The Weather Outside Is Frightful

A-Stormy-Atlantic.jpgThe weather outside if frightful. No, it’s not snowing. It’s too warm. This is the last day of November and I have yet to wear a sweater or a pair of boots. My grass is stilling growing and in need of a good mowing. I have hibiscus blooms and dozens of roses. While it is a lovely sight I am a creature of habit and it is simply not supposed to be this temperate at this time of year. I’m all in for some cold weather but it doesn’t seem to be anywhere on the horizon.

The stores in my city can barely give away coats. I won’t be surprised if someone is one day standing at the exits passing them out to anyone who wants to take them away. Sweaters are faring no better. The winter season will pass and I will never have removed my flip flops. Usually by now I have switched my winter things to a more prominent position in my closet but this year I have left those things hidden in the dark recesses. I wonder if I will need them at all.

I point all of this out because I can’t imagine how anyone still clings to the false premise that climate change is a myth. It stands to reason that we have a symbiotic relationship with nature. There are photos from space that show the destruction that we have wrought on our planet and our atmosphere. We have already reached a dangerous tipping point and yet there are far too many people who argue that we humans have nothing to do with the changes that are so apparent to those of us who have witnessed many seasons.

A recent article in my local newspaper pointed out that areas of the city are experiencing flooding problems for the first time in their history. An expert noted that when communities are being initially planned the builders generally take drainage into account and grade to insure that run off goes into the gutters. Of late individuals are tearing down older homes and erecting massive houses that disregard the way heavy rains will flow. The result has been devastating in some places. This of course is just one more way in which we humans sometimes ignore the negative effect of our decisions.

We have a world of problems and we have become accustomed to living in relative luxury compared to our ancestors. My children are members of the first generation to spend all of their lives in air conditioned homes. Back in the day we left our windows open in the summer and used fans to stir up a breeze. It was sometimes brutally hot but we learned how to live with it. There weren’t many electronics to run and most families owned a single car regardless of the size of the family. In other words we used far less energy than most people use today. We all too often believe that it would be impossible to live in conditions that were commonplace in the past.

I realize that it would be difficult to revert to the old ways and I don’t necessarily think that we should. What does need to happen is a nationwide investment in finding new and reliable ways of providing energy. When we put concerted effort into reaching the moon we were successful in a very short span of time. We should create the same level of excitement for dealing with climate change. In my day young people dreamed of working at NASA and being part of the space program. The best and the brightest wanted to be part of the action. If we were all to agree that solving the problems that so devastate our planet are just as important we might turn the tide.

My brother was one of those youngsters who walked around with an illustrated book written by Werner von Braun which described a station in space that would house humans. He told people when he was a tiny tot that he was going to work on building such things. He studied hard with the goal of one day achieving something exciting. He has now spent virtually his entire career designing the navigational systems for the International Space Station. What had once been only pictures in his mind became stunning reality.

I feel that it is incumbent upon all of our leaders to accept the facts that scientists around the globe have proven with compelling evidence. My own anecdotal comments about the weather may be false but the data and photographs lead to the same conclusions as mine. I worry when I travel to the western United States and see dangerously dry conditions so unlike what I witnessed in the same places when I was young.

Some people seem to think that climate change is a political football. An entire party appears to embrace the very dangerous idea that it is somehow a made up concept designed to funnel money to particular industries and take it from others. The game that they play is dangerous. It overlooks the possible future of our children and grandchildren. It is a gamble that I don’t wish to make.

A group of Native Americans are waging a battle at Standing Rock. They do not want a pipeline to be built near the Columbia River. They worry about its potential effect on the very water that the people in that area drink. Whether or not their concerns are real or foolish seems to matter little to me. They deserve to have a say over what happens to land that once belonged wholly to their ancestors and was taken away by people who somehow thought their claims were invalid. We have treated our native peoples with gross disregard for far too long. We have ignored their traditions and dishonored the animals and the environment. They have been right more often than not as we blithely altered the landscape. Now it is time to hear them out. Theirs is a voice that we should not ignore on both moral and objective grounds.

We are beginning to understand the error of our human ways but there are still those who have managed to convince themselves that we are entitled to the fruits of our planet without consequence. The time for such thinking should be long past. It is too dry in some places and too wet in others. The extremes that we see in weather should not be reproduced in our political landscape. I long for true leaders who will educate the public rather than pander for votes. Our fate depends whether or not we are able to finally take the necessary steps to save us all. 

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The Best Gift

deddfa2e6c8561515b485b35fa01724fHow do we speak of grief when it is so personal? Why do we have a tendency to judge the level or appropriateness of one’s sadness? Each of us will face loss and death, either our own or that of a loved one. Our feelings and the way we express them are the result of multitudes of lessons we have learned. We cope in so many different ways and yet we find ourselves wondering why there are so many different approaches to tragedy.

My mother was quite strong but the deaths of loved ones revealed a crack in her outward facade that was almost disturbing. She allowed her emotions to have free range. She would take to her bed and cry in convulsive fits. She became unable to perform even the simplest tasks. Because of the extreme nature of her reactions I found myself in a state of forced control whenever our family endured an horrific situation. I maintained a fake coolness and appeared to be seemingly detached. It was an act and I’m not certain that it was the proper way to be but it became my way of coping.

I have watched people at funerals and noticed just how quirky each of us becomes whenever we have to endure the anguish that overtakes us at such times. Few people know how to properly deal with the misery of such situations. Those who do are a blessing. They say the right things and seem to know when to cry and when to smile. They are normal and natural and comfortable to be around. Most of us falter. We sense that the public has certain expectations for us but we simply do not know how to be. We are awkward with our feelings and our comments and wish that we might express ourselves with a brilliance that allows people to understand the essence of our souls.

A former student from the high school where I last worked lost her mother to cancer just before she was to graduate from college. She was quite close to her mom and they had both dreamed of the day when she would earn her degree. Having to walk across the stage when everyone surrounding her was in such a festive mood became more like a nightmare for her. In her heart she knew that her dear sweet mama should have been there to watch the triumph but instead she was forever gone. Every step that she took and every smile that she made on that day was little more than her effort to keep herself together when what she really wanted to do was rage against the unfairness of her loss. Of late she has been able to channel the enormity of her feelings by writing blogs designed to reveal her heartbreaking journey and to discuss the complexities of grief. Her hope is that by honestly discussing her emotions she will somehow help others who will most certainly find a time when they must deal with the loss of those that they love.

Not everyone is so willing to open their hearts. Most of us have masks that we use to hide the hurt and misery that stalks us. I am personally quite guilty of such behavior. I often pretend to be just fine when I am instead feeling quite low. I suspect that most people don’t really want a totally honest assessment of my emotional status and so I mostly smile to make them feel reassured. I only provide a truthful appraisal of my hurt and disappointment to those whom I most trust. I suppose that most of us are like that. We have one persona for home and another for public display.

Somehow there has to be a delicate balance between abject agony and stalwart stoicism. There also must be understanding. It really is not up to any of us to judge another for their despair or seeming lack of it. Unless we are close enough to them to truly know the content of their hearts we never realize exactly what they are thinking or feeling. Our only job should be to support them however they choose to be.

Long ago one of the teachers at my school was killed in a car accident. She was a delightful soul who was beloved by all. Those of us who worked with her attended her funeral in a state of shock and discomfort. Her mother was calm and gracious, attending more to our needs than to her own. I accidentally wondered allowed how she was able to maintain her composure under such circumstances and she laughingly told me that she was filled with so much medication that she could hardly feel her feet much less the pain that had ripped a crater open in her heart. When a lone tear ran down her cheek I saw the devastation in her eyes for the first time and we just stood holding hands until she was able to regain her composure and move to the next guest who had come to honor her daughter.

I have a dear friend who worked with me for many years. When my mother died she reacted in the most appropriate and loving ways. She came to the visitation and kept her remarks quite simple, telling me how much she loved me and how sorry she was. A week or so after the funeral she sent me a lovely plant that almost six years later continues to grow and flourish as a symbol of her kindness. Not too long after that she wrote a beautiful letter to me, reminding me of beautiful moments when I had shared stories about my mom. She kept in touch just to be sure that I was doing okay long after everyone had gone back to their normal lives. She took a few moments here and there to let me know that she understood that my pain was not yet healed. I will always love her for her insightful attention and ability the see through my attempts to appear strong.

Someone that you know may be suffering and not even showing the signs. Particularly during the holiday season we should each take the time to find that person who is unable to be merry because of illness, disappointment or loss. It takes very little to provide a bit of comfort, a funny card, a quick phone call, a bouquet of flowers, a visit. Those small gestures really do make a difference.

My daughter and I were feeling pensive this Thanksgiving. One of my cousins died just before the big day of feasting. Another cousin is battling lymphoma. All of my surviving aunts are well into their nineties and experiencing major health problems. We spoke of how fragile life is and the changes that are inevitable for all of us. We commented that during our most difficult times we are often quite surprised to learn who truly cares. There always seems to be someone who unexpectedly steps forward to provide us with exactly the tonic that we need to begin to heal. Perhaps each of us should find someone for whom we might offer solace in the midst of the rush to celebrate the season. There is no better gift and it need not cost a thing. Someone is hoping for your gentle touch. 

The Letter

aid1022005-728px-mail-a-letter-step-1Many years ago I wrote a letter to the pastor of my church to lodge a complaint. There is nothing unusual about doing such a thing. I suspect that parishioners do so all of the time. Still I felt a bit uncomfortable about what I had done on the spur of the moment after attending services one Sunday. If I’d been able to climb into the mailbox to retrieve the note I would have. With the damage already done I stewed for days over how the kind priest would take my comments and worried that I would never again be able to face him without a strong tinge of embarrassment. When my phone rang one afternoon and the good Father greeted me on the other end of the line I was breathless. I thought that he had surely telephoned to upbraid me for my audacious remarks.

The content of my letter derived from many weeks of listening to one of the church deacons harangue those of us in attendance at the Sunday gathering for being sinners. I realize that such tongue lashings are actually commonplace in many Christian sects but I am a Catholic and had grown up hearing kinder, gentler sermons that were positive and up-lifting. I had explained that I often came to church weary from the challenges of daily living and expected to feel renewed at the end of the experience, not beaten down even more. I complained that the constant guilt trips coming from the deacon were disheartening and that if they continued I would be forced to seek another church. I had recorded my thoughts after a bruising account of just how sin-filled we humans are. Somehow when I heard the kind and soothing voice of the priest asking if he might come to my home to talk with me I was certain that I wouldn’t have to take the initiative of finding another place of worship. I began to mentally anticipate the excommunication from the parish which he was sure to deliver to me.

I was a nervous wreck by the time that my doorbell rang at the time that Father and I had agreed upon. I had made a pot of coffee and baked some cookies hoping to dispel some of the anger that I believed was about to descend upon my house. I did my best to cover my nervousness with a weak smile as I let the pastor inside.

We sat in my living room chatting about the weather and other such trivial things for a time and then the priest took the paper with my handwriting on it from inside his coat pocket. My heart was beating so quickly that I was certain that I was going to have a heart attack and he would to have to administer the last rites before I died right then and there. Instead he rather quietly smiled at me and said that he had been taken by the courage that writing such a thoughtful piece must have taken. He noted that he had felt and understood the honesty of my critique and actually agreed with the majority of my thoughts. He congratulated me for alerting him to my feelings rather than silently stewing in anger. He even noted that he had prayed over how to respond and realized that my concerns deserved a personal response.

I felt completely disarmed and relaxed as the pastor insisted that he was proud of me rather than being angry at my audacity. Then he told me how much he also loved and admired the deacon about whom I had complained. He laughed and explained that a great majority of the parishioners actually enjoyed the fire and brimstone sermons that the feisty speaker delivered and that he had letters from them to prove his contention. He told me that just as Jesus had loved everyone so unconditionally, so too should the church make room for all points of view. He had spoken with the deacon who was the subject of my ire and they had already agreed that perhaps he needed to balance his focus on sin with an equal note of the goodness that surely resides in our human hearts. He told me that I should expect to see a bit of a change in the homilies but that the essence of who the deacon was as a Christian would still be there. After all, he noted St. Paul was a firebrand and his letters to the people are still read today.

Somehow the explanation coming so wisely from our church community’s leader made sense to me. My fears evaporated and we spent the next many minutes just talking about my viewpoints and his. To my surprise the priest suggested that I become more involved in the life of our parish. He point out that the best way for me to bring about some of the changes that I sought was to counterbalance what I did not like by accepting a leadership role. He gave me a list of the organizations that he thought I might enjoy hinting that becoming a teacher of religious education seemed to fit me perfectly. He noted he liked the idea of having me influence the children with my more positive approach to religion. Then he walked from room to room in my home blessing the place where I lived.

I soon joined the teaching corps at my church and within a couple of years I was tapped to be one of the directors of religious education. I had learned a valuable lesson from the pastor that I have followed in all of my endeavors through the years. Namely, I realized that each of us has different ways of seeing the same situation and most of the time both points of view are valuable. I also came to understand that expressing our differences in a constructive way actually leads to the growth of an organization, not its destruction. I learned that staying inside a group that seemed quite different from myself was actually the very best way to begin the change process that I desired. The pastor had shown me how to lead effectively, how to maintain my personal code of ethics, how to be flexible, and how to make my own voice heard.

The deacon whom I had once disliked intensely became one of my dearest friends. I found him to be an remarkably sincere soul who actually believed much as I did but had a very different way of approaching the realization of our mutual goals. He was one of the kindest people I have ever known and it didn’t take long for me to understand why our pastor allowed him to do his sermonizing thing. There was great wisdom tucked inside his seeming madness. We worked together for years and tended to laugh whenever we reached a point of contention. We somehow managed to compromise just enough to both feel comfortable.

The election of Donald Trump to the presidency has reminded me of my own story and the priest who so beautifully included me and my way of thinking into the parish family. He might have ignored my soulful plea or even been angered by the thoughts that were so heavy handed and written in a heated moment. Instead he took the time to assure me that he served all of his parishioners and loved them as well. I still prefer pleasantries at church and in my diversions. I don’t like to be lectured in places where I expect to find comfort and escape from the stresses of my life but I understand the we each have a right to the ways that we feel. The priest taught me to open my mind and have just enough empathy to understand what prompts alternative ways of thinking. I can track the leadership style that I developed all the way back to that meeting. I would recommend that all of us, including our new POTUS elect, take a moment amid all of the sound and fury to at least attempt to work with one another.

Like Trump I would have been upset by being singled out for a critique by the cast of Hamilton but I also admire Pence for being more like the priest of my story in suggesting that democracy is enhanced, not threatened, by such moments. Now it is time for those of us whose platforms differ from Mr. Trump’s to find the areas of agreement and work from there. When he makes a move that worries us it is valid to voice our concern but we must also applaud him when he does something positive. If our only approach to his presidency is a continual barrage of negativity he will soon quit listening to our pleas. We have an opportunity to impact the trajectory of our nation. Will we leave? Will we incessantly complain? Will we search for common ground and move forward from there? The choice is ours. How we respond will either keep us at arms length or lead to compromises that will positively impact all of us. 

Until We Meet Again

3792202I come from a great big crazy immigrant family. My cousins and I may as well have been brothers and sisters. We literally grew up together. Every Friday night we were at my grandmother’s house without fail. We played all night long while our parents visited and competed with one another in card games and dominoes. In between we went to movies together, watched westerns on television and invented games. Our lives were almost idyllic, or so it appeared.

My first memories are of my cousins. They seemed to always have been in my life. One of my earliest recollections is playing on the seesaw with my cousin Jack at St. Peter’s Catholic Church while my brother was being baptized. I was about five and Jack was just barely five as well. He suddenly grew weary of going up and down and jumped off without warning. Without his weight to balance me I went flying into the air. I was angry with him because the fall took the breath out of my lungs. He was kind and came to my rescue. Even back then he was so very good.

My cousins became my lifeline when my father died. I was devastated and they rallied around to help our family through our tragedy. It seemed as though we spent ever more time with them after that. I particularly loved visiting Jack and his brother Andy. Their house was custom made for adventure. Their backyard overlooked a drainage ditch that became the site of untold hours of make believe. We were only allowed back there when it was bone dry but since that was most of the time it was our private playground.

Jack and Andy’s home had a floored in attic with stairs leading to a playroom unlike any other that I have ever seen. We played hide and seek up there and once Jack created an altar and we pretended to attend Mass with him as the priest of course. We frolicked for hours and I rarely wanted to leave when it became late. The best times were those when my mother agreed to spend the night. It meant that we had a few more precious hours to spend together.

My Aunt Polly worked for the Trail Drive In and she often invited us to come to work with her. That meant that we got to watch all of the entertainment with our cousins while she was busy at the box office. I remember one occasion when we were in the snack bar and one of the patrons spilled boiling hot coffee on Jack’s legs. He was in so much pain that I was in tears. The employees did their best to comfort him but he was badly burned.

When hurricane Carla came to Houston we spent several days at Jack and Andy’s house. My mother was afraid to stay alone and so we turned the event into a kind of hurricane party. My cousin Ingrid and her mother joined us as well. I suppose that we drove the adults insane playing chopsticks on the piano over and over. They finally warned us that we were not to touch those keys again. We went upstairs and found plenty to do. When the winds began to pick up Jack went outside and climbed a tree in the backyard. He squealed with delight as the branches rocked him back and forth. I was just about to try the ride when we all got in trouble for being outside in the middle of the storm.

The years went by and we continued doing so many things together. Once several of us took ballroom dance lessons together. I had a crush on a particular boy in the class and when it came time to partner up I hoped that he would choose me. When I was left standing alone cousin Jack gallantly came to my rescue and asked me to dance with him. I wasn’t as polite as he had been and noted that being with him was better than nothing. He teased me about that for the rest of our lives.

Many of us ended up attending the University of Houston at the same time. We began meeting together on weekends to play cards and just converse. We celebrated New Year’s Eve with each other and took turns hosting that event. We gave each other wedding and baby showers as we one by one married and had children. Our lives were intertwined for so long but as we became busy with our children and our jobs we saw less and less of each other. We usually met up on special occasions or at funerals. Still the love that we had for one another was always there never to be broken.

When my mother lay dying in the hospital my brothers and I tried desperately to contact her sisters and get them to come say their goodbyes to her. We called and called and finally contacted them late in the afternoon. They indicated that they would have to come the next day because they were unable to drive at night. I knew that my mom would not hold on that long and I was greatly saddened. Out of the blue they arrived. My cousin Jack had driven from Westbury to FM 1960 to the Medical Center, a considerable distance in heavy Houston traffic. My aunts and my mother were able to be together one final time. Mama died later that night. I often wondered if Jack knew how much she had appreciated his efforts to get his mother and her twin sister to the hospital.

Jack suffered from heart disease for sixteen years. This past June his doctors told him that there was nothing more that they might do for him. His heart was worn out. He had congestive heart failure. Through it all he kept his faith in God and his trademark sense of humor. He had a way of making people laugh. It was difficult not to feel good around him even when he knew that his time on this earth was becoming more and more limited. It was as though he was determined to help us through the grief that we were feeling.

Jack belonged to the Knights of Columbus, a group of Catholic men who do charitable works of mercy. It was so fitting for him to want to do such things. That is the way he lived his life. He worked for the United Postal Service and even became a Postmaster. He was brilliant and beautiful with his blonde hair and blue eyes. He was the father of three gorgeous and sweet daughters who seemed to be made in his image. He had grandchildren who were as precious as he had always been. He faithfully attended family events and made all of us smile with his presence.

Jack’s ninety five year old mother is still alive. She is needless to say devastated. Losing a child is the ultimate blow regardless of age. His wife and children are left to remember his almost childlike spirit and the love that he showered on them. Their grief cannot be measured. Those of us who are his cousins feel as though we have lost a part of our very souls. He was our brother, someone who knew us just as we are and still loved every inch of us. We will miss him terribly.

We imagine Jack having a large welcoming committee in heaven. His father was there for sure. All of my uncles were not far behind. My grandmother must surely have been holding a cup of coffee for him. He finally gets to meet our grandfather who died before we were born. Of course my mother, his godmother is there. She loved him so. Surely they are planning a big card party for this weekend. They’ve welcomed him to their corps of angels. Now he will watch over us until we meet again. 

A Reason, A Season, A Lifetime

people-come-into-your-life-for-a-reason-a-season-or-a-lifetimeToday is a day for counting blessings. I have many reasons to be thankful and all of them involve the people that I have known. From the moment of my first memories I have been surrounded by good loving souls who cared for me and made me feel safe and secure. I have to admit that I have only rarely felt the pain of abuse from another human and in each of those cases I enjoyed the freedom to walk away. I have observed hate in this world but have not been the victim of it. Instead my life has witnessed kindness, loyalty, understanding and genuinely unconditional love over and over again.

When my baby brain awoke my parents were there doting on me, along with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors and friends. I recall riding in my grandfather’s Plymouth coupe with the earthy aromas of pipe tobacco and leather engulfing my senses as I watched him steer the car so confidently with his big laborer’s hands. I remember watching my grandmother rolling dough and allowing me to cut little round circles that would become big fluffy biscuits that melted in my mouth along with the homemade butter and jam that she slathered on them. I can still see my other grandma padding across the room in her bare feet carrying enamel cups of sugary coffee for her guests.

When I think of my aunts and uncles they are still young and beautiful in my mind. They sit around a big table playing poker and squabbling like loving siblings from a large family are wont to do. Then I think of my cousins, the ones who are more like brothers and sisters, who always seem to have been stalwarts in my world. We are filled with wonder and imagination, inventing games and entertaining ourselves for hours without any adult supervision. How we loved each other as children and how we still do as adults!

I enjoyed the times that we spent with my parents’ friends, especially Mr. and Mrs. Krebs. Sitting in a circle listening to Texas Aggie football games on the radio was a regular fall weekend event. We munched on cinnamon toast and popcorn while a lone voice narrated the action. I wouldn’t give up those times for anything. They were wonderful.

Eventually Daddy was gone. I would miss listening to his voice as he read fairytales to me or chuckled at the Sunday funny papers. Me and my brothers and mother would have to move on without him. Mama became our everything all rolled up into one beautiful package. She kept the faith with Texas A&M and there was never a Thanksgiving Day that we missed tuning in to the gridiron clash between the Aggies and the Longhorns. She would time our dinner so that we would be able to pay careful attention to the game. It was a tradition that we cherished and followed until the game was scheduled for another day and then the two teams played no more.

We found so many genuine friends in our neighborhood after our father died, people who literally watched over us and made sure that we always had whatever we needed. They made me feel quite special with their frequent displays of kindness. As a young child they provided me with multiple examples of how to be a good and upright adult. Mrs. Janot shared her afternoon programs with me in air conditioned splendor. Mrs. Bush demonstrated a rare courage that I greatly admired. Mrs. Frey took me and my brothers under her wing along with her own five children. The Limbs were models of hard work and moderation in all things. The Cervenkas were fun. The Sessums quietly did small favors that were actually huge in my mind.

School was like heaven for me. With one exception my teachers were always angels. I loved them so. Many of the friends that I made have followed me into adulthood and of late I have become reacquainted with others whom I had lost along the way. I find that we are very much alike for having shared the same experiences when we were growing into adults. We have good values. We were taught by our parents and teachers to always be ethical and fair minded. As far as I can tell most of us ended up being model citizens, employees, spouses, parents. We learned from the best.

Eventually I met my husband and we fell madly in love. Ours has been a grand romance from the beginning mostly because we cherish each other as unique individuals. We are both independent and do not always think exactly alike. The differences that we have  make our lives more interesting. My Mike has always treated me with unquestioning respect. He encourages me to be the person that I want to be. He is loyal and undoubtedly my very best friend. I have loved him every single day for almost fifty years. In turn, I received a second set of parents on the day that we wed. My in-laws have helped me in some of the most difficult times of my life.

At work I met the most amazing and giving people who were dedicated to helping the youth of our nation to become educated. They worked hard to bring excellence into the classroom. I admired them as much as the teachers that I had as a child. I saw them devoting themselves totally to their vocations. They might have become wealthy in other careers but they chose to serve the countless children and families that came to them year after exhausting year. Some only speak of being champions for our youth but my teacher friends have actually done the heavy lifting, often with little gratitude or compensation. They are my heroes, the people that I most admire. If life were totally fair they would all meet with the President of the United States and be given Medals of Freedom for their good deeds.

The pleasant memories of my friendships are ongoing. I think of all the fun that I have had shopping at thrift stores with Cappy, exchanging Christmas cheer with Linda and Bill, sitting at a table discussing the world with Pat and Bill, camping with Monica and Franz, playing bridge with Susan, watching our children play with the Turners and the Halls, being myself with Nancy, enjoying dinners with the KIPP gang, being with my adult former students and seeing how remarkable they have become, continuing to admire Judy as my icon, finding my first grade pal Virginia. I might go on for hours with beautiful stories of individuals who gave me their hearts.

I have been blessed with two daughters who are brilliant and beautiful and best of all, loving. They in turn married good men and together they built families that gave me the gift of seven grandchildren. All of them are the joy and the center of my universe. I revel in being with them and watching them grow. Their laughter warms my heart. I pray each day that they will know the same level of affection that I have so enjoyed.

I have been surrounded by the most incredible people at every turn of my existence. I have been blessed beyond measure in knowing them. I sometimes wonder why I have been chosen to be so fortunate. There have been times when my family was financially challenged. I have dealt with extremely difficult situations. I have not been sheltered from sadness and tragedy. Still I have only known love and kindness. At each turn someone has stepped forward to fill me with joy sometimes for a reason, sometimes for a season, sometimes for a lifetime. For that I am profoundly thankful on this day. 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.