Last night we had a wonderful time with Ed's parents as they prepared an early Thanksgiving dinner to spend time with us. I enjoyed the conversation with Ed and his parents, the peacefulness, the laughter, sheer gratefulness and thankfulness of just family. We spent hours there.
I woke up this morning, as I do every day and I thanked God for another day. I then started to feel the dread of leaving the house, running around to see everyone, having to be cordial and polite, even to people I may not necessarily want to be around. I am even skipping two houses that I very much want to be a part of. I am so grateful for the invites, I am thankful that family actually wants to include me.
Then I started thinking, this year is so different, not only have my children turned into fully grown men, I have accepted it and I have grown in so many ways!
My children have spent every single holiday with me, even if they were not there at the same time. Usually I am preparing the food and everyone is coming to my house, even at times when I have visited others, with the exception of maybe 4 occasions. I will see them both today along with my 4 grandchildren and another on the way and I am very happy about that. Life has a funny way of evolving in this ever changing world.
The holidays seem to juggle memories or lack there of, I don't recall not one Thanksgiving meal that I shared with my mother and my father, not one, as a child. I always spent the holidays, or though it seemed, with my aunt and my grandmother. In fact I don't recall many family related things at all with my parents as a child. There are recollections of times filled with parties and an environment a child should not have to live in. I was not resentful of going without though, at least not until I saw it effecting my younger brothers. I recollect times when the only thing in the refrigerator to eat was lettuce and we would literally walk to the local Wendy's fast food restaurant and ask for bacon bits, croutons and dressing. We would make a salad. I could not have been any older than 11 at the time, this would have made my brothers 9 and 7. I think back on the five years we did not have heat and hot water and the years with no air conditioning.
Over the years, I have uncovered many more unfortunate instances of growing in a household of chaos, through counseling and flashbacks. A home full of drugs with parents whom were addicted and alcoholics, being neglected, mentally abused and abandoned by my mother, molested by her boyfriend, raped, the physical abuse and so much more. You see, these things didn't just happen to me, they also happened to my brothers. My brothers faced more of the physical abuse at the hands of my mothers boyfriend. This story could go on for chapters, long enough to turn into a Lifetime movie.
By the grace of God we made it out of that ordeal, enough to become successful individuals, loving parents and great partners to significant others. I am not bitter, my one brother is not bitter. We vowed to never raise our children the way we had to grow up and this meant being thankful and grateful everyday, never taking anything for granted, not just on one day in November, not just on Thanksgiving, every day. We rarely talk about our past. In fact if I didn't tell you my story, you wouldn't have a clue. There's no dwelling on our past, what we had to live through, but literally shaping our future into a better place because of the unfortunate environment of our childhood and teenage years.
Did we overcompensate with our children? Of course we did, I was a very young parent and absolutely blindly raising two boys, I knew the biggest thing was, I would love them unconditionally. I knew a few more things too, I would always have them count their blessings and have faith.
At the age of 15, I began cooking my own Thanksgiving and Christmas meals for my brothers and my son. It was a tradition that lasted up until this past year. Life changes, children grow up, families expand. We now have a gathering for Christmas at my brothers house. I have been a little more accepting of these changes.
My brother has raised a beautiful, intelligent daughter and is now raising amazing, sports driven sons. He is accomplished and I am very proud of him. He has a loving wife and he is the only person I know that lives life to the fullest. He is truly my hero. They say that the first guy a girl loves is her dad, I beg to differ. As cheesy as this sounds, my brother was the first boy I ever loved. My brother has been through so much with me and through it all he has stood the strongest.
So on this day alone, yes I do give thanks, it's not just this day though, it's every morning, during the day at various times, during the night, before I go to sleep. I often stop when I am upset and what settles me down is remembering the little girl I once was, is now a woman, I am no longer in that place. Those times have strengthened me and I can get through anything because I have fought half of the battle. This is why and how I go on.
So many other individuals look at life differently, they wallow in their circumstances or past disappointments, they don't see a way out, they don't try, they may not know how to try, they give up. It is truly sad when you go to certain areas of our city and you see the homeless. I want to do so much to help them, and I have, I have come to know that I cannot rescue them all. I can do my part. I have offered to help as many as I can talk to. I have handed out clothing, food, drinks, money and pamphlets to churches that will assist them with shelter, I have given them numbers for rehabilitation programs, I am at a loss as to what else, I, as an individual can do, besides pray for them.
This world is broken, broken into many pieces, by many individuals and circumstances. Society either says "put your big girl pants on and suck it up" or "poor baby, I'm so sorry, you must have suffered so much, that was devastating". In my view, we don't handle it all the same, we aren't equipped, I do lack the "empathy chip" often, my road was not easy and now I face medical issues, however, I face them head on, with a smile. Sometimes in life you have to bring your own sunshine. Folks that truly know me, say I live in my own world or reality. You damn right I do. In order to cope with the life I have been given, I didn't have much of a choice. The greatest part is, I love this world and reality I created. I am optimistic, I am grateful, I am thankful, I am hopeful, I believe in miracles, I believe in love. I am not jaded.
Many times in life, the very worst of circumstances can bring the very best of outcomes! There are thousands stories like mine..... Just Bring your own sunshine .......
Now, who wants to hear some Thanksgiving facts to finish off this seriousness and get on with the chaotic day?
Here are nine fun facts about Thanksgiving to share around the dinner table
- The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 over a three day harvest festival. It included 50 Pilgrims, 90 Wampanoag Indians, and lasted three days. It is believed by historians that only five women were present.
- Turkey wasn’t on the menu at the first Thanksgiving. Venison, duck, goose, oysters, lobster, eel, and fish were likely served, alongside pumpkins and cranberries (but not pumpkin pie or cranberry sauce!).
- Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday on October 3, 1863. Sarah Josepha Hale, the woman who wrote “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” convinced Lincoln to make Thanksgiving a national holiday after writing letters for 17 years.
- The history of U.S. presidents pardoning turkeys is patchy. Harry Truman is often credited with being the first president to pardon a turkey, but that’s not quite true. He was the first to receive a ceremonial turkey from the National Turkey Federation – and he had it for dinner. John F. Kennedy was the first to let a Thanksgiving turkey go, followed by Richard Nixon who sent his turkey to a petting zoo. George H.W. Bush is the president who formalized the turkey pardoning tradition in 1989.
- There are four towns in the United States named “Turkey.” They can be found in Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, and North Carolina.
- The average number of calories consumed on Thanksgiving is 4,500.
- Butterball answers more than 100,000 turkey-cooking questions via their Butterball Turkey Hotline each November and December.
- The tradition of football on Thanksgiving began in 1876 with a game between Yale and Princeton. The first NFL games were played on Thanksgiving in 1920.
- More than 54 million Americans are expected to travel during the Thanksgiving holiday this year. That’s up 4.8% from last year.
A Few Words Of Advice Before You Encounter Your Families/ Friends Today
- Remember to be respectful
- This is a gathering of thanks
- Count each person as a blessing, even if they get on your nerves, in some way, they add value to your life (think hard, you will find it)
- If you find yourself getting irritate, leave
- Oh, yes, turkey does make you sleepy, I win the debate, they have tryptophan. It helps the body make important chemicals called hormones, including melatonin!
- Thank your hostess
- BE GRATEFUL, BE THANKFUL, YOU ARE BLESSED
We are who we choose to become, not necessarily a product or definition of our circumstances
Don't let the bad times define you, shine through them.....
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