to Lake Street in Chicago.  I and my friend were the only two white people on the streets.  All of the advertisements had black people in them, everything seemed different.  When i reflected on the trip, it changed me; it didn’t change my opinions of issues, but I understood that we are a complex country, and that there are different opinions than my own, because other people’s experiences are different than my own.  What I find interesting, is that as I age, as my experiences change, my opinions, while not entirely changed, have modified.

I read a book last week called A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape From North Korea. While I have never been in either of the Korea’s, it brought back memories of Cuba and thoughts of conversations with Cuban people.  I was in a salon receiving a pedicure one day, and was visiting with the woman next to me.  I remarked that we were going on an educational tour to Cuba, through my alma mater, the University of North Dakota.  She said to me, “I think we should just leave that country alone, in it’s natural state.”  I about choked.  I said to her, “It is a country with great culture, but people are giving up their lives, and their children’s lives to leave.”  I had to choke back my dismay, and probably didn’t do a very good job of it.  Cuba is not a zoo, to entertain us when we want to see how people lived in the 50’s.  Cuba and North Korea are Socialist, ha! Communist countries, where they were promised wonderful things and ended up getting nothing that they were promised.  Nothing.

Masaji Ishikawa tells us about his mother, and later his wife, going into the hills and picking weeds to cook to try and survive.  Stealing food from the animals, boiling bark, being so constipated from the horrible diet that they had to dig their own feces out of their bodies, with their fingers.  I’m sorry; I know that’s more graphic than what you needed.  We can’t sugar coat socialism and it’s rapid fall into Communism.  We can’t close our eyes and pretend that they are these cute, eccentric countries that we can ogle like the lion in the zoo.  If the lion were allowed out, he would be dangerous, so is Socialism.

Two conversations with Cuban people  have stuck with me: One was with a Cuban woman I met, on the flight to Cuba; she told me how glad she was that some of her family members were able to live in Florida, because the schools were so wonderful..  American schools wonderful?  Yes, she was adamant.  She had been a teacher in Cuba and was so impressed with our schools.  Another conversation was with an Uber driver, who was also Cuban.  He talked to us of his hatred of Socialism and that he liked Trump.  He offered the information, I didn’t coach him.  I was surprised honestly, but couldn’t help thinking how lucky we are to be Americans.

On the heels of reading this book, my husband and I went to the movie Darkness last night.  It is the movie about Winston Churchill, right as Dunkirk was happening.  He became the Prime Minister in the darkest of times, as Hitler was getting ready to invade England.  He was dislike by everyone, including the King, and Churchill’s own party.  He couldn’t seem to control his emotions very well, and said a lot of things without thinking first; does that sound like anyone we know?  I saw many correlations between now and then.  There were conspirators behind his back, as much in his own party as the others.  Corruption, greed, selfishness, time doesn’t make us much smarter or our souls any less black.

I was at the Salvador Dali museum in St’ Petersburg Florida.  So many painters, writers and designers of that time, were eccentric, and the opium was plentiful.  If they weren’t using drugs, many of them were alcoholics.  After seeing Darkness, I thought about how horrific it was in Europe during that time.  Between WWI and WWII, and in the aftermath, there was chaos.  I can’t imagine what the people of Europe were going through for at least two generations of peoples.  What they saw?  What they experienced?  They understood that their lives could be snuffed out in a unexpected second; they needed to forget.  It is understandable that in there attempts to explain their feelings, or to express their fears, they reached out to substances opening them up to abusive use.

Many people in our country feel fear, get caught up in the drama of over sensationalized politics, have a sense of doom and gloom.  We are blessed; we have never gone through what Cuba, N. Korea, Europe have had to go through.  Individually we have had our traumas and our losses, but if we look to others, we can be grateful; we have survived; we will survive.  We can gain wisdom, modify our opinions, educate ourselves and be grateful….


Enjoy Today!!

If you are Christian, you are making dinner, or in the car headed to someone’s house, or church, or you are getting ready to relax and watch a game or read a book.  Hopefully if you are Jewish or Muslim, or Buddhist, or another culture or religion, you are enjoying the day in your way.  The bottom line is enjoy your day! Count your blessings! Praise your God!

I have been in the habit of saying how grateful I am for the blessings I have been given.  I got to thinking about it one day and decided that I am grateful.  I don’t think God intends to bless me more than a homeless person.  There are other things at play; there must be, but I am grateful.  I don’t have what Bill Gates has, or Mark Zuckerberg, but I am grateful!  I am grateful for my health and the health of my family, I am grateful I am alive and I am grateful that there are people I know who respect and care about me.  I am grateful our children pay taxes and love each other.

Thanksgiving is typically the time we give thanks, but we can  and should be grateful every day.

Many of you may be having a tough day, and my gratefulness is nauseating.  My empathy is yours.  It will get better.  Life gets better, and then it gets worse, but it does get better again.  You know me; you read me; life always gets better.

Hopeful you find your joy today.


Quilting Together the Past and the Present

The handprint quilted into the quilt above is mine.  Surrounding it are the handprints of my husband and grandchildren.  Twenty-seven years ago, I was sitting in the passenger seat of a pick-up truck headed to Wyoming.  We were delivering some oilfield supplies.  My children’s father was driving; it was late at night; the marriage was failing and I was thinking about my friend who was dying of cancer.  The idea for the quilt came to me; I don’t know how or why, but it did, and I started it the next week.  Different shapes, of different colors, were hand appliquéd onto a white piece of fabric.  I bought the thread intending to hand quilt it, with the different colors running through the quilt, an alternating triangle border pulling it together.

I often wondered why, when you would hear the stories of quilts, uncompleted, “discovered” in an attic, or box in a closet, they weren’t finished.  I learned, and understand now, life has it’s own plan sometimes, and it might not include finishing a quilt.  I carried the quilt, and it’s thread, from home to home, town to town, from the end of one marriage, through the failing of another, until now.  Children grew up and had children of their own; I found a good marriage, a happy place and decided I was ready to finish it.

The quilt like my life, metamorphised a bit; I needed to find a couple of replacement triangles that almost match; a couple spools of thread disappeared and had to be replaced; the stitches are bigger, and there were stains from the colored fabric bleeding onto the white.  My quilt and I have aged.  The colors match others I have chosen for our house, it will still keep a child, or grandchild warm, and if my husband wants to snuggle under it, while the fireplace warms up the house, it will keep us warm as well, while reminding us of the love of the handprints-the best warmth of all.

Our pasts never really leave us.  We can modify them, redirect them and flat out lie about them, but they are still our pasts.  Bring your past into your future, embrace it and quilt it together with your future.  I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, with many things to be thankful for, both past and present.


One Second More……

I had to wait several weeks to write about what I have been incredibly thankful for the past few weeks-my life.  I used to have a bad habit of checking my phone, texting, looking up information, all while I was driving.  I had a couple of things happen, that should have been wake-up calls, but they were like the pain of childbirth; time erases everything.

Driving down the four lane road, I slowed down to 45 as I drove through a small town in ND; actually, it was the town Mom and Dad lived in, before her death and his move to assisted living.  I made it through town, kicked my cruise control on and up to 75 and reached for my phone.  I was taking a few pumpkins to town for the grandchildren and had my sister’s little dog in the back of the Subaru.  Sassy, the dog had actually been Mom and Dad’s at one time.  Mom loved Sassy.

You think you are going to look for a second, but it must have been more than that… I don’t know what made me look up, but directly in front of me was a highway truck, with a flashing arrow.  It was stopped and I was not…  I didn’t even think, just swerved….I got past the truck and pulled off to the side of the road.  Sassy and the pumpkins had gone for a ride and I had to call her a couple of times before she looked around the seat at me.  Her face clearly said, “What in the hell were you doing?”  I held her and cried; I could barely drive the rest of the way to the city.  I called my middle son and he said, “Mom, you’re too old to text and drive.”  “I know,” I said.  I kept seeing the arrow; for days I kept seeing the arrow.  It wasn’t until the next morning, when I woke up and saw the orange cones flying in front of the car.  It had happened so fast; what if my reactions had been slower, what if I had looked up one second later.  My heart rate accelerates, my breath catches, and a tear leaks down my cheek, as I write about it.

All of the things we worry about, that I worry about; controlling my diabetes, having enough money to survive retirement, watching the grandkids graduate and grow in their own lives, writing things that matter in my blog; all of it didn’t matter in that one second.

I put my phone in my glove box now.  I still catch myself reaching for it out of habit.  My phone is an Apple and the new upgrade has an app, which I downloaded, so my phone sends a message out to anyone, who texts me, “I’m driving with Do Not Disturb While Driving turned on.  I’ll see your message when I get where I’m going.”  Surviving sometimes is just living.. keeping yourself alive.  I have news for my son though, “If we want to live, we are all too old to be texting, while driving.”  When I told my youngest daughter-in-law, I said that if Mom had a save in her, I appreciated her using it on me.  Megan said, “She wasn’t saving you, she was probably saving Sassy.”  I laughed because it would be true.

I am so grateful to be alive….I ate a cookie that day and did some shopping.  One second more…..