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.

Thanksgiving Is Over, It’s On To Shopping!

 

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf published in the Albert Lea Tribune and the Courier Sentinel the week of November 27

shopping-2016Thanksgiving is over.

This year we hosted Thanksgiving. I managed to not burn the vegetables.

Actually, this year I had a hard time getting the corn done. It was a microwave error. My microwave is on its way out and it apparently didn’t like corn, because it wouldn’t even thaw it out.

Our turkey was cooked to perfection, and the new stuffing recipe I used with a few tweaks of my own wasn’t bad.

It has been a few years since I hosted my family for a holiday meal. We always travel to one of our kids’ homes, and who can argue with that, because I don’t have to clean and don’t have to cook. I think the kids got tired of burned vegetables, so they decided it was safer to host and not ask me to bring the vegetables.

In case you haven’t heard the story — I burn vegetables. I don’t like vegetables and watching them cook gets kind of boring in my creative mind, so I always find something else to do while they are cooking and kind of forget about them … until I smell the result. It is a tale my kids have passed down to my grandchildren. I forgot how much work goes into cooking for many people on Thanksgiving. It gave me an appreciation for those moms and dads that cook for their family every day.

Black Friday arrived and I didn’t have any newspapers to check out the ads, so I browsed the coupons I received in the mail. They were very tempting. Many stores gave free money up to $10 that you could use without buying anything else. I know myself — I would have spent more than the $10 certificate.

I am cutting back this year because of a cut back in my finances, so I purged the urge to shop and picked up a good book to read, taking a nap in between some paragraphs.

I don’t get too excited anymore about Black Friday sales or Cyber Monday sales. There is always a sale and unless there is something specific I am looking for, I don’t run out and join the lines since I have reached old age.

I remember before Black Friday was Black Friday. It was always just the Friday after Thanksgiving and I loved to join the shopping crowd. There was something energizing about all the people in the malls and stores. That was before shopper frenzy and shoppers hurting other shoppers trying to grab the golden sale that they wanted. It was a friendly tug of war.

One of the things we did one year with our son and his wife was get up at 4 a.m. to stand outside of Shopko in the lines to get the 6 a.m. specials. The kids had the list and told us what to grab. They then donated all the items to Toys for Tots or other organizations. I didn’t mind getting up early to do that.

A friend of mine always was in line at Dayton’s Department Store to get the Santa bear of the year. She and her daughters made it a tradition each year. After they got their Santa bear they spent the rest of the day together shopping and enjoying the season.

Now Santa bears are no more, and stores open on Thanksgiving, so there is no need to stand in line early in the morning in the cold anticipating the specials.

Of course we also have Cyber Monday, but it seems that is starting early, too, as the emails and ads online are bombarding consumers with the message to buy, buy, buy. It is hard to resist the call of those sparkly items when they come across your computer screen.

I am not in a family of shoppers, so even if I were interested in a shopping family outing I would be hard pressed to find a family member to go with me. My one granddaughter loves to shop, but she also loves to enjoy family time and I suspect she would pick that over shopping any day.

Maybe it is my age or maybe my finances that has brought me to my senses when it comes to shopping. Don’t get me wrong — we need to support our businesses, especially small businesses.

I find I buy more meaningful gifts if I take time and don’t get caught up in the frenzy of the sale. I find shopping is more about who I am with than the actual grabbing of the gold. I know it isn’t the glitzy gift that will be remembered but the time spent sharing and making memories.

The things I remember about Christmas aren’t the gifts I was given but the little things that had meaning during the holidays, such as baking Christmas cookies with my mom or going to midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. I remember my mom and dad coming home with a box of gifts from the shoe store where they hid them and the anticipation of those gifts, not the actual gifts but the tradition of Dad coming home with them. I remember sitting down to supper on Christmas Eve and sharing a Polish tradition of wafers with my Polish grandmother and uncle.

Those are the golden gifts that are remembered, and all the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales will never make those kind of memories.

“Christmas is not an external event at all, but a piece of one’s home that one carries in one’s heart.” — Freya Stark

Julie Seedorf’s column appears in the Tribune every Monday.

Shredding A Life

Column published November 21, 2016 Something About Nothing

Grandpa thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

I shredded a life today. Piece by piece I dropped it into the shredder, pushed the button and ground it up.

This has been a topsy-turvy month that has swung from the uncertainty of the presidential election to honoring our veterans, to being thankful for all we have with the celebration of Thanksgiving.

This is the month friends and family are posting 30 days of thanks on Facebook, and I intended to do that, too. I have been hit and miss, not because I have not been thankful, but I found disorganization and weariness stopping me from taking the time to post. And so, I took some time to get rid of the past that is weighing me down.

As I was shredding the life, I realized that many of the details going into my shredder were not happy things and reminded me of a time when life was anxious and sad and filled with anger and hopelessness. The papers I was shredding were the papers documenting the doctor bills, nursing home bills and details of my mother’s last four years of life.

My mother died 13 years ago. Why I still had those papers might be a mystery to many people, but I wasn’t ready to let go of the final details that documented the last years of her life until now.

With her dementia she turned against me when I tried to help her. Always an independent woman, she didn’t want my help and didn’t think she needed it. She took care of her mother for many years and she always vowed she would not be dependent on me, her only child. Because of her stubbornness in wanting to be independent it made things harder.

Before dementia set in she set things up so that if anything happened to her I could legally take care of her, her property and her finances. When she developed dementia her mind told her different things, and I became the enemy. Because of this and outsiders interference I took everything to the courts so things would be documented and no one could accuse me of doing anything illegal. It was a stressful and hard time for both of us and our family.

As I shredded these court papers, I let go of the hurt and was thankful we did things that way so she would be taken care of and protected.

While in the nursing home, she broke her arm and also her hip. As I shredded the doctor bills, I noted how inexpensive things were 13 years ago compared to what the surgeries and doctor bills would cost now. Of course at the time we thought they were high, but compared to today they were nothing. I was thankful she had insurance to pay those bills.

As I shredded the nursing home bills, I remembered the wonderful people who understood her dementia and took care of her, along with caring for my emotional state. I was thankful for the doctors and nurses that found a medication to calm her mood and give me back a funny, caring mom. I never knew the sense of humor she now had. Life had changed her from when she was young. I was also thankful for an almost death moment during those years that brought about a talk of her hopes and dreams and her letting me know I would be fine without her but she would be watching over me. Her dementia diminished for a few days after the hip surgery, and we had normal days. I was thankful God gave us that time of healing.

As I was shredding, I knew the moments, good and bad, made up my life for a short time. During that period of time, it was hard to remember the good, but I could see it and feel it now, sitting right there intermingled with the bad. The blessings were there and now I could see them and feel them.

I loved my mom. My mom loved me. If I could go back, I would say many things that I never said. I would say that I now understand what you were feeling. I now understand why we fought so much. You loved me, and as a child and teenager you wanted me to have a better life. You wanted me to be safe. I wanted you to let go. I wanted to fly away and felt you were keeping me back. You were an older mom, and it felt like we were worlds apart.

I would tell her I was sorry I wasn’t always a good daughter. I could have done things differently, and if I had the chance to do it over again I would. I would be kinder and more understanding. Had she lived longer and I had been older with more life behind me I would have known that.

As the papers hit the shredder, the feelings of sadness, guilt, and anger went into the shredder too. There was much to be thankful for in those last years of her life, and I could see it now. Had we not went through the fire we might not have gotten to the other side where the last year was one of understanding and laughter.

Through it all, the love was always there, and that is why we kept fighting to get through the muck to the other side, unaware that is what we were doing.

It is Thanksgiving week. Being thankful does not always mean giving thanks for the good times. It also means being thankful in the fire of despair. It is the glimmer of thanks peeking through that makes up our lives and keeps us living.

Happy Thanksgiving.