Over the River and Through the Woods

It is that time of year again. Christmas decorations sparkle in the windows of businesses and homes and stores are ready for those Black Friday deals, but first…first…we need to celebrate Thanksgiving.

We give thanks for all the blessings we have in our lives. I wish I could go over the river and through the woods to my grandmother’s house again. In fact, I wish my mom and dad could share Thanksgiving with me. Their spirits will still be with us as we give thanks on Thanksgiving day.

Usually my family gathers at my home for Thanksgiving, but this year plans have changed, and we will celebrate on the Friday after Thanksgiving. No shopping for me on Black Friday. It will be all about family. To me it doesn’t matter what day we get together but that we get together. Not everyone has someone to share Thanksgiving or the days afterward.

I am thankful for this past year, the good and the bad. Without explaining, I know our lives are going to change this next year and our celebrations in the years to come will be different. It is the passage of life and passage of time.

Families change. Divorces, illnesses, death and time and distance change the family dynamics and our celebrations. We need to cherish what we have in the moments we have them.

I do not know where my husband and I will be Thanksgiving Day. I may fix a duck for the two of us as the turkey will be served the next day. We may find a restaurant in the neighboring town since my community will not have their usual Thanksgiving meal for the community. Or we may pop in and visit a neighboring community dinner. Whatever we do we will be thankful for all God has blessed us with in family, friends, a place to live and food on our table. I may opt for hot dogs instead of duck.

Churches, communities and shelters at their Thanksgiving meals are a great place to meet new family. Even those venues have changed as more and more takeout meals are ordered, not for the housebound but for those who don’t want to mingle or cook. If you have a community meal this year in your town and you are alone or aren’t cooking, don’t order takeout unless you physically can’t attend. Take a chance, get out there and mingle. Have a conversation, share some laughter and enjoy excellent food.

Volunteers give their day to cook the meal but they also enjoy meeting and talking to those who attend. You can also be one of those volunteers. I must say I used to volunteer and then life got in the way. I have never attended these meals in our community because I always had family. This was going to be our year to either volunteer or attend, but I waited too long. The community meal in my community is not happening. I took it for granted as we do for many events that are always just there, we count on them but don’t pay attention to what we can do because they always do get done. Many hands make a happy heart and we can be a part of that and we only realize what we are missing until it isn’t there.

Tradition has dictated in the past that holidays are for families and they are. What that family looks like is up to us. Yes, many of us have our immediate families of mom, dad, kids, and grandparents, but family can also mean good friends, neighbors, or a church family. We live in a time when media tells us that holidays are meant for celebration, family, shopping etc., etc. and it makes many feel lonely. I know in spite of having family, when we have been alone on the holidays, I have felt it. I had those feelings because of past memories of the time when my parents were alive; we had uncles, aunts and cousins and I missed them. I felt that way when my kids couldn’t come home, and yes, occasionally I cried, but no more. I realize the holiday will be what we make it, not what the media makes us feel.

Whatever your plans are for the Thanksgiving holiday, I hope you will feel the blessings of your life in both the good times and bad. I hope if you are alone you reach out or enjoy the peace of the day. The day is about being thankful, but remember we should be doing that 365 days of the year. Happy Thankfulness Day.

If You See Somone Working, Say Thank You!

14687804116_c553cd4dc4_zIt’s Labor Day. I decided to post a few trivia questions about Labor Day to see if you could answer them or if you want to impress your kids, ask them the questions. I will supply the answers at the end of this column.

Who is considered the father of Labor Day?
When was the first U.S. Labor Day celebrated?

What country is said to have originated the idea to host a Labor Day?

Why do we celebrate Labor Day?

What state was the first state to declare Labor Day a holiday seven years before the president declared it a national holiday?

Don’t feel bad if you don’t know the answers. I am sure somewhere in the past I have heard the answers to all of those questions. I would imagine my history teachers when I was in school covered the subject of Labor Day. I wonder how many kids now know why we celebrate Labor Day. Do you suppose history in school covers this today?

I know we anticipate the holiday. Many years kids start school right after the Labor Day holiday. This year all my grandchildren started school many weeks before the holiday weekend, so this weekend is a break from school.

In Minnesota the state fair is on. The Renaissance Festival has begun and festivities abound celebrating the last fun weekend we have before we get back to the grind of normal life after the summer.
Labor Day started as a day to recognize contributions men and women made to the American workforce. In the 19th century, Americans worked 12- hour days, seven days a week. These workers wanted an eight hour workday.

Today we should also be celebrating the American workers. I doubt that the stress workers feel today is any less than those workers protesting when Labor Day was established. We have many people working for minimum wage, working long hours and intensive jobs for little pay, struggling to put food on the table. Because of technology many people are on call 24/7. They can’t get away from the office, and companies expect them to be there when they call. Eight-hour days are not the norm for many. And part of the workforce work two and three jobs to make ends meet.

Jobs are more diverse, and the factory jobs of the past no longer are as prevalent so more education is needed to secure employment.

We still need to celebrate the American worker because they are the backbone of America from garbage collectors to plumbers to doctors and lawyers to the clerk that hands you your coffee in the coffee shop. These people are all needed to make our society work.

So on this day, look around you and if you see someone working, say thank you. And then pat yourself on the back as you leave for work or as you are thankful you are retired from a lifetime of being one of the workers who makes our country run. This is your day. Thank you for what you have contributed.

1. Peter McGuire

2. Sept. 5,1882

3. Canada

4. To celebrate the American Worker

5. Oregon

Remembering how Past Wars Shape Our Lives!

Something About Nothing Column published in the Albert Lea Tribune on May 26, 2014

Every year I rack my brain when it comes to holiday columns. I always wonder what I could possibly say that I haven’t said before. Memorial Day weekend is here. Take time to remember those who fought to protect America, remember their families, etc., etc., etc. How many ways can I spin this and still be sincere?

The other evening I was watching the unveiling of the new 9/11 Memorial Museum. Firefighters, members of the military and public citizens marched into the museum carrying the giant American flag, which had been flying from a building beside the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. It had been damaged and found in the debris at Ground Zero. This flag was transferred into the museum to be part of a permanent collection in the museum. american-flag-2a

World War II took place before I was born. The Korean War took place when I was a toddler. The Vietnam War took place during my teen and young adult years. The Persian Gulf War took place as I was raising my children.

I remember the exact place I was in the grocery store when it was announced over the speaker that we were at war. It was a scary feeling. I remember the basketball game during the few days and the patriotism that people felt at what was happening. As I age we are fighting a war in Afghanistan.

Those are listings of the wars that get the most press. According to Wikipedia, between 1900 and the present the United States has been involved in some way or another in 42 wars.

On Sept. 11, 2001, the world as we knew it changed again. Watching the museum ceremony on television and the interviews with the people who actually lived 9/11 in person brought tears to my eyes. I remembered the way the world stopped for America that day.

I have to imagine that is the way my ancestors felt at the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Their world, too, changed that day.

The world we live in has to adjust to the changes that war brings to our lives, whether the war is on our soil. We have had to adjust to husbands, fathers, wives, mothers and sons and daughters leaving home to fight for our freedoms. We have had to adjust to a more restrictive way of life. I would imagine our ancestors had to do the same. Little by little the world has changed to what we now know after 9/11.

I am 64 years old, and I realize there has been a war going on for most of my life. Hearing the casualties and the news about attacks and bombings has become a way of life that gets lost in our news because we are used to it. Soldiers’ injuries and mental health problems from long tours overseas is talked about and has become a daily conversation. Post-traumatic stress disorder has become a common term in our world. We go on with our lives, walk the streets with our neighbors and settle in to accept these things as an everyday way of life passing the issues off as normal news.

For those who live with injuries, death of loved ones and instability because of emotional issues, the normal news is their fact of life. They aren’t a passing story; they can’t take their issues for granted because they must live them day in and day out.

It’s Memorial Day. Take some time to reflect on what the conflicts of the past and the conflicts of the future have cost us as a country. Consider what the conflicts have cost the veterans of yesterday and the soldiers and their families of today. Take some time to reflect on how your life has been changed because of these conflicts.

And then say thank you to a veteran. Say thank you because even in the country where we complain about our politicians, the cost of living, the job market, our churches, our police force, health care and our president we still are free to verbalize our thoughts. We still are free to worship in our religion of choice. We still are free to complain or shout with joy. We still live in the greatest country, the home of the brave and the land of the free.

And we still are free to thank those who keep us free.

Thank you.