The American way of Thanksgiving……the busiest travel weekend of the year….feasts….football…and Black Friday shopping….the official beginning of the Christmas season for most.
This is our first holiday season at Cate Cabana. The garland and wreaths were hung around here about 2 weeks ago. The first tree went up the next weekend and the remainder of the trees will be placed and decorated this week. I saw many people decorating a bit earlier than usual. I know I did. Dave seemed perplexed at my insistence to get the pumpkins, fodder and hay off of the front porch in exchange for the Christmas decorations.
Well, besides being my favorite time of year, I was motivated by 2 other important rationales.
- It was the first year in our new home.
- I can’t help but believe that the warm glow of lights, the focus on giving, and the music that this season carries with it, would somehow lighten our hearts and spread a bit of much needed joy.
This Thanksgiving, Dave and I will spend alone. The girls will be with their father and we have decided not to travel over the break as in years past. We want to enjoy the quiet of our home. I don’t plan to Christmas shop. I plan to finish my decorating, do some more writing and finish a couple of books I have been sifting through. I want my house to be filled with the scent of a fresh-cut tree and the carols of Christmas.
While most will recite their blessings around a table of family and friends, I went a bit farther and contemplated the lessons I have learned from those blessings I have received this year. So, as I thought about this, I came up with a few “gifts” that have blessed me, more because of what I have learned as a result of them and not so much from the “gift” itself.
HOME – It is no secret among my closest circle that this home was not at the top of my list when Dave and I were house hunting last spring. I had picked a more traditional and sensible home. One made entirely of brick with a small, intimate yard. I knew that all I was giving up in my other cottage, could easily be replicated in the home I had picked as my favorite. Yet, no one else in my family agreed. Dave and the girls were drawn to a home that had more land than I felt we needed, it had a cramped upstairs for the girls, and I felt they were attracted to the allure of a pool. Yet, we came back to the house over and over again. I couldn’t imagine us in this home because the previous owner had stuffed it with furniture too big and too elaborate for the style and space. Our real estate agent kept telling me that I had to see it through my eyes. Boy, that was hard for me. I wanted it to feel and look like the cozy home I had created on Main Street. I wanted it to be another Chez Elfinfun. The truth? It would never be that. My resistance to this home was not about the house itself but more about leaving behind what had become a rich part of my story and imagining the creation of something new. So, after weeks of toil and consideration, we bought and moved into Cate Cabana. In the months since, we have created a warm and welcoming home that begins a new story. It is a story that has more yard than we need; yet, offers a place of space and privacy, a big yard for our puppies and a pool for our family to enjoy. This past summer was full of laughter, meals out-of-doors, family gatherings and a revolving door of teenagers. My yard is full of plants and flowers that I have no experience with. I am going to take a garden dream that someone else started and make it into a something new. Our home has taught me so much about letting go, starting over and recreating.
ELECTION 2016 – Sounds crazy, huh? Well, I remained silent on social media for the majority of the last few months of this election cycle. I spoke in private about my concerns. But, as I take the time to reflect, I realize that this crazy election taught me so much. First, I came to realize that I can no longer be defined by one particular party. In fact, I don’t know that there is a party out there that lines up with who I am now. As I scrutinized both sides, I was amazed at the lack of better choices to represent the people of this country. On one side you had a lifelong politician whose career has been pockmarked with scandals and controversies.On the other side, you had a billionaire businessman with a savvy marketing strategy and no filter. Really, America? This is the best we could do? While there exists no candidate out there that could have represented either side with “perfection”, the mere fact that these 2 were allowed to represent the thoughts and ideals of America, points to a bigger issue in our modern society and culture. Second, this election brought out the state of our society. People stood, and are still standing, unapologetically on their side of the fence. As if voting for one party over another made people better or worse. As if one side made you more righteous and the other somehow made you evil. As if one side made you a racist bigot and misogynist and the other side made you a heathen destined for hell. As if one side made you more intolerant and the other side made you more tolerant. As if…..How about the notion that neither side is right and neither side is wrong? How about they are different lenses through which each individual looks at their life and the life of others? Third, this election reminded me that Jesus isn’t a Republican or a Democrat. His law is love. Finally, the greatest gift Facebook gave me during this election, is the option to still be friends with people without having to be subjected to their rhetoric. I chose to “Unfollow” a whole bunch of people and the gift of that decision was a greater peace of mind.
STRUGGLES: I have been very transparent about my recent bout with depression. After much testing, it appears that its cause is not chemical, but hormonal. Or, just the normal cycle of a woman in middle age. Most people don’t want to admit that they struggle. Struggle, for many, is an indication of weakness. Or, it is a topic that feels embarrassing to share. Or, people feel uncomfortable in knowing that a family member or friend is in a season of struggle. So, I could have chosen to stay quiet. I could have pretended that everything was going well. Instead, I chose to embrace this season as a time to be vulnerable and transparent. My honesty was a leap of faith for me. It was hard to have those conversations with Dave about why I cried all the time, why I couldn’t sleep, why I was grouchy and lethargic. It was hard to have those conversations with friends and family. Yet, the love and support I was given, encouraged me to seek answers. Answers that I now have. I am starting to feel like myself again. It is amazing what just a good night’s sleep will do. I want all of us to be kind to one another in all seasons of our lives. Life is hard for every one of us at times. In my house, the struggles come from all directions at times – me , my teenage daughters and Dave. Our struggles define moments in our lives when we are living in or out of grace with ourselves, others and the world around us. So, to each other, let’s extend an ample amount of grace.
CAREER: I didn’t choose public education as my career. It chose me. There has never been any other profession that I wanted to be a part of. I am halfway through my 24th year. Twenty-four years. It is hard to imagine where the time has gone. Five years ago I stepped away from the classroom to go into administration. It isn’t (or never should be) a position of “power”. It is a position in which I am able to serve others – kids, teachers, staff, parents, families and the community at large. Most mornings, I take my cup of coffee and stand at the door to greet each child and adult as they come through the front doors into our building. I love being the first face they see as they begin another day of learning. I love the hugs and the time I get to spend to make a positive impact. That is the great thing about being a teacher: the opportunity to leave a footprint on the life of another human being in their journey to becoming the best possible version of themselves. My job doesn’t afford me the luxury to decide who will get my love, respect, acceptance and support. I give freely to ALL. I give without regard to their race, religion, behavior, their home life, their abilities, disabilities or culture. Each day, I am given a glimpse into the fabric of our society. All that I see is beautiful. It is a melting pot of colors, ideas, talents and gifts. Each face is the chance for me to recognize and acknowledge the Divine that lives in us all. I want my greeting and smile to convey that they are all welcome to learn and grow within the walls of our building.
FAMILY & FRIENDS: Each day I am reminded of the blessings of my family. I look at the path I took to get to where I am and realize with awe, that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. That’s not to say that my path was easy. It wasn’t. It is marked with pain, poor choices, redemption, grace, failure, and love. Dave and I went to see the new movie Arrival. At the very end, one character poses the following question: If you could see your life from start to finish, all the good and bad, would you still make the choices you did? Powerful question. I don’t know. Yet, to make different choices would have meant a very different life than the one I have now. This life I am living has been shaped and refined by every choice, both good and bad, that I have ever lived. I can’t be too unhappy about that. My family – some are close, others far….some are blood, some are chosen, some are from marriage. Regardless of who they are or how they came to be in my life, they are part of my story and who I am. My friends. Well, friendship is a funny thing. Friends are fickle and few stay the course from start to finish. That has been a lesson I have learned this year. For some, friendship is as convenient as proximity. For others, it doesn’t matter the miles, they are still there, checking in with you and making the necessary time to spend together. Friendships change and I find that hard to accept. I find it difficult to know when the time has come to let certain friendships go their own way and realize that means I go a different way. But it seems that the core people – your team – just never changes; and those are the ones that we spend the extra amount of attention working on. This blessing has been a tough one for me this year. But like all things, there is something to learn and take away that makes each of us a better version of ourselves.
It goes without saying that we all have so many things to be thankful for.
I have a wonderful family – near and far, blood and married kin. I am blessed with friends. I am blessed with a faith that is big enough for all who want to sit at my table – alike and different. I am blessed with a joy to be fully present in this one, wild and wonderful life.
As you gather around your table this week, I hope that you will not only take the time to reflect on all the blessings you have but all of the lessons you have learned along the way. Life will teach you to love what you have…or it will teach you to love what you have lost. The choice is always ours to make.